At the time of construction, Philadelphia City Hall at 1400 John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Center City was a building that was both ahead of its time and inspired by traditional design. The municipal floors and the clock tower feature stone walls, cornices, pillars, and decorative additions that brought the public to awe. The 548-foot structure was designed by John McArthur Jr. and Thomas Ustick Walter, who have both worked on other well-known buildings. John McArthur Jr. designed the First National Bank, and Thomas Ustick Walter designed the new and current dome of the Capital Building in Washington D.C. While the highest space in the building sits nine floors above ground, the clock tower stands hundreds of feet tall and was constructed just after the municipal floors. Today Philadelphia YIMBY looks at the construction of the clock tower, which ranks as the world’s tallest freestanding masonry building.
Construction of the building started in 1871. Previously, the site was a large square park similar to Rittenhouse Square and Franklin Square, and was known as Penn Square. The site was torn up and the foundation for the new building was completed by the end of 1873, and the massive building was ready to rise. The municipal floors were topped out by 1882, and construction started on the clock tower.
One year later, a large crane atop the stone structure helped workers lay down the brick and stone. In 1887, the stone work was finished, and a large octagonal platform was erected around the top to hold the structural framing and eventually the pieces of the William Penn statue. Framing was being erected on top of the structure in 1890 as the clock house and steeples were constructed. In 1894, the peak was reached and the William Penn statue was lifted up in sections. At the same time, framing went going up around the steeple, shaping the final curved form.