Observing the 1987 Philadelphia Skyline via Vintage Photographs

One Liberty Place completed in late 1987. Photo from the Philadelphia Inquirer

Since 1987, the Philadelphia skyline has expanded both horizontally and vertically, as the city has received a new tallest skyscraper along with multiple towers rising higher than 500 feet. However, over 30 years ago, the skyline was already suggesting what was coming in the future, as skyscrapers were finally rising above the 548-foot mark set by City Hall in Center City. In this feature, Philadelphia YIMBY will look back at the skyline by observing photographs from 1987.

Philadelphia skyline. Image by Courier Post

Philadelphia skyline. Image by Courier Post

At the time, Center City was on the brink of a construction boom, and then-controversial One Liberty Place at 1650 Market Street had just finished construction. The tower broke from the 548-foot limit set by the unwritten “Gentleman’s Agreement,” rising 945 feet and 60 stories above the ground. The cladding is compromised of a wonderful mix of glass, stone and metal, and the gabled crown is topped by a sharp spire.

City Hall and One Liberty Place. Image by The Philadelphia Inquirer

City Hall and One Liberty Place. Image by The Philadelphia Inquirer

The tower stood like a king amongst the other skyscrapers in the city, when few buildings stood above the height of 491 feet. The skyline was composed of several office towers extending primarily to the east and west. Three prominent towers were clad with dark exteriors: the PECO Building, 2000 Market Street, and the then-recently built PNC Bank Building at the time. Most of the rest of the high-rises featured a brighter tone with exteriors of stone and concrete, such as Centre Square and 1818 Market Street. One Liberty Place stood out prominently along with City Hall, and both complimented the skyline together.

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4 Comments on "Observing the 1987 Philadelphia Skyline via Vintage Photographs"

  1. It was a time of celebration back then.

    We finally won the war against the dictatorship of Edmund N. Bacon, former executive director of the city planning commission.

    The heroic efforts of John Street will always be appreciated.

  2. kbjohnson5@yahoo.com | October 13, 2021 at 9:48 am | Reply


    Wilson Goode was the Mayor of Philadelphia in 1987 – not John Street.

    • I made a documentary on the history of the Philadelphia skyline last year.

      I have an interview where John Street mentioned negotiations with the city planning commission in an effort to help Willard Rouse gain approval, citing increased tax revenues from the workers in this skyscraper complex.

      I could go on and on with this fascinating subject, but suffice it to say, my documentary also includes interviews with other key people involved.

      Cheers! 😉

  3. John Street was on the city council at the time of this pivotal moment in Philadelphia history.

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