For nearly 35 years, the Philadelphia skyline has been dominated by skyscrapers rising well above 500 feet in height. The idea to breach of the height limit informally established by the 548-foot-tall pinnacle of City Hall, also known as the “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” surfaced in 1984. The first tower to rise above the limit was One Liberty Place, a daring structure for the time that rises 945 feet and 61 stories above ground at 1650 Market Street in Center City. The project was designed by Helmut Jahn of Murphy/Jahn and developed by Rouse and Associates (which eventually became Liberty Property Trust), and was completed in 1987. In this feature, Philadelphia YIMBY takes a look back at when One Liberty Place passed the statue of William Penn on top of City Hall.
The groundbreaking for the office tower was held on May 13, 1985, with the developers and a large crowd commemorating the event. Ground was excavated over the period of several months and the foundation was completed by January 1986. The first beams were laid down for the core and eventually the structure was above ground level, and work was underway on the office floors by spring. The steel worked its way up as the bulky structure was nearing heights that were thought to be impossible given the city’s “Gentlemen’s Agreement.”
By summer, the tower was popping into the skyline with the two tower cranes topping the rising structure. In September of the same year, the beams of the core beams of the skyscraper had officially passed the top of the statue of William Penn. The bottom of the statue is passed by the 40th floor at a height of 514 feet, while the 42nd floor passes the top of the statue at 552 feet. In late October and November, the crown floors were under construction, shrinking toward the sharp top. One Liberty Place topped out on May 27, 1987, and the first occupants move into the tower in August.
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I’ve always found it interesting that the day Liberty One broke down was the same day as the MOVE bombing. Another example of the curse of William Penn, perhaps!
Quiet start of the year
Dirty, dischevelled,heavy-smoker (he died of it) pinsholes in clothes and neckties from loose ash, certainly no gentleman, Williard Rouse was Edward Norton’s grandfather.