In the 1960s, Philadelphia observed a rise in development with ample space available for new buildings in Center City. The William Penn statue at the pinnacle of City Hall still topped the Philadelphia skyline with a height of 548 feet, though it was surrounded by high-rises that stood nearly as tall. Today YIMBY presents massing renderings of the skyline as it appeared in 1965, when a new batch of modern and blocky towers were rising, with still more proposed.
In the late 1980s, in rapid succession, a series of skyscrapers broke through the long-held “Gentlemen’s Agreement” that unofficially restricted Philadelphia’s buildings from rising above the 548-foot-tall pinnacle of City Hall, creating the now-iconic skyline of Center City. While the skyscraper cluster transformed the area to the west of City Hall, the Market East district to the east continues to lag behind in terms of an imposing skyline. However, East Market Phase 3, developed by National Real Estate Development as part of the East Market complex and currently under construction at 1101-53 Chestnut Street, will boost the local skyline with a pair of towers rising 364 and 288 feet tall. The buildings will bring one million square feet of medical office, residential, and retail space to the neighborhood, and add a sizable public plaza. Today we take a detailed look at the transformative project.
During the planning for the Centennial Exposition of 1876, expo organizers put forth a bold proposal for an incredibly tall structure called the Centennial Tower in Fairmount Park, where two buildings still remain from the expo. The tower was planned at 1,000 feet tall, well before any skyscrapers were built in the city. The tower would have risen as large cross-braced tube that slims down at the top, capped with a short cone top and lightning rod, and would have featured four observation levels. The metal structure was designed by Clarke, Reeves and Company, which had also designed an older bridge that stood at then site of the current Girard Avenue Bridge.
In the mid-1980s, the Philadelphia skyline rose as an even, roughly 500-foot plateau, particularly when viewed from the north and south. Though the skyline spanned a great expanse length-wise, it remained at a low profile, in great part thanks to the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” to not build above the 548-foot-tall pinnacle of the City Hall, which sat just beneath the 37-foot-tall statue of William Penn, the state’s founder. Philly YIMBY presents exclusive massing renderings of the city skyline just as it appeared in 1985, just before One Commerce Square and One Liberty Place both broke ground, starting their challenge to the skyline in the summer.
Many locations offer views of the Philadelphia skyline, yet some spots offer uniquely dramatic vistas that effectively catch the eye and stay etched in one’s mind. South Street is home not only to a popular stretch of retail, restaurants, and markets, but also to the South Street Bridge, which crosses the Schuylkill River and connects Center City and South Philadelphia to University City in West Philadelphia. For over a century, the bridge has offered sweeping skyline views to locals and visitors alike. Today Philadelphia YIMBY looks at the history behind the iconic bridge.