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architectural history

The Secret Life of Buildings: The Philadelphia Trinity House

One of Philadelphia’s most unique architectural features are its trinity houses located on charming alleys and picturesque side streets. How did they get here? And why are these tiny homes so coveted? We took a deep dive into our City’s history to find out.

The Secret Life of Buildings: Mid Century Modern Philadelphia

The Philadelphia skyline changed dramatically from 1940 to 1970, creating over 400 significant mid-century modern buildings. Designed by the great architects of their day, these bold buildings reflected a dynamic change in the way we live. Here is a guide to some of our City’s best surviving examples of mid-century modern design.

The Secret Life of Buildings: Banking on Architecture

From neoclassical architecture to mid-century modern, many of Philadelphia’s finest buildings were originally designed as financial institutions. In recent decades, these majestic architectural structures have been repurposed in unexpected ways. We invite you to take a tour of former banks that are great examples of adaptive reuse, where you may now partake in dinner for two, host a wedding, or even invest in a unique condo.

The Secret Life of Buildings: Philadelphia’s Last Surviving Theatres

Theaters are a measure of a City’s vitality. They are also weather vanes of constantly shifting cultural trends. In both regards, Philadelphia theaters have withstood the test of time. Here are a few that are noteworthy for both their architecture and their role in shaping our City’s history.

The Secret Life of Buildings: Jewelers’ Row

The oldest diamond district in America, Philadelphia’s Jewelers’ Row District, located from Market to Walnut and from 7th to 9th Street, is about to change. Amidst properties dating back to 1799, construction crews are making way for a modern glass condominium tower. However, a look back in history reveals that this iconic street has endured major transitions before.

The Secret Life of Buildings: Boathouse Row

The most iconic view of Philadelphia is not Independence Hall, the “Rocky” steps, or even the skyline — It’s Boathouse Row, the National Historic Landmark of mid-19th century buildings nestled along the banks of the Schuylkill River behind the Art Museum.  History Philly has an abundance of firsts. It’s home to the first university, hospital, library, and bank. However, (read more…)

Philly’s Art Deco Treasures

While Philadelphia isn’t typically known for its Art Deco architecture, our city houses many fine examples of the style. We encourage you to take a walk through Center City to view some of the grandeur of these buildings firsthand and gain a deeper appreciation of Philly’s architectural heritage.

The Secret Life of Buildings: Philadelphia Courtyards

In a densely populated city like Philadelphia, private courtyards provide a space for gardens, outdoor dining, and socializing with neighbors. Often hidden from the street or gated, they are shared by owners of tiny Trinity houses, stately townhouses, contemporary condos, as well as by residents of apartment buildings. In many cases, they are hiding in plain sight, if you know where to look. 

Creative Reuse in Philadelphia: Repurposed Buildings

Would you live in a stable, factory, or women’s shelter? Recent trends show that thousands of Philadelphians are eager to call repurposed historic buildings home, making our City a national leader in adaptive reuse. From former factories to carriage houses, and more, Philly’s building conversions are as varied as the original buildings they inhabit.

The Secret Life of Buildings: Rowhouse Cornices

If you have a rowhouse in Philadelphia, you probably have a cornice, a decorative molding that crowns your house, door, or windows. Over time, your cornice may rust or deteriorate. In this article, we’ll cover the history behind the architectural feature known as a cornice, what materials were used throughout the years, and introduce you to conservators who have (read more…)