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architectural history

The Secret Life of Buildings: Jewelers’ Row

dest 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…)

The Secret Life of Buildings: Bay Windows

There is something irresistible about a bay window. Whether it’s the abundant light it brings into the home or the constantly changing views it affords from inside. As part of our “The Secret Life of Buildings” series, we’ve decided to explore the history of this unique architectural feature that adds value to buildings throughout the City, whether they were (read more…)

The Secret Life of Buildings: Row House Styles

Philadelphians love the row house as much as they love their cheesesteaks and water ice.  How did this unique architectural style take root and thrive for over 300 years? We will take a look at the origins and evolution of the row house, from working man’s home to opulent mansion. While the row house is synonymous with our City, (read more…)

A Guide to Your Philadelphia Home’s History

Does your home have an intriguing history? Would you like to know who were its first tenants? If so, the City of Philadelphia makes it easy to trace your house’s past via maps and archival documents, including deeds that go back to 1683. Below is a list of local resources you can use to find more information about the (read more…)

The Secret Life of Buildings: Star Bolts

On a stroll through the streets of Philadelphia, you’ll likely spot star bolts somewhere along the way. In a city so rich with colonial history, these bolts could easily be mistaken for decoration. And while they certainly add a charming element to these brick homes, they’re actually working hard to keep the front walls of these houses upright. Why (read more…)