Learn more about Philadelphia Architecture... Online Or On Your Phone
Explore Philadelphia's architectural treasures with AIA Philadelphia's Building Finder. Use your laptop or desktop computer to peruse the many different architectural styles found within the city limits, or use your smartphone to create an impromptu architectural tour of the city. AIA Philadelphia Members are encouraged to login to the site and provide commentary on the buildings found in the Building Finder, creating an untold history of Philadelphia's most recognized buildings. For a more in-depth look at Philadelphia's iconic architecture, visit the AIA Bookstore and Design Center to purchase a copy of Philadelphia Architecture: A Guide to the City, published by the Center for Architecture.
The Athenaeum of Philadelphia
219 South 6th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Architect(s): John Notman
A group of young men formed a social and literary club in 1814 named the Athenaeum, after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and learning. When they could afford to build a library, they chose John Notman. Notman’s design reflected the work of the English architect Charles Barry, who had been influenced by the urban palaces of Italian princes. It was the first Renaissance Revival building in America.
The building is simple and symmetrical, with corner quoins and a large overhanging cornice. The floor-to-ceiling windows on the second story are treated decoratively, with entablatures supported by scroll brackets. The building was to be covered in marble, but brownstone, a new building material, was used to save money. Notman’s design and the use of brownstone influenced a number of later residences and clubs including the Union League.
The Bellevue Stratford Hotel
Broad and Walnut streets
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Architect(s): 1989 Day and Zimmerman Associates/Vitetta Group with RTKL Architects, G.W. and W.D. Hewitt; remodeled 1980
Participating AIA Philadelphia Members: VITETTA
George Boldt, the son of a German immigrant, founded the Bellevue Stratford. He began his career as a dish washer in New York, then moved to Philadelphia to become a headwaiter at the elite Philadelphia Club. When he opened the Bellevue Stratford in 1904, it immediately became one of the leading hotels of the world. Its amenities included Turkish and Swedish baths, a library, two in-house orchestras, three ballrooms and an outdoor rose garden on the roof. Rooms were decorated in Colonial, French, Italian and Greek styles.
Although the building was constructed of steel in the most modern method, the exterior was inspired by the sophisticated architectural style of the French Renaissance. The picturesque roofline consists of a slate-covered mansard roof with large overscaled dormers and chimneys. The main portion of the hotel is sheathed in terra-cotta, and the base is of rusticated stone. The Broad Street façade is enlivened by windows that are alternately flat and projecting, similar to Burnham's treatment of the Land Title Building.
The hotel closed in 1977 after an out-break of Legionnaires disease among guests. A 1980 renovation reduced the number of rooms from 1,000 to 545, but this proved too large for the city's needs. A second renovation reduced the hotel to 165 rooms organized around a central atrium extending from the 12th to 19th floors. The original ballroom and Rose Garden were preserved and the remainder of the building converted to offices and retail stores.
The Drake Hotel
1512 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Date Constructed: 1929, renovations 1998 VLBJR Architects
Architect(s): Ritter and Shay
The Drake Hotel was one of many tall buildings constructed west of Broad Street in the late 1920s. The overall form was influenced by the emergence of zoning laws in the 1920s, which required setbacks on the upper floors of tall buildings. Even today, the tapered silhouette of The Drake is a striking feature on the city’s skyline.
Ritter and Shay, one of the city’s most versatile architecture firms, covered the steel frame structure with Pompeian brick and terra cotta decoration. The Spanish Baroque ornamentation is based on themes related to Sir Francis Drake. Terra cotta motifs of dolphins, shells, sailing vessels and globes cover the ground floor and reappear on the piers, which rise to an elaborate series of cornices and culminate in a distinctive terra cotta dome.