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Philadelphia Treasures: City Hall Has Beauty

Philadelphia Treasures: City Hall Has Beauty

Politics and architecture can make for strange bedfellows. This sentiment rings especially true when visiting Philadelphia’s City Hall, a structure many have dubbed the most beautiful building in the U.S. Even Walt Whitman waxed poetic about this nearly $25 million architectural treasure, calling it a “majestic and lovely show in the moonlight.”

It took more than 30 years to complete the City Hall, a mammoth task that began in 1871. It’s the largest municipal structure in the nation with more than 14.5 acres of floor space and almost 700 rooms—that’s more than the U.S. Capitol! It is a site so luxurious that some even criticized the work of Scottish architect John McArthur Jr., who was inspired by Paris and its palaces. While many towns in Pennsylvania had examples of Second Empire Baroque style, Philadelphia City Hall stands out for its crested mansard roof and ornate details. Some of the public rooms are described as absolutely lavish, including the City Council Chambers, Mayor’s Reception Room and Supreme Court Room.

Memorable features include a solid granite first floor (22 feet thick in some places) and a 548-foot tower that is the world’s tallest without a steel frame. Reflecting a city of not only brotherly love, but also artistic spirit, the hall’s exterior is covered with sculpture designed by Alexander Milne Calder, including a 27-ton statue of William Penn topping the tower.

Today, Philadelphia’s City Hall is a popular tourist destination, but our residents can rediscover the majesty then enjoy the transformed Dilworth Park with its green public square nearby.