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300 Years of Architectural Mastery: History’s Role in the Philadelphia Real Estate Market

300 Years of Architectural Mastery: History’s Role in the Philadelphia Real Estate Market

You’d be hard pressed to find a city with more spectacular architecture from each period in our nation’s storied history than Philadelphia. From the visionary city planning of William Penn to the race to the heavens showcased by early 20th Century skyscrapers, legendary architecture is as much a part of Philly’s present as it is its past.

The city’s abundance of impeccably maintained edifices plays an interesting role in its luxury home market. Contrary to traditional real estate logic, often the most illustrious addresses in Philadelphia reside in the oldest building on the block.

High-end home buyers new to the city quickly learn that shopping for extravagant property in Philadelphia necessates becoming acquainted with its history.

Independence & Beyond

The classic red brick facade of the Georgian era Independence Hall is perhaps the most famed style of Philadelphian architecture. Coupled with abundant windows and crisp white window sills, this look harkens back to the mid- to late-1700s as the city rose to prominence and spent time as our nation’s capital.

But an interesting fact lost in the shuffle is that many of the buildings boasting the same exteriors today were originally built with less ornate, muted facades by Quaker architects. It was the rebuilding effort following the end of the Revolutionary War that led to the bounty of Georgian detail. Many older buildings were left damaged and needing a facelift. It was during this era of refurbishment that a more elegant, baroque flair washed over the city.

The Revival

The next century can be characterized by a series of revivals. English-born Benjamin Henry Latrobe, considered to be the original professional architect in America, designed the Bank of Philadelphia in Greek Revival. This style was adopted by more prominent banks and public structures including the Merchant's Exchange and the Fairmount Waterworks.

Next came the Renaissance Revival, the Gothic Revival and a mid-19th century boom that forged the grandiose masterpieces on Center Square. City Hall is an example of lavish brilliance, and Broad Street Station was an engineering marvel of its time.

The industrial revolution brought rows of gorgeous High Victorian Gothic homes, distinct in their church-like flamboyance.

The Rise of Steel

In 1897, the 16-story Land Title Building was officially crowned the city’s first skyscraper. As advancements in building techniques and materials allowed high-rises to reach further into the sky, Neoclassical and Art Deco architecture ruled the city.

The Roaring Twenties brought about a building frenzy of glamorous, decorative luxury hotels and opulent office buildings.

Modern Times

Half a century later, highbrow Philadelphia residents began to develop a taste for the detailed sophistication of the past. Historic hotels such as the Barclay on Rittenhouse Square transitioned into mixed-use part-hotel, part-condominium buildings.

By the mid-1990s, it was very much en vogue to convert the city’s most elegant buildings into high-end custom luxury condominiums.

Today, featuring prestigious addresses adjacent to Philadelphia’s original public squares, these condos remain among the most sought-after listings on the market.