Friday, November 13, 2015

Philadelphia, The Newest UNESCO World Heritage City, Boasts an Architectural Bonanza

Jim Murphy Masonic Temple and City Hall / Masonic Temple is on left, City Hall in center. (PRNewsFoto/Jim Murphy)Jim Murphy Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts / The ornate Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. (PRNewsFoto/Jim Murphy)

3 historic buildings - 3 different styles - within 300 steps of each other
 Most Americans know Philadelphia is chock-full of historic Colonial buildings, such as
 Independence Hall, Carpenter's Hall and Christ Church.

But few realize Philadelphia is home to three neighboring architectural masterpieces as
 eclectic and extraordinary as you'll find anywhere in the world.

These gems – all U.S. National Historic Landmarks – are:
  • Philadelphia's City Hall
  • The Masonic Temple of Philadelphia
  • The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Begun within three years of each other, the buildings are radically different in look and style 
and sit within 300 steps of each other on N. Broad Street.

Jim Murphy, author of 29 "Exploring the City" columnist for the Society Hill Reporter – an award-
winning community newspaper –first noticed the unique cluster of classics while writing a story on
 the Masonic Temple of Philadelphia.

A certified member of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides, Murphy had already published
 columns on its neighbors, City Hall and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
"They're hidden in plain sight," he says. "I don't know of any city anywhere with three such 
amazing buildings so close together." By his count, the three tourist attractions are just 285
 steps apart.

Here's a quick rundown on each:
Philadelphia's City HallBroad and Market Streets
Claim to Fame: Built in French Second Empire style at a cost of $24.5 million over a 30-year
 period, City Hall is the largest all-masonry load-bearing building in the world. It has no steel frame.
 With a floor space of 630,000 square feet, it's larger than the U.S. Capitol Building and may be the
 largest municipal building anywhere. Some walls are 2 feet thick. Until 1987 no building in the city
 could rise higher than City Hall's 548 feet. Architect: John McArthur Jr.
What to See:  Over 700 rooms; 250 sculptures by Alexander Milne Calder, including: William
 Penn, a 37-foot-high, 27-ton statue thought to be the largest atop a building in the world; and
 a clock face visible for miles that's 3 feet larger in diameter than London's Big Ben. Phone: 215-686-2840

Philadelphia's Masonic Temple,1 N. Broad Street
What to see: A "robust Norman-style" exterior that becomes "a fantasy of Renaissance-inspired
 neoclassicism in the corridors and stairs and nineteenth-century 'eclectic revivalism' in the lodge
 rooms." So says a coffee-table book published by the Masonic Temple in 2013. Visiting the
 seven magnificent lodge rooms – all decorated ornately in different styles – is like taking a
 mini-trip around the world. You'll see Egyptian, Greek, Gothic, Corinthian and more.
Claim to Fame: The lavish interior took 15 years to complete. Architect: John Windrim.
 Interior designer: George Herzog.
Website:  Phone: 215-988-1917

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)118 N. Broad Street.
What to see: A façade that is a spectacular amalgam of Renaissance, Gothic and Second
 Empire styles. The exterior is described by John Andrew Gallery in Philadelphia Architecture as
 "a riot of forms" executed in "rusticated brownstone, dressed sandstone, polished pink granite,
 red pressed brick and purplish terra-cotta." The inside is "an explosion of color."
Claim to Fame: PAFA is the oldest art school and museum in the U.S. Mostly designed by
 famed Philadelphia architect Frank Furness (pronounced "furnace"), PAFA's magnificent Historic
 Landmark Building includes features later used in virtually every modern skyscraper, plus a
 passive ventilation system and industrial touches not seen in any other museum.

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