City Hall is Monumental!

Philadelphia’s City Hall is hard to ignore, since the massive building sits smack in the middle Broad and Market streets. The history of City Hall’s design, construction, and restoration is typically under-appreciated, but City Hall gets its due this weekend.

PennDesign’s Historic Preservation Program is hosting a three-day symposium called Monumental!: Designing and Restoring Philadelphia City Hall, November 4-6. All day on Saturday, the symposium will explore City Hall’s history, and explore the major campaigns to restore its exterior masonry, windows, roofs, ironwork, and conserve its marble and bronze sculptures. The conference opens with a reception and keynote on Friday night by Dr. Michael Lewis, professor of art at Williams College. On Sunday participants will be treated to special guided tours of City Hall’s interior.

When it was built, our City Hall was a modern marvel. It was the tallest occupied building in the world, and its building technology, artistic flourishes, and total magnitude were exceptional. City Hall took 30 years to build, and its architectural style was almost instantly dated in its style, prompting cries to tear it down and start over. Because it’s all masonry, it’s built like a fortress and is not going anywhere. Thank goodness. I am hard pressed to think of a more fantastic, imposing, elegant, and strange municipal building than our City Hall. I can’t wait to spend the weekend thinking about it.


Register for the symposium online. For all three days, the symposium costs $75; Friday reception, $25; Saturday lectures and Athenaeum reception, $55; Sunday tours $30. Saturday lectures are free to students with a valid ID. The full symposium schedule is on PennDesign’s website.

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