From Above: Independence Square, 1927

In honor of Independence Day we take this opportunity to see this historic view of Independence Hall and what would become its mall, from above.

In this aerial view from August of 1927 we can see what Independence Hall and its square looked like before the construction of the Mall. We can see Washington Square to the southwest, and the block-sized Curtis Publishing Company building west of Independence. Look northward, toward the top of the frame, and we can see Franklin Square and the new plaza created by the Benjamin Franklin Bridge entrance and exit ramps.

During the 1920s there was already conversation about giving Independence Hall a more distinguished setting, but Independence Mall and Independence National Historical Park were still but glimmers in the eyes of bureaucrats and historians. Congress authorized Independence NHP in 1948, and the following year the Commonwealth and city inked an agreement to jointly develop Independence Mall State Park.

Independence Mall was the result of decades of conversation about setting Independence Hall apart from the urban fabric that surrounded the building. The mall was carved out of three city blocks – Chestnut to Race, Fifth to Sixth streets – and involved the demolition of more than 140 buildings, some common and aging, others were built by notable architects for the area’s concentration of insurance and banking businesses. 

In this view from 1927 we can see the dense and historic urban fabric that was razed to make way for the mall and its many subsequent design permutations. (Pop quiz –What was the only building to survive the path of the mall’s construction?) Independence Mall State Park was completed in 1969 and in 1974 ownership of the 15-acre mall was transferred to the National Park Service.

Click here to enlarge, and tell us what you see.

The aerial image above is part of the Free Library’s Print and Picture Collection, and is used by PlanPhilly/Eyes on the Street with the express permission of Aerial Viewpoint, which owns these aerial images. For reproductions or permissions inquiries contact Aerial Viewpoint. 

To learn more background about these aerial photographs, head over here

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