Look Up! Will Price’s contribution to the Chestnut Street landscape

“Look Up” is a PlanPhilly feature that encourages appreciation of our architectural and historical environment. The photo essays focus on a different Philadelphia area neighborhood and its distinctive building styles and details, all of which make up the physical fabric of the city and region.

Chestnut Street is a living museum of Philadelphia’s retail past, tracing four centuries of storefront evolution.

About midway on the Center City stretch, at 1424-26 Chestnut, is the former Jacob Reed’s Sons Building, a handsome turn-of-the-20th-century structure that retains many of its original features despite multiple reincarnations.

It was built in 1904 by the firm of Price and McLanahan for the clothing store that emphasized custom service in an era when impersonal department stores were becoming popular. The building’s design reflects Reed’s preference for individualism.

Will Price, one of the region’s proponents of the Arts & Crafts movement, utilized reinforced concrete, concrete columns, and a high concrete barrel over the first floor. He borrowed from the urban palaces of northern Italy, explains John Gallery in his book, “Philadelphia Architecture,” for the third-story loggia, red tile roof and arched entrance.

Price, who created an entire community of Arts & Crafts homes in Rose Valley, Pa., adorned the building in Mercer tiles, including mosaics of garment workers in the entry arch.

Clerestory windows lit from behind were used inside to give the illusion of a freestanding building, Gallery explains. Original murals of fashionably dressed young families can still be seen over the shelves of the current occupant, a CVS Pharmacy.

Contact the writer at ajaffe@planphilly.com.

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