Police hunting vandal who ravaged iconic Union League stairway

Workmen evaluate damage to the Union League staircase. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Workmen evaluate damage to the Union League staircase. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A vandal turned part of the circular, stone stairway leading into Philadelphia’s Union League into a pile of rubble overnight.

Surveillance cameras caught the pillager pulling off the brass railing along one side of the iconic, twin staircases at 3:02 a.m. Monday, said Erica Martin, the league’s communications and marketing director. As he yanked a 6-foot section of railing loose, the stone bannisters and handrail crumbled, Martin said.

Surveillance video shows the thief approached the Union League on Broad Street from Moravian, Martin added. He fled with the railing in hand and was last seen heading west on Sansom Street from 15th, police said.

Investigators haven’t identified the thief nor his motives, but criminals illegally stripping metal from wherever they find it has been a pesky problem in recent years.

“It’s a very sad day here. Every bride dreams of having her photos on those steps,” said Martin, adding that a wedding is scheduled at the Union League this weekend. “It’s an iconic building in the city, so it’s really affecting everyone. We’re hearing a lot of support from many different places, which is nice.”

The steps were part of the Union League’s original design, although they have been rebuilt several times since the league first opened in 1865, Martin said. The eight-floor building, which sprawls over a city block south of City Hall, was added to the National Historic Register in 1979.

Martin couldn’t yet estimate how much repairs might cost, adding that the stairway would be fixed “as soon as possible.”

Police on Tuesday released video and a description of the suspect. He is described as a black man, age 40 to 50, with a thin build, wearing a dark hooded jacket and blue jeans. Anyone with information about his identity or whereabouts is urged to call Det. Murphy in Central Detectives at (215) 686-3093. 


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