Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Philadelphia Scenes - Then and Now

Philadelphia East Market Street

For those who don't know Philadelphia, the downtown area is bisected by two streets. Broad Street runs north and south and Market Street runs east and west. At the intersection of these streets sits Philadelphia's City Hall. Here is a photo of City Hall looking south down Broad Street. This photo was taken in June 2006 and the building was being renovated. Most of the lower portion of the building is covered by scaffolding. On top of the tower is a large statue of William Penn, the city founder. At the base of the statue is an observation deck. It was a beautiful day so I decided to go up to the deck and take some pictures.
This is the view from the tower looking east on Market Street. The Delaware River can be seen in the background. What about that building with PFSF on the side. PSFS means Philadelphia Savings Fund Society. At one time it was the oldest and one of the most powerful banks in the city. It had been founded in 1816 and was the first savings bank in the country. In the early '90s it was acquired by a bank from Pittsburgh. And there have been many mergers since then. But through it all, each owner of the building has agreed to maintain the sign because it is a Philadelphia landmark. The building, erected in 1932, is a National Historical Landmark. It is 32 stories tall and in 1932 was considered a skyscraper. Today it is the Lowe's Philadelphia Hotel.
The following picture I took in 1968 in roughly the same direction. Back then, the PSFS building, along with City Hall dominated the city skyline. And look at how hazy it is! I remember this day as being a sunny summer day. The two hulking buildings to the left of the PSFS building (about a third of the way from the top), were the two of the three dominant department stores in the city, Lits on the north side of Market and Gimbals directly across the street. The third large store was Wanamakers which was located across the street from City Hall. All three stores have long since gone out of business.
A funny story about my visit to the tower in 2006. To get on the observation deck you ride a tiny elevator up through the tower. The tower is just a shell, there are no rooms in it. The elevator holds the operator and 3-4 people. Riding up with me that day was a man and his young son. We got to talking and the guy said his wife had reported to jury duty (the courts are in City Hall) and he decided to take his son up on the tower while he was waiting for her. I told him I hadn't been there since 1968. After I left the tower I checked out of my hotel, got a rental car and drove out to my sister-in-law's house in another part of the city where I was to spend the weekend. On the way there I decided to visit the one of the neighborhoods I lived in as a kid. As I was heading off the freeway and on to the surface streets I thought I'd have lunch first. After driving around for awhile I found a Wendy's. As I was waiting in line I realized that the guy who had visited the observation deck with me was standing in front of me with his son and wife. I said hello and he practically jumped out of his shoes with surprise.

1 comment:

Susie Harris said...

Thanks, I will have to give it a try the next time I mess up on my pictures. have a great one!