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Philadelphia’s Skyline History

The city didn’t have tall buildings until the 1980s. Then its skyline took off.
December 2, 2018, 11am PST | Camille Fink
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Julia Terruso explores the evolution of the Philadelphia skyline, beginning with the 196-foot Christ Church. “The church, which dates to 1744, was the tallest structure in North America for 56 years. It is still considered one of the finest Georgian buildings in America,” she notes.

City Hall was completed in 1901, and it was the tallest building in Philadelphia, at 548 feet, until One Liberty Place went up in 1987. “The building, blue glass and steel, with a top that resembled the Chrysler Building in New York City, would rise almost twice the height of City Hall and put Philadelphia on course for a building boom in the early 1990s,” says Terruso.

Former chief city planner Barbara Kaplan says Philadelphia transformed from a city with no skyline to one with a dozen skyscrapers in a short period of time. This development growth also happened later than in most other cities.

The tallest building in the city currently is the 974-foot Comcast Center, which was completed in 2008. But next year, the Comcast Technology Center will take that title. At 1,121 feet, it will be the ninth tallest building in the country.

“The Comcast Technology Center is 147 feet taller than its neighbor, due mostly to its narrow spire of three long rectangles, the middle one the highest. Some Philadelphians have said it resembles a middle finger,” reports Terruso.

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Published on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 in The Inquirer /
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