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Philly’s Art Deco masterpieces, mapped

From Center City to North Philly, 14 Art Deco structures not to miss

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Philly isn’t often recognized for its Art Deco architecture, compared to other cities like New York, Miami, or Chicago, but it should be. The city has some stunning examples of the flashy style, which originated from Europe and hit the U.S. full force in the 1920s and 1930s.

These structures, a mix of residential, retail, and office buildings, offer some of the most prominent examples of Art Deco architecture in Philadelphia. The buildings are listed in order of year built.

Know of another significant example of Art Deco architecture in Philadelphia? Let us know in the comments!

For all the midcentury modern enthusiasts, make sure to check out our story package from the spring on the history of modernism.

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Beury Building

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c. 1926

This behemoth on North Broad dates back to 1926 when it served as the headquarters for the National Bank of North Philadelphia. The 14-story structure was designed by William Harold Lee and was considered an Art Deco masterpiece at the time. Abandoned for the past four decades, it was recently renovated and turned into office space and residential units. Now, developers are planning a Phase II to renovate a neighboring building in order to create an annex, apartments and retail space. For an inside look at the Beury building before it started undergoing renovations, check out this gallery.

Perelman Building

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c. 1927

Designed by Zantzinger, Borie, and Medary, the Perelman Building next to the Philadelphia Museum of Art is considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the city. Its facade is adorned with a variety of embellishments and sculptures, a trait typical of Art Deco style, and is in stark contrast to the neighboring neoclassical buildings along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Originally built as the headquarters for Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company, the building was referred to as the Gateway to Fairmount Park when it opened its doors in the late 1920s. Today, it is owned by the City and is a gallery extension of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

via Flickr/raymondclarkeimages

WCAU Building

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c. 1928

Designed by Harry Sternfeld and his student Gabriel Roth, the WCAU building stands out as one of the most recognizable Art Deco buildings in Philly. It originally housed a Woolworth on the ground floor, followed by levels of office space, and finally, the WCAU radio station. In fact, it was the first building in the country designed specifically for a radio station, according to the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Over its history, the Art Deco high-rise has been home to the Art Institute of Philadelphia. Now, an Old Navy store resides here.

via Flickr/David Hilowitz

The Sedgwick Theater

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c. 1928

The Sedgwick Theater was built around the time when the popularity of movie palaces—ornate and glamorous movie theaters—was surging across the country. It was designed by Frank Furness’s protégé, William Harold Lee and is known as a—somewhat—hidden Art Deco masterpiece of Philly. That’s thanks to the embellishments along its facade and its terra cotta cornices. The theater is now home to the Quintessence Theater Group.

A post shared by Ross Mitchell (@rlancemitchell) on

The Ayer

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c. 1927-29

Today, the Ayer on Washington Square is home to ultra-luxury condominiums. But it was originally designed by Ralph Bencker during the Mad Men era of the late 1920s as the headquarters for N.W. Ayer, one of the oldest ad agencies in the country. Bencker’s Art Deco features are still prominently on display both inside and out, including the elaborate bronze front doors, decorative lobby, and the large monumental figures at the top of the building.

A post shared by The Daly Group (@phillyluxury) on

The Drake

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1929

This 33-story Art Deco masterpiece has managed to stake its claim in Philly’s skyline for decades, even as taller towers rise up around it. Designed by Ritter and Shay, the building was originally a hotel, accentuated by its Spanish Baroque details that culminate to the Drake’s iconic terra-cotta dome. The design of the building was influenced by Sir Francis Drake, evidenced by its ornamentation of dolphins, shells, and globes. Today, it is an apartment building.

via Flickr/Mike Linksvayer

1929

Designed by Tilden, Register & Pepper and Wark & Co., what is today called the Icon was originally known as 1616 Walnut, a 25-story building for the Pew family’s Sun Oil company. Its well-preserved Art Deco interiors are what really stand out here. The building has since been turned into luxury apartments.

A post shared by Lamps.com (@lampsdotcom) on

McClatchy Building

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c. 1929

The John C. McClatchy building is the one Art Deco structure on this list that is technically located right over Philly’s city limits in Upper Darby. But its incredibly ornate and flashy exterior warrants it a place on this list of Art Deco masterpieces. McClatchy, an Upper Darby developer, commissioned local Philly firm William Steele and Sons to design this building, which would serve as office space for McClatchy and retail space. When it debuted in the 1920s, one of its many “wow” factors included a 10-minute, synchronized light show that highlighted the building’s embellished exterior. Today, it is home to retailers like H&M. (Note: The Horn & Hardart Automat, a smaller Art Deco gem, is nearby).

Photo by Laura Kicey

SEPTA Suburban Station

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c. 1930

Located right off LOVE Park, the Suburban Station often turns heads, thanks to its prominent Art Deco front entrance. Built around 1930 and designed by a collection of architects, including Graham, Anderson, Probst & White and Thalheimer & Weitz, the SEPTA Suburban Station originally served as a terminal for Pennsylvania Railroad trains. Today, it is an office building and train station, with retail located below. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

via Flickr/Ferd Brundick

One East Penn Square Building

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c. 1930

This high-rise was designed by Ritter and Shay (see also #6) during the peak of the Art Deco movement, writes John Andrew Gallery in his book Philadelphia Architecture: A Guide to the City. Built for the Market Street National Bank, it features polychrome terra cotta ornamentation around its base and ground-floor retail, which Gallery notes was unusual at the time. Today, it serves as a Residence Inn by Marriott.

Courtesy of Shutterstock

30th Street Station

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c. 1929-1934

Given its neoclassical exterior, one might not consider 30th Street Station as Art Deco, until you step inside its massive interior waiting room, highlighted by its 95-foot-tall ceilings and Art Deco chandeliers. Designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, 30th Street Station is considered one of the last remaining grand stations in the country and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Flickr user Dan Gaken

US Post Office

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c. 1931-1935

This massive 862,700-square-foot limestone building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by Rankin & Kellogg and at the time served as the main distribution center for Center City. At first glance, it may not look representative of Art Deco, but its subtle ornamentation around the building’s exterior offer a more nuanced take on the typically over-the-top style.

Photo by Melissa Romero

One South Broad

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c. 1932

One South Broad, also known as the (former) PNB Building, is a staple in the Center City skyline. The nearly 500-foot tower was designed by John Windrim, who’s responsible for buildings around Philadelphia in the early 1900’s. The building was erected as a sister structure to the iconic Wanamaker’s Department Store around the corner and, like its predecessor, its facade holds true to the classic, more refined, aspects of the Art Deco style. From the mid-20th century until 2014, the top of the structure was adorned with Philadelphia National Bank’s initials in stainless steel.

A post shared by Dave (@djg322) on

United States Custom House

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c. 1932-34

The United States Custom House is one of the few, if not the only, examples of Art Deco architecture in Old City, a neighborhood more known for its Georgian and Federalist structures. The large 17-story building was designed by Ritter & Shay, who designed a base that pays homage to the neighboring Georgian and Federal architecture. Still, the lavish interiors, adorned with ornamentation throughout, stay true to the Art Deco style.

via Wikimedia Commons

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Beury Building

c. 1926

This behemoth on North Broad dates back to 1926 when it served as the headquarters for the National Bank of North Philadelphia. The 14-story structure was designed by William Harold Lee and was considered an Art Deco masterpiece at the time. Abandoned for the past four decades, it was recently renovated and turned into office space and residential units. Now, developers are planning a Phase II to renovate a neighboring building in order to create an annex, apartments and retail space. For an inside look at the Beury building before it started undergoing renovations, check out this gallery.

Perelman Building

via Flickr/raymondclarkeimages

c. 1927

Designed by Zantzinger, Borie, and Medary, the Perelman Building next to the Philadelphia Museum of Art is considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the city. Its facade is adorned with a variety of embellishments and sculptures, a trait typical of Art Deco style, and is in stark contrast to the neighboring neoclassical buildings along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Originally built as the headquarters for Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company, the building was referred to as the Gateway to Fairmount Park when it opened its doors in the late 1920s. Today, it is owned by the City and is a gallery extension of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

via Flickr/raymondclarkeimages

WCAU Building

via Flickr/David Hilowitz

c. 1928

Designed by Harry Sternfeld and his student Gabriel Roth, the WCAU building stands out as one of the most recognizable Art Deco buildings in Philly. It originally housed a Woolworth on the ground floor, followed by levels of office space, and finally, the WCAU radio station. In fact, it was the first building in the country designed specifically for a radio station, according to the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Over its history, the Art Deco high-rise has been home to the Art Institute of Philadelphia. Now, an Old Navy store resides here.

via Flickr/David Hilowitz

The Sedgwick Theater

c. 1928

The Sedgwick Theater was built around the time when the popularity of movie palaces—ornate and glamorous movie theaters—was surging across the country. It was designed by Frank Furness’s protégé, William Harold Lee and is known as a—somewhat—hidden Art Deco masterpiece of Philly. That’s thanks to the embellishments along its facade and its terra cotta cornices. The theater is now home to the Quintessence Theater Group.

A post shared by Ross Mitchell (@rlancemitchell) on

The Ayer

c. 1927-29

Today, the Ayer on Washington Square is home to ultra-luxury condominiums. But it was originally designed by Ralph Bencker during the Mad Men era of the late 1920s as the headquarters for N.W. Ayer, one of the oldest ad agencies in the country. Bencker’s Art Deco features are still prominently on display both inside and out, including the elaborate bronze front doors, decorative lobby, and the large monumental figures at the top of the building.

A post shared by The Daly Group (@phillyluxury) on

The Drake

via Flickr/Mike Linksvayer

1929

This 33-story Art Deco masterpiece has managed to stake its claim in Philly’s skyline for decades, even as taller towers rise up around it. Designed by Ritter and Shay, the building was originally a hotel, accentuated by its Spanish Baroque details that culminate to the Drake’s iconic terra-cotta dome. The design of the building was influenced by Sir Francis Drake, evidenced by its ornamentation of dolphins, shells, and globes. Today, it is an apartment building.

via Flickr/Mike Linksvayer

Icon

1929

Designed by Tilden, Register & Pepper and Wark & Co., what is today called the Icon was originally known as 1616 Walnut, a 25-story building for the Pew family’s Sun Oil company. Its well-preserved Art Deco interiors are what really stand out here. The building has since been turned into luxury apartments.

A post shared by Lamps.com (@lampsdotcom) on

McClatchy Building

Photo by Laura Kicey

c. 1929

The John C. McClatchy building is the one Art Deco structure on this list that is technically located right over Philly’s city limits in Upper Darby. But its incredibly ornate and flashy exterior warrants it a place on this list of Art Deco masterpieces. McClatchy, an Upper Darby developer, commissioned local Philly firm William Steele and Sons to design this building, which would serve as office space for McClatchy and retail space. When it debuted in the 1920s, one of its many “wow” factors included a 10-minute, synchronized light show that highlighted the building’s embellished exterior. Today, it is home to retailers like H&M. (Note: The Horn & Hardart Automat, a smaller Art Deco gem, is nearby).

Photo by Laura Kicey

SEPTA Suburban Station

via Flickr/Ferd Brundick

c. 1930

Located right off LOVE Park, the Suburban Station often turns heads, thanks to its prominent Art Deco front entrance. Built around 1930 and designed by a collection of architects, including Graham, Anderson, Probst & White and Thalheimer & Weitz, the SEPTA Suburban Station originally served as a terminal for Pennsylvania Railroad trains. Today, it is an office building and train station, with retail located below. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

via Flickr/Ferd Brundick

One East Penn Square Building

Courtesy of Shutterstock

c. 1930

This high-rise was designed by Ritter and Shay (see also #6) during the peak of the Art Deco movement, writes John Andrew Gallery in his book Philadelphia Architecture: A Guide to the City. Built for the Market Street National Bank, it features polychrome terra cotta ornamentation around its base and ground-floor retail, which Gallery notes was unusual at the time. Today, it serves as a Residence Inn by Marriott.

Courtesy of Shutterstock

30th Street Station

Flickr user Dan Gaken

c. 1929-1934

Given its neoclassical exterior, one might not consider 30th Street Station as Art Deco, until you step inside its massive interior waiting room, highlighted by its 95-foot-tall ceilings and Art Deco chandeliers. Designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, 30th Street Station is considered one of the last remaining grand stations in the country and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Flickr user Dan Gaken

US Post Office

Photo by Melissa Romero

c. 1931-1935

This massive 862,700-square-foot limestone building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by Rankin & Kellogg and at the time served as the main distribution center for Center City. At first glance, it may not look representative of Art Deco, but its subtle ornamentation around the building’s exterior offer a more nuanced take on the typically over-the-top style.

Photo by Melissa Romero

One South Broad

c. 1932

One South Broad, also known as the (former) PNB Building, is a staple in the Center City skyline. The nearly 500-foot tower was designed by John Windrim, who’s responsible for buildings around Philadelphia in the early 1900’s. The building was erected as a sister structure to the iconic Wanamaker’s Department Store around the corner and, like its predecessor, its facade holds true to the classic, more refined, aspects of the Art Deco style. From the mid-20th century until 2014, the top of the structure was adorned with Philadelphia National Bank’s initials in stainless steel.

A post shared by Dave (@djg322) on

United States Custom House

via Wikimedia Commons

c. 1932-34

The United States Custom House is one of the few, if not the only, examples of Art Deco architecture in Old City, a neighborhood more known for its Georgian and Federalist structures. The large 17-story building was designed by Ritter & Shay, who designed a base that pays homage to the neighboring Georgian and Federal architecture. Still, the lavish interiors, adorned with ornamentation throughout, stay true to the Art Deco style.

via Wikimedia Commons