Philadelphia: City Hall Building Tour


Did you know that the tallest building in the world is in Philadelphia? No kidding … I am not referring to tallest as in the Burj Dubai, or Taipei 101 or the Petronas Twin Towers.

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That tallest building in the world is the City Hall in Philadelphia. The City Hall is at the center of the city … so center that there is a sort of a roundabout (more like a “squareabout”) around the City Hall. If you can imagine it … they put the City Hall right in the middle of the intersection of two roads that bisects the city into quadrants.

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The reason why this is called the tallest is this is the tallest masonry building in the world. There are no steel frames that support the building. The entire weight of the building is borne by the sheer thickness of the stone walls. Any higher than this, any building would have collapsed by its own weight.

The Philadelphia City Hall was actually the tallest building, period, in the early 1900s when it was constructed.

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Despite this being over 100 years old, it is still very much a working building. You would find it hard to believe but within this relatively small space, there are over 700 rooms in all, making it one of the largest municipal buildings in the world even today.

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The total height from bottom to the top of the statue of William Penn is almost 550′. I bet you can bet at least the contribution of William Penn to Philadelphia, PENNsylvania. He founded Philadelphia and that statue is the highest adorned statue in the world.

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Not many people know about this but you could actually book yourself a City Hall Building Tour. It is but far the best tour we had so far because we were shown to almost every nook and cranny of the City Hall. You need to go to the bookstore of the City Hall and register yourself. We almost did not make it because we were late by 5 minutes but they were so kind to bring us to catch up with the small group. It is also darn cheap too … it was something like $10 only but the experience is awesome.

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We did not notice it until it was pointed out to us. Do you know that there are over 250 sculptures adorning the entire building. Some of them are hidden from view that we did not know until they showed us. It is truly amazing how they designed this building to be the best of the best in the world.

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Despite the small size of the group it was logistically difficult to get everyone to stay together. It is because the lifts are so small that it takes 3-4 trips to move us from one floor to another.

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There are the “modern” sections where you have the normal office ceilings and vinyl floorings. This is the easiest place to upkeep because the rest of the building are so ornate that it costs a lot to just keep it clean.

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The rest of the building are beautiful. Every room we were shown are different. One room alone would have cost a bomb to design, build and maintain … let alone hundreds of such rooms. The ceilings are beautiful …

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… the carpets also seem to have been purpose designed for the theme of the building …

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… and some floors are tiled …

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… the furniture was preserved as it was over 100 years old …

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Even the octagonal spiral staircase is mesmerizing just looking up.

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We went into rooms not normally opened to the public …

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… and we went into rooms that were public too.

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The best part of the tour was when Suanne and I, yes just the two of us, were escorted to the top of the tower in an lift big enough only for 4-5 people. We were given some time on our own at the very top and because of the limited size of the lift, only the people who signed up for the tour were given access to it.

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Yup … we were almost at the base of the William Penn statue … the highest statue in the world.

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It used to be a heresy to even think of constructing a building taller than William Penn. There was an unwritten rule that no one must surpass the height of William Penn. Back in the 1980s, after much controversy, a building was built taller. The culprit is the One Liberty Place, that pointy building in the middle. Since then, well, who cares anymore.

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Today, about the only clear line of sight to the City Hall is from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Philadelphia is a beautiful city past it days of glory. History could have made this city bigger and better than Washington DC or New York City but it just did not turn out that way.

Still … Philadelphia will always be known as the birth place of the United States of America, the home of Rocky Balboa and most of all, it will always dearly is known as the City of Brotherly Love.

Philadelphia is also the home of the Philly Cheese Steak … but guess what … we did NOT go to Pat’s or Genoa’s. What on earth were we thinking of?!? I am still kicking myself over it!

So, girls and boy … you may heave a sigh of relieve now. This is because this is the last of the Philadelphia series. I hope you enjoy it. If you enjoyed it let me know … if you don’t keep it to yourself!!

I am passing chowtimes over to Suanne who had lots of recipes lined up to share. I am gonna plot over the next few days to start on another tortrous series … New York City! Be afraid … be very afraid … muahahahaha …

5 thoughts on “Philadelphia: City Hall Building Tour

  1. We rather enjoy your travel series Ben! I wish we could muster the discipline you guys have to hit the sights early – more often than not, we end up sleeping in. Lately, in our travels, we have spent more time exploring the places frequented by “locals”. It’s less crowded that way (especially when we are out and about during working hrs), and for us, less people results in a more relaxed and enjoyable trip. 🙂

  2. The posts on Philadelphia were great, though disappointed, as you mentioned, the fact you did not have any philly cheese steak… Sure, it might be a cliche but, sometimes, that’s the point!

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