German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe dubbed architecture “frozen music.” Simultaneously poetic and defining, feats of architectural beauty have inspired centuries of generations all over the world. Philadelphia is no different, and offers a mosaic of different architectural styles. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but features just a sample of the beautiful buildings around Philadelphia.
Perhaps the architectural crown jewel of Philly, City Hall is justifiably recognizable and a visible epicenter. Soaring masonwork, elaborate ornamentation, and a 37-foot tall statue of William Penn resting at the top make City Hall a defining Philadelphia landmark. Scottish-born architect John McArthur Jr. employed the Second Empire style, and when construction began in 1871 it was designed to be the tallest building in the world. Today, visitors can walk in the landscaped outdoor courtyard or take in views of the city from an observation deck.
1401 JFK Boulevard
Completed in 1873, the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia remains one of the most magnificent buildings in the city. Its Norman cathedral-like exterior houses impressive and varied interior architecture, with Spanish, Italian, and Egyptian influences. The elaborate elevations on Broad and Filbert Streets are a noticeable element, and the exterior stone on these streets is Cape Ann Syenite from Syne in Egypt. The Temple serves as the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
1 North Broad Street
Historic Philadelphia features a handful of buildings in the understated Georgian style that was so popular in the early 18th-century. The charming residential rows of home in Elfreth’s Alley feature this predominantly brick style, with colorful shutters and flower boxes. Likewise, the World Heritage Site Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, is a Georgian building influenced by the style of English architect Christopher Wren.
The Academy of Music, or the “grand Old Lady of Locust Street,” is the oldest opera house in the United States and home to the Pennsylvania Ballet and Opera Philadelphia. Finished in 1857, the Roman Corinthian style building features a brick exterior with five central doors that each have windows above them. Inside, 14 Corinthian columns support upper balconies and an ornate first balcony.
The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul was designed by Napoleon LeBrun, the same architect of the Academy of Music on Broad Street. The largest Catholic church in Pennsylvania, the cathedral is also the only one in the United States that is designed in the Roman Corinthian style. The basilica was modeled after the Lombard Church of St. Charles in Rome, and its massive stone columns and great dome make it Phill’s largest brownstone structure.