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Cast-Iron District

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1840s-1890s. Bounded roughly by Arch, Front, Market, and 3rd sts.
  • (Photograph by Karen Kingsley)
  • (Photograph by Karen Kingsley)
  • (Photograph by Karen Kingsley)
  • (Photograph by Karen Kingsley)
  • (Photograph by Karen Kingsley)
  • (Photograph by Karen Kingsley)
  • (Photograph by Karen Kingsley)

Philadelphia was an important center of iron manufacturing—indeed many of the fancy New Orleans porches were made here and as a result many of the shop fronts of the old city used the new material that provided better interior illumination as well as maximum ornament and minimal cost. Cast iron can be identified by the large-scale elements made without multiple blocks as with stone, and often by bits of rust peeking out below layers of paint; paint alone is not sure evidence because stone was often painted. Despite multiple layers of paint, the names of the iron makers cast into the bases of pilasters are often visible. Cast-iron-fronted buildings in Philadelphia appear wherever there are 1840s to 1890s buildings, most commonly east of Independence Mall and north of Chestnut Street but examples can be found north of the Convention Center as well.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas


What's Nearby


George E. Thomas, "Cast-Iron District", [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 2

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, George E. Thomas, with Patricia Likos Ricci, Richard J. Webster, Lawrence M. Newman, Robert Janosov, and Bruce Thomas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 54-54.

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