It took the nation's bicentennial to loosen Philadelphia's notorious blue laws, which prohibited Sunday sales of alcohol as well as any commercial activities within two hundred feet of the parkway. This made it possible to build the city's first architecturally important modern hotel in nearly a century. Kohn Pedersen Fox's starting point was the recognition that a masonry building would be appropriate on the parkway and that some classical references would acknowledge the nearby Free Library and John T. Windrim's Family Court building (1933) and his Franklin Institute of 1934 (all PH121). Hence the gray granite cladding of the hotel, whose massive base houses the splendid Fountain Room restaurant that looks out over Logan Square, above which rise five stories of hotel rooms. Three-story recessed panels subdivided by classical columnlike piers and a friezelike band of the fifth floor accommodate the rhythms of the nearby Beaux-Arts facades. The architects call it “street wall architecture,” and conceived it as dramatizing the street much as does Rome's Palazzo Massimi alle Colonne. While Postmodern designs all too often resulted in surfaces that are too blank, this is notably effective. Two additional stories, set back and screened behind a parapet, meet the program needs for the number of rooms.
To the rear, beyond the parkway's height limit, the architects framed the site with an office tower that shares the gray granite and glass of the hotel but leaves behind the historical cues. The largest windows are at the narrow east end, emphasizing the non-load-bearing nature of the masonry cladding. A darker polished granite on the rear facade indicates the elevator core and recalls Howe and Lescaze's PSFS tower ( PH46) of two generations before. The remainder of the modern towers that border the parkway are less distinguished. Stonorov and Hawes's cylindrical Plaza Hotel (1966) at N. 18th and the Parkway suffers from its circular shape.