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Loew's Hotel

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Philadelphia Savings Fund Society [PSFS]
1930–1932, Howe and Lescaze; 1999–2000 adapted as hotel, BLT Architects. S. 12th and Market sts.

The choice of the site for PSFS's offices was investigated with scientific precision. The bank had remained at S. 7th and Walnut streets (1869, Addison Hutton; 1897–1898, Furness, Evans and Co.) while its competitors had moved west across Broad Street. To ascertain whether a 12th Street site would be commercially advantageous, the bank constructed a temporary facility from designs of Mellor, Meigs and Howe in 1927. When its proximity to the Reading Terminal and the City Hall proved effective, George Howe, who by then had dissolved his previous partnership, was commissioned to design the office tower with William Lescaze. Howe had worked in Frank Furness's office and learned its vigorous utilitarianism, an approach he later melded with the stark International Style modernism of Europe in the premier example of pre–World War II modern skyscraper design.

Ground-level shops, with stainless steel–framed windows, were to attract the impulse buyer, while the banking room and bank offices, differentiated by their sheathing in polished black stone and placed on the second story, were linked to the street by escalators on the Market Street front. The heroically cantilevered and offset office tower portion of the building is sheathed in light gray brick with limestone-clad piers that is juxtaposed with an expressionistic black brick service tower at the rear.

The banking room on the second level marked the shift from hand-carved and cast ornament of Victorian and Beaux-Arts design to sensuous materials, here glittering white, black, and yellow marbles. The architects designed chromed banking furniture that complemented the modern interior design. The upper-story offices were entered by a separate door on 12th Street into an elevator lobby lined with cool gray stone and blue ceiling accents. Teak and stainless steel high-speed elevator cabs rise to the bank's conference room with its panorama of the city. The building is crowned by an angled sign emblazoned with the initials of the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society in glowing red neon that has been a conspicuous part of the city's skyline for three generations. The placement of a second-story bank above street-level shops did not originate with Howe. It appears just one block away at E. Penn Square and Market Street in the former Market Street National Bank designed by Ritter and Shay in 1929. Now converted to the Marriott Residence Inn, it is notable for its setback profile and the richly hued Mayan-ornamented base that recalls the contemporary pre-Columbian discoveries in Mexico.

Writing Credits

Author: 
George E. Thomas
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Data

Timeline

  • 1930

    Built
  • 1999

    Adapted as hotel

What's Nearby

Citation

George E. Thomas, "Loew's Hotel", [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/PA-02-PH46.

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, 80-81.

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