The largest municipal building in the country and the finest example of the Second Empire style
City Hall is the largest municipal building in the United States, containing over 14.5 acres of floor space. It is an architectural treasure inside and out. The public rooms are among the most lavish in the City. The City Council Chamber, the Mayor’s Reception Room, Conversation Hall and the Supreme Court Room are the most ornate.
The exterior is covered with sculpture representing the seasons and continents, as well as allegorical figures, heads and masks. All of the sculpture was designed by Alexander Milne Calder, including the 27-ton statue of William Penn atop the tower. The tower was the tallest building in Philadelphia until 1987. Its observation deck, accessible during guided-tours, provides a panoramic view of the city.
In his original 1682 design for the city, William Penn set aside the Center Square for public buildings, but it took 200 years before the square was used for that purpose. The first City Hall was located at 2nd and Market streets, then moved to 5th and Chestnut streets when the Independence Hall complex was built.
The present City Hall on Center Square was begun in 1871 and took over 30 years to complete. John McArthur Jr. was the architect and supervised construction with the assistance of Thomas U. Walter. The first floor is built of solid granite — 22 feet thick in some places — supporting a brick structure faced with marble. The 548-foot tower is the tallest masonry structure in the world without a steel frame.
Monday through Friday, tours of the City Hall clock tower and observation deck leave every 15 minutes from 9:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m. A two-hour, public tour highlighting the art, architecture, tower and building history leaves at 12:30 p.m., Monday-Friday. Tickets for tours are sold first come first served and reservations can be made on the day of the tour.
A bronze plaque inside the north portico contains William Penn’s Prayer for Philadelphia, written in 1683 as he was departing for England.
Tower Tours are reserved specifically for school groups from 9:30 a.m. until noon, Mon – Fri.
In the neighborhood
135 S. 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
- Sofitel Philadelphia
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Museums & Attractions
2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130
- Mütter Museum
- Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs
- The Wilma Theater
- Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia
- The Philly Pops
- Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
- Opera Philadelphia
- Philadelphia Open Studio Tours
- Government of the People
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