Friday, May 05, 2006

AF: Wanamaker Building

Since I work in downtown Philadelphia and I like some of the buildings, I'd like to research them and write about them here on occasional Fridays.

Architecture Friday: The Wanamaker Building
Location:1300 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA
Architect: Daniel H Burham
Construction:1902-1910
Style: Italian Renaissance

This building was constructed on the site of the John Wanamaker Depot which John Wanamaker, retail pioneer, bought from the Pennsylvania Railroad. The Depot was contructed on what was then the western edge of the city.

John Wanamaker revolutionized retail by having set pricing and the ability to return goods. This was Philadelphia's finest store in it's day and the interior still remain as beautiful as it was in it's heyday. At one time this building was largely retail space with Wanamaker's offices on the 8th floor. Also on the eight floor is the Crystal Tea Room which when it opened in 1911 was the largest dining room in Philadelphia.
Wanamaker also purchased a pipe organ with over 30,000 pipes in the grand court and recitals are still given everyday at lunch. The pipe organ was made for the Louisiana Purchase exposition in St Louis and shipped to Philadelphia.


Wanamakers was the place to meet in Philadelphia as everyone knew what "meet me at the eagle" meant.

The Eagle statue is in the grand court on the main floor. The main hall extends upward 150 feet and several stories high.

The grand court was also the site of annual christmas light shows with organ music, fountains and light up holiday decorations.


The Wanamaker stores were sold by the Wanamaker family in 1987 and the store passed through several hands until Federated department stores purchased the brand. In 1997 Wanamaker's flagship store became a Lord and Taylor.

The Lord and Taylor is now in the process of closing down and it's really sad to watch. The clearance signs are everywhere and only the clothing remains on the first floor and a portion of the second. The rest of the building is office space. The place looks more like a Marshalls rather than the finest store in Philadelphia.

It is expected the store open as a Macy's.

1 comment:

Neil said...

I had always heard about Wanamaker's in its heyday. I think it's a little sad that all these regional department stores have disappeared (even some of the big ones in New York -- like the famous Gimbels and Klein's). I hate travelling around the country and seeing the EXACT SAME stores in every single city.