Look Up! Public Ledger Building recalls golden age of publishing
“Look Up” is a PlanPhilly feature that encourages appreciation of our architectural and historical environment. Each week, it focuses on a different Philadelphia area neighborhood and its distinctive building styles and details, all of which make up the physical fabric of the city and region.
The Public Ledger was Philadelphia’s first penny journal in the 1830s, reaching a broad audience with its bold headlines and reasonable price.
The paper passed through many owners, including George Williams Childs and Anthony Drexel, Adolph Ochs, and, beginning in 1913, Cyrus Curtis. Curtis hired the city’s preeminent architect, Horace Trumbauer, in 1924 to build a new Ledger building on the site where it had been since 1867, the corner of 6th and Chestnut Streets, across from Philadelphia’s most historic sites. It was also next to the owner’s magazine empire housed in the Curtis Building at 6th and Walnut, designed in 1910 by Edgar Seeler.
Trumbauer echoed Seeler’s building in shape, height and materials, but chose the Georgian Revival style for the new home of the newspaper and added his own grand features. White marble Ionic columns and arches, coffered ceilings, and beautifully carved figures of women representing the art of writing adorn the first floor entrances. The upper stories are brick with rectangular office windows, in keeping with the gritty work of a daily newspaper.
But the top is capped with arched marble windows. The Ledger’s circulation declined through the 1930s and the paper folded in 1942. But the building is very well preserved and has an impressive list of current occupants, including foreign consulates and the offices of the Center City District.
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