Beauty On High

Editor’s Note: The architects of the late 19th and early 20th century were so drunk on elaborate decorations that they placed them not only at street level, but also 10, 15, 20 stories up, where almost no one could see them clearly except the upper floor occupants of adjacent buildings. We’ve always wondered what the heck some of them looked like, so we sent Rob Lybeck out with a telephoto lens to bring back an answer. In a word, beautiful. The locations of all of the photos in the gallery above are identified in the individual photos below.

Witherspoon Building, Walnut and Juniper Streets

15th and Ranstead

Drake Building, 1500 block of Spruce Street

American Bible Publication Society, 1400 block of Chestnut Street

Keystone Bank/Hale Building, Chestnut and Juniper

Warwick Hotel, 17th and Locust Streets

Drake Building, 1500 block of Spruce Street

Witherspoon Building, Walnut and Juniper Streets

Witherspoon Building, Walnut and Juniper Streets

Warwick Hotel, 17th and Locust

Witherspoon Building, Walnut and Juniper Streets

City Hall

235 S.15th St. Building. 13th Floor.

235 S.15th St. Building. 13th Floor.

275 S. 15th Street

275 S. 15th St. Building

Keystone Bank/Hale Building, Chestnut and Juniper

Chatham Building, 20th and Walnut Streets

Keystone Bank/Hale Building, Chestnut and Juniper

About the author

Rob Lybeck is fascinated by Philadelphia's architecture and its embellishments. He endeavors to raise an awareness of the city's unique built environment through his photography. What began years ago as the chosen theme for a course assignment, has developed into a lifelong passionate pursuit: photographing the many diverse architectural styles and building details of the metropolitan area. His work can be seen here on flickr.



1 Comment


  1. Center City’s older buildings are a treasure trove of details and I’ve also wondered as to why exactly they’re so often just high enough and just small enough to escape everyday attention. Perhaps they were intended to be something that had to be looked for. Let us not forget the conservative approach that builders in this city have historically had for architectural embellishment (notwithstanding the presence of perhaps the most ornate building in Philadelphia smack in the middle of Center City) and putting those details on cornices and pediments rewards those who take the time to admire the buildings.

Recent Posts
A Golden Glow For <em>The Inquirer's</em> Saffron

A Golden Glow For The Inquirer’s Saffron

April 15, 2014  |  News

Yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize board announced its 2014 winners. After 15 years with a watchful eye on Philadelphia's built environment, the Inquirer's Inga Saffron won journalism's highest award for criticism > more

Advocacy Group To Urge Lawmakers To End “Lingering” Zoning Variances

Advocacy Group To Urge Lawmakers To End “Lingering” Zoning Variances

April 15, 2014  |  Morning Blend

CDAG to work towards “reasonable sunset provisions” on waterfront development proposals, the promise of the Mantua Promise Zone, Charles Willson Peale and the revolutionary museum imperative, SEPTA to test all-night subway service this summer, and cherries blossoming in Chestnut Hill > more

Tonight Over Philly: Lunar Eclipse vs Terrestrial Weather

Tonight Over Philly: Lunar Eclipse vs Terrestrial Weather

April 14, 2014  |  Buzz

A total lunar eclipse will happen in the southwestern sky around 3am tonight whether we can see it or not. In the event that the weather will cooperate, Brad Maule chatted with The Franklin Institute's Derrick Pitts about how best to view it > more

An Evening Home For Wayward Sons

An Evening Home For Wayward Sons

April 14, 2014  |  The Shadow Knows

Unless you've intentionally walked down Center City's Van Pelt Street between Ludlow and Chestnut Streets, chances are you have, like us, passed by the 120-year-old building home of De La Salle in Towne. But where The Shadow lurks, there be stories, and this one has a long history of social well being > more

Ground Broken On Luxurious AQ Rittenhouse

Ground Broken On Luxurious AQ Rittenhouse

April 14, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Old YWCA annex makes way for 12-story luxury apartments in Center City, Feibush calls foul in latest Kenyatta Johnson move in Point Breeze, a lack of ambition at South Broad’s St. Rita’s Shrine, and how Gratz High turned itself around > more

Pneumatic Philadelphia

Pneumatic Philadelphia

April 11, 2014  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. gives us a look into Philadelphia's dabbling in pneumatic mail, a Victorian method of mail delivery that had as its chief promoter in Postmaster General John Wanamaker—yes, that Wanamaker > more