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
In Search Of The Source

In Search Of The Source

November 26, 2014  |  Vantage

As gorgeous a landscape as the Wissahickon Creek carves through Philadelphia, it couldn't possibly begin its journey to the Schuylkill as an inlet from a shopping mall parking lot. Could it? Brad Maule heads to the suburbs to find out > more

Moshulu Renovation Aims For A More Authentic Design

Moshulu Renovation Aims For A More Authentic Design

November 26, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Barque owner getting design-inspiration from Ralph Lauren, Orinoka Mills a go, holiday display tells of South Philly’s days as a celebrity hotspot, and new work rules really are improving Convention Center’s future prospects > more

Philly Still On The 2016 DNC Short List

Philly Still On The 2016 DNC Short List

November 25, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Philly included in the three prospective DNC cities, planning money for Fox Chase trail, apartment complex changes hands amid redevelopment, and East Falls residents debate where to put a dog park > more

The Gilded Mall Of Market Street: Gimbels Had It

The Gilded Mall Of Market Street: Gimbels Had It

November 24, 2014  |  Vantage

Where the great Gimbels department store once stood a parking lot sits today. With the recent rejection of a casino license for the site, it looks like it may stay that way for now. Shadowbat has the story behind this long gone, cherished Philadelphia institution and the development black hole that is left in its place at 8th and Market > more

On Improving Urban-Suburban Relations

On Improving Urban-Suburban Relations

November 24, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Giving thanks for living in a great Greater Philadelphia, developer promises a catalyst for renewal of one South Philly neighborhood, Waverly Court units to double, and a warehouse-to-residential > more

We Haven't Forgotten: Gimbels Thanksgiving Parade Was The First

We Haven’t Forgotten: Gimbels Thanksgiving Parade Was The First

November 24, 2014  |  Vantage

Another first Philadelphia can claim is inventing the Thanksgiving Day parade. Gimbels department store started it all in 1920. Kyrie Greenberg gives us the backstory on this iconic public celebration > more