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. Send him an e-mail at: rob-shutter[at]hotmail[dot]com



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 Monumental Shift At Dilworth Park

A Monumental Shift At Dilworth Park

October 24, 2014  |  Vantage

Olin's design for Dilworth Park gives Philadelphia what it has long struggled for: a suitably grand approach to the monumental City Hall, says Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin. Here's his review of the park, now essentially complete > more

Kenney To Hist Commission: Put Buildings On Register, Get More Funding

Kenney To Hist Commission: Put Buildings On Register, Get More Funding

October 24, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Firm would simply recoup money through ads, Councilman Kenney wants to bolster Historical Commission, Councilman Henon undaunted by Planning Commission’s non-recommendation for Mayfair overlay, and Guinn hard at work on latest mural > more

Bill Seeks To Preempt Tragedy With Better Data For Firefighters

Bill Seeks To Preempt Tragedy With Better Data For Firefighters

October 23, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Blueprint reconnaissance for firefighter safety, improvements to the Burk Mansion, City Council considers beautification of vacant land by former convicts, and more inaction on PGW sale > more

Why The Flying Saucer Deserves Your LOVE

Why The Flying Saucer Deserves Your LOVE

October 22, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Preservation Alliance calls iconic LOVE Park building a “place to save,” zoning changes introduced for parts of North Philly, another firm for the Navy Yard, and a sinking pharmacy in South Philly > more

The Missing Namesake Of North Philly's Lost Necropolis

The Missing Namesake Of North Philly’s Lost Necropolis

October 21, 2014  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Next up in our Halloween cemetery series: Harry K hits the tomes looking for the missing obelisk of Monument Cemetery. Is it sitting in a gravestone dumping ground at the foot of the Betsy Ross Bridge? Its fate may be forever unknown > more

Of Birds And Drinking Water

Of Birds And Drinking Water

October 21, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Inside the East Park Reservoir, Temple students adopting blocks, UCD to start early on 40th Street plaza, and Jewish life gets a boost at Penn > more