Update: The architectural committee of the Historical Commission voted 3-2 today to reject the sign proposal for the Lit Brothers Building. That vote is merely advisory, however. The sign proposal is expected to be affirmed by the full Historical Commission at a meeting September 14.
John Connors, the owner of the historic Lit Brothers Department Store–now Mellon Independence Center–at Eighth and Market Streets, has applied for approval for animated digital signage above the building’s roof. The case will go before the architectural committee of the Historical Commission today. Historical Commission staff have given the committee an opinion of “no recommendation” on the case, meaning they’re leaving it to the committee to decide the case–essentially on aesthetic grounds. Connors’ proposal is careful to follow the city’s sign ordinance, which generally excludes commercial signs on historic buildings except for those that historically had signs.
From the 1890s until Connors renovated the department store in the 1980s, the Lit Brothers building sported very large commercial signage. “A Great Store For A Great City” was the most iconic of those signs.
At issue is the design standards for the digital sign: from color choices to frequency of the use of the traditional “Great Store For A Great City” sign. The Greater Philadelphia Preservation Alliance hopes to get Connors to agree to a set of standards.
Some images from the Quicktime animation supplied by the building owner:
About the author
Nathaniel Popkin is the co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and co-producer and senior script editor of the documentary film series "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment." He's the author of Song of the City: An Intimate Portrait of the American Urban Landscape and The Possible City: Exercises in Dreaming Philadelphia.