With East Market Stirring, Girard Square Sheds Its Skin

February 18, 2015 | by Michael Bixler

Now you see me, now you don’t | Photo: Michael Bixler

The city’s 135 square miles are shifting like tectonic plates as we rumble into an era of new growth and dynamic reinvestment. For decades, decidedly low end buildings like the repurposed stump of the once grand Snellenburg & Company department store on Girard Square at 1100 Market Street embodied the city’s receding expectations.

Demolition of the site began last December and will near completion in the next few months. National Real Estate Development’s East Market project will transform Market and Chestnut Street between 11th and 12th Streets into an urban playground. The $230 million first phase of Girard Square’s redevelopment includes a 17 story residential and retail tower that will be accompanied by a network of small pedestrian walkways and retail space designed to evoke a neighborhood shopping district–what Inga Saffron of the Inquirer has dubbed the “anti-Gallery.”

N. Snellenberg & Co., 1899, SE corner 12th and Market | Photo: The Official Office Building Directory and Architectural Handbook of Philadelphia 1899 , courtesy of Philadelphia Architects and Buildings

Along with the Gallery, about to reimagined by its owner PREIT, and the Lits Building, with its rather blazing digital display, East Market is a play to capture the street’s former Ragtime glory. Across the street, Francis Kimball’s brilliant Reading Terminal Headhouse is waiting.

In what is less of a tribute and more of a parting glance at the quickly disintegrating Snellenburg building in its final days, here is a snapshot of time passing away and a look into the kinetic energy of change.


To launch the gallery, click any of the photos below.


About the Author

Michael Bixler is a writer, editor, and photographer engaged in dialogue and documentation of the built environment and how it relates to history, culture, and the urban experience. He is the editorial director and chief photographer of Hidden City Philadelphia.


  1. Edan says:

    I used to fantasize about seeing all of these hideous buildings being demolished but never actually expected to see it happen. Hopefully this project is successful and leads you to write another piece, in a few years, detailing the demolition of the building anchored by Staples.

  2. Jen says:

    The contrast between the original building and the last rendition is shocking. Good riddance to that ugly old thing!

  3. Jayfar says:

    One thing I didn’t see among the posted photos is a glimpse of the original Snellenberg’s facade. I was around the demolition site on Market St today. If you stand by the CVS entrance at 11th and look up across the street to the second story, you can see a little bit of the the ornate Snellenberg’s stump where they’ve stripped away a short section of the 60s-era facade that was covering it. Sorry I didn’t have my camera with me. Catch it while you can.

    1. Michael Bixler says:

      Hi Jayfar,

      Very cool. Thanks for the heads up. Hopefully more will be revealed as they continue to remove that cover.

    2. Dave says:

      I was here 3/3, and the facade was very exposed. I was hopeful they would be preserving it but it doesn’t seem that’s the case. Now I regret not taking some pictures!

  4. Winkerbeans says:


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