Photography

As Inquirer Building Awaits Police HQ, A Peek Inside

December 26, 2017 | by Chandra Lampreich

 

Editor’s Note: When the Philadelphia Inquirer packed its bags for the old Strawbridge and Clothier store 8th and Market in 2012, the fate of one of the city’s grandest skyscrapers was set adrift. The newspaper’s current owner, Philadelphia Media Network, sold the Inquirer’s 92-year-old headquarters at 400 N. Broad Street for around $19 million to developer Bart Blatstein in October 2011. The inevitable downsizing of the newspaper’s home came on the heels of nearly three decades of staff buyouts, sweeping newsroom cuts, international bureau closures, and other operational cutbacks sparked by a steady drop in circulation and declining advertising revenue. More staff buyouts and drastic restructuring continue to put a strain on the Inky’s newsroom today

In 2015, Blatstein announced plans for renovating the 526,000-square-foot Beaux Arts behemoth into a 125-room boutique hotel after failing to obtain a license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to turn the building into a French-themed casino. Blatstein claimed that construction on converting the 340-foot-tall skyscraper into a hotel would begin in the summer of 2016. Instead, the building has remained vacant for six years.

But change may be around the corner. In May 2017, City officials announced that the Inquirer Building, once known as the Elverson Building, had been chosen as the new Police Administration Building due to its size and location. The news was unexpected and revealed the decision by the Kenney administration to abandoned former Mayor Nutter’s established plan to relocate the PPD to the Provident Mutual Life Insurance building at 46th and Market Streets. To date, the City has spent $50.5 million renovating the stately Neoclassical campus. According to the Mayor’s Office, the dramatic and costly change in plans were based on logistics and expenses, citing the West Philadelphia location’s proximity to highway access and to the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center at 13th and Filbert Streets, parking costs, and space for 911 operations. Officials also stated that the Provident building wasn’t big enough to accommodate the 6th and 9th District stations which, due to the poor conditions of their buildings, will be relocated within the new headquarters.

Eschewing West Philadelphia for new digs on North Broad aside, the PPD plans to vacate their current headquarters, the four-story Roundhouse, a curvaceous example of Brutalist architecture at 750 Race Street, and move into a new HQ by early 2020. If the City moves ahead with the purchase of the Inquirer Building, renovations to the ivory tower is expected to cost roughly $290 million. 

Photographer Chandra Lampreich offers a peek inside the empty “Tower of Truth” before renovations begin and the police move in. 



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About the Author

Chandra Lampreich Chandra Lampreich became interested in photography in high school, and then continued her training at Antonelli Institute where she received an associates degree in photography. She specializes in architecture photography, and has a passion for shooting old, dilapidated buildings. Her photographs can be seen on Flickr here.

10 Comments:

  1. Wayne says:

    Cool photos, thanks for sharing. It’s good to see something is happening with that beautiful building. Love the clock mechanism and bells.

  2. Harry Kyriakodis says:

    From a caption of forthcoming book, Underground Philadelphia (2018):
    The City Branch Line passes beneath the Philadelphia Inquirer Building, under construction (and on stilts) in this early 1920s photograph. The owner and publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Colonel James Elverson, Jr., and his wife resided on the 12th and 13th floors with their extensive art collection. Elverson’s father had purchased the Inquirer in 1879 and nurtured it into a major newspaper. The Inquirer was later owned by Walter Annenberg, who maintained a plush suite of offices on the 12th floor that only a select few could visit unbidden. From The Redemption of the Lower Schuylkill (1924), by John Frederick Lewis.

  3. Harry Kyriakodis says:

    Great photos of one of my most favorite buildings in Philadelphia!

  4. Davis says:

    Sad to think there are silent chimes in the clock tower – I’ve never heard them that I recall – how many years have they been silent?

    1. Mike Devine says:

      I remember hearing the chimes several years ago. Here’s an excerpt from a 2012 article that described the Inquirer’s departure from the building:

      Decades before http://www.dot.anything, The Inquirer provided the city with a constant source of instant information: the time. It was accessed simply by looking up at the four faces of the giant Seth Thomas clock, lighted at night by 800 bulbs.

      The clock has rung its Westminster chimes in 15-minute intervals (save for the hours between midnight and 7 a.m.) since 1925.

      Source:
      “A final farewell, but the Tower’s stories live on”
      http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/20120701_A_final_farewell__but_the_Tower_s_stories_live_on.html

      1. Davis says:

        Thank you! Now my addled memory has been prodded I think I can recall the chimes. There are few enough real bells ringing in the city – the recorded ones aren’t quite the same.

  5. Jim Clark says:

    I always thought to myself “what a beautiful building” every time I passed it. Glad to see it is not being demolished too! Great pictures Chandra, thank you.

  6. Astralmilkman says:

    So they spend $50 million on 46th and now what ? Only in government can you get away with this !
    I’m glad to see the building reused, it’s a lovely landmark for the entrance to the RAIL PARL !!
    So what happens now with the place on market and who has to foot the bill ? Did the Nutter administration screw up or is Kenney screwing the tax payers to pay back his cronies?

  7. Philly Tony says:

    Excellent repurposing of an iconic Philly skyscraper!Yet another step in North Broads revitalization.

  8. Vince says:

    I’ll be happy to see this beautiful building fixed up but I can’t help but think what could have been. This building would have brought much more life to North Broad as a hotel or apartments with a first floor commercial space.

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