City Hall is the largest municipal building in the United States, containing over 14.5 acres of floor space. It is an architectural treasure inside and out. The public rooms are among the most lavish in the City. The City Council Chamber, the Mayor’s Reception Room, Conversation Hall and the Supreme Court Room are the most ornate.
The exterior is covered with sculpture representing the seasons and continents, as well as allegorical figures, heads and masks. All of the sculpture was designed by Alexander Milne Calder, including the 27-ton statue of William Penn atop the tower. The tower was the tallest building in Philadelphia until 1987. Its observation deck, which is open to the public, provides a panoramic view of the city.
In his original 1682 design for the city, William Penn set aside the Center Square for public buildings, but it took 200 years before the square was used for that purpose. The first City Hall was located at 2nd and Market streets, then moved to 5th and Chestnut streets when the Independence Hall complex was built.
The present City Hall on Center Square was begun in 1871 and took over 30 years to complete. John McArthur Jr. was the architect and supervised construction with the assistance of Thomas U. Walter. The first floor is built of solid granite — 22 feet thick in some places — supporting a brick structure faced with marble. The 548-foot tower is the tallest masonry structure in the world without a steel frame.
Monday – Friday, Guided tours available at 12:30 p.m.; Tower Observation Deck open Mon – Fri, 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. For tours and tower admission go to Room 121.
A bronze plaque inside the north portico contains William Penn’s Prayer for Philadelphia, written in 1683 as he was departing for England.
Tower Tours are reserved specifically for school groups from 9:30 a.m. until noon, Mon – Fri.