Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building

The landmark Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, an annex of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is a focus for learning, connoisseurship, and sheer enjoyment of works of art and an important catalyst for the Philadelphia region’s ongoing cultural renaissance. Its style reflects the moment of transition from early twentieth-century historicism to the geometric Art Deco design of the 1920s and 1930s.

Skylit Walkway

Set within a lively urban neighborhood and occupying a trapezoid-shaped, two-acre site bordered by Pennsylvania and Fairmount Avenues and 25th and 26th Streets, it faces the main building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art across Kelly Drive and is among the most distinctive architectural structures along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Julien Levy Gallery

The Perelman Building, one of the finest Art Deco structures in Philadelphia, was designed by the Philadelphia architectural firm Zantzinger, Borie and Medary (together with architects Horace Trumbauer and Julian Abele, they also designed the Museum’s main building) to be the headquarters for Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company which occupied the building until 1972.

The Valley (2006, Kelli Connell) – Julien Levy Gallery

Its color advisor was the scholar Leon Solon who also advised the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the color scheme of its celebrated glazed terra cotta decoration and pediment. Its decorative scheme was created by sculptor Lee Lawrie (1877–1963) whose work also adorns the Rockefeller Center, the Library of Congress and the National Academy of Sciences.

The Mountain Nymph Sweet Liberty (1866, carbon print, Julia Margaret Cameron) – Julien Levy Gallery

Construction of the building began in 1926 and, upon completion in 1928, was called “the Gateway to Fairmount Park.”  The original structure had 125,000 sq. ft. of interior space. In 1973, the structure was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1980 in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

Call and I Follow, Let Me Die (1867, carbon print, Julia Margaret Cameron) – Julien Levy Gallery

In 1982, the building was acquired and restored by the Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company which, in turn, relocated in 1999. That same year, the Philadelphia Museum of Art acquired the building through the City of Philadelphia. In 2000, in recognition of the US$15 million contributed by the Perelmans, the annex was renamed the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building.

Collab Gallery

In anticipation of the museum’s 125th anniversary in 2001, Gluckman Mayner Architects was selected for the restoration and renovation of the historic building, In October 2004, following a groundbreaking celebration for its donors (US$240 million in donations were collected), the major construction began in earnest and the original building was expanded by a 5,500 m2 (59,000 sq. ft.) addition (a library; a café overlooking a landscaped terrace; a new bookstore; a soaring skylit walkway; etc.).  The Perelman Building was opened on September 15, 2007.

The elaborate polychrome façade, the most elaborately sculpted facade of any twentieth-century building in the city of Philadelphia, is built with Indiana limestone highlighted with color and gilding and lavishly decorated with Egyptian-inspired sculpture of flora and fauna symbolizing attributes of insurance – owl (wisdom), dog (fidelity), pelican (charity), opossum (protection) and the squirrel (frugality). There are also numerous other reliefs such as the Seven Ages of Man and the Perils of Land, Sea, and Air on the Earth’s Four Great Continents. 

Joan Spain Gallery

The building’s north and south pavilions are joined by a soaring, cathedral-like arched main entrance facing the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a celebrated example of Philadelphia’s inspired urban planning of which the building was designed to be an integral part. It also has gleaming rows of windows and a bright interior.

The Perelman Building has now been dramatically recast in a new role as the gateway to the future for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the first phase of a master plan to expand and modernize the Museum. The new six galleries, totaling 190 m2 (2,000 sq. ft.) of exhibition space, and study centers showcase some of the Museum’s most comprehensive, colorful, and cutting-edge collections. The galleries are:

  • The Julien Levy Gallery – dedicated to photographs from the museum’s collection of over 150,000 prints, drawings, and photographs.
  • The Joan Spain Gallery – dedicated to exhibition of the museum’s costume and textiles collection, which has over 30,000 works.
  • The Collab Gallery – shows modern and contemporary design art ranging from furniture to ceramics.
  • The Exhibition Gallery – hosts changing special exhibitions.
  • Two study galleries provide resources to art scholars (available to the public by appointment) and an educational resource center for teachers.
  • The museum library – holds collections of art books and periodicals on the first floor and a reading room on the second floor

Monument to Victor Hugo (Auguste Rodin)

Like the main museum building, the Rodin Museum, and two historic houses in Fairmount Park (Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove), the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building is owned by the City of Philadelphia.


Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building: Fairmount and Pennsylvania Aves., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Second Bank of the United States Building (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.) 

Second Bank of the United States Building

The Second Bank of the United States, the second federally authorized Hamiltonian national bank in the United States during its 20-year charter (February 1816 to January 1836), was modeled on Alexander Hamilton‘s First Bank of the United States and was chartered by President James Madison in 1816.

National Historic Site Plaque

The Second Bank of the United States was designed by architect William Strickland (1788–1854), a former student of Benjamin Latrobe (1764–1820), the man who is often called the first professionally trained American architect.

Portrait Gallery in the Second Bank of the United States

Like Latrobe, Strickland was a disciple of the stylistic Greek Revival style, designing this building (in essence based on the Parthenon in Athens, Greece) as well as other American public buildings in this style, including financial structures such as the New OrleansDahlonegaMechanics National Bank (also in Philadelphia) and Charlotte branch mints in the mid-to-late 1830s, as well as the second building for the main U.S. Mint in Philadelphia in 1833.

The hallmarks of this  significant early and monumental example of Greek Revival architecture can be seen immediately in the north and south façades, which use a large set of steps leading up to the stylobate, the main level platform, on top of which Strickland placed 8 severe Doric columns, which are crowned by an entablature containing a triglyph frieze and simple triangular pediment.

In the center of the north façade is an entrance hallway, leading into two central rooms one after the other (spanning the width of the structure east to west), flanked by two rooms on either side. The east and west sides of the first large room are each pierced by large arched fan window.

Carved Pine Statue of George Washington (William Rush, 1814)

Built from 1819 to 1824, Pennsylvania blue marble was used in the building’s exterior.  Due to the manner in which it was cut, the weak parts of the marble has begun to deteriorate from the exposure to the elements, most visible on the Doric columns of the south façade.

Tayendanegea – Joseph Brant (Charles Wilson Peale, Oil on Canvas, 1797)

The bank began operations at its main branch in Philadelphia on January 7, 1817, managing 25 branch offices nationwide by 1832. After the bank closed in 1841, the building changed hands and function.  It eventually became the Custom House in Philadelphia resulting in some changes to the interior and exterior of the building.

John Witherspoon (Charles Wilson Peale, Oil on Canvas, 1783-1784)

Except for the barrel vaulted ceiling, the marble columns in the main banking room and the side flue fireplaces, little remains of the building’s original interior design.  Still, for its architectural and historic significance, the building was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Marquis De Lafayette (Thomas Sully, 1825-1826)

The edifice, now part of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, houses the Portrait Gallery, an art gallery housing the large, permanent “People of Independence” exhibit, a collection of over 150 portraits of prominent 18th and 19th century political leaders, military officers, explorers and scientists, all worthy Personages” who, according to noted artist Charles Willson Peale (his more than 100 portraits form the core of the collection), exhibited the republican virtues of public-spiritedness, self-sacrifice, and civic virtue.

George Washington (Rembrandt Peale, Oil on Canvas, 1848)

These portraits, as well as other works by his son Rembrandt and his brother James, were once exhibited in Peale’s Philadelphia Museum, located on the second floor of Independence Hall. Peale died in 1828 and his museum was struggling financially.

Bust of Benjamin Franklin

In 1848, at auction, the City of Philadelphia purchased 86 of Peale’s portraits. Through the years, additional portraits have been added to the collection including a number by British pastel artists James and Ellen Sharples.

James Peale

Second Bank of the United States: Chestnut Street, between 4th and 5th Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.  Admission is free.  Through September 3, 2018, open daily 11 AM – 5 PM; September 4 – 30, 2018, open Wednesday – Sunday, 11 AM – 5 PM; October 1 – December 31, 2018, open Saturday – Sunday, 11 AM – 5 PM.