Time-Lapse Images of Philadelphia Take You on a Virtual Then-and-Now Tour

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Ever realized how much individual buildings can change the image and feel of a city? Whether old or new, some buildings are symbols of endurance, others of change, some stand out and some blend in, but they almost always tell a story of the city and its people.

With so much history behind it, it’s hard to grasp how much Philadelphia has truly changed in one century. The city has undergone numerous micro-transformations at the street level that may have gone unnoticed. But when you gather a bunch of amazing old and new images, put them side by side, and create a simple way to virtually walk on the streets of Philadelphia of a century ago versus Philadelphia today, you get a real sense of what it used to be like, what parts of it were lost and what parts survived and thrive to this day.

Using data from the Library of Congress and Google Street View, we compiled a series of time-lapse slides of Philadelphia then and now. Enjoy the journey back in time by sliding the arrow left and right:

1. The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel

Year: ~1905

At the corner of Broad and Walnut (on the left side) stands a grandiose turn-of-the-century Philadelphia hotel: the Bellevue-Stratford. A Philadelphia landmark building, the Bellevue-Stratford was built in 1904, closed in 1986 and converted to a mixed-use development in 1988. Today it is known as Hyatt at the Bellevue. In the far-front, the photo captures a view of the Philadelphia City Hall.

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Photo Credit ~1905:Library of Congress; Photo Credit 2016: Google Maps

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2. North Broad Street and JF Kennedy

Year: ~1905

On the far right (under renovation) is City Place 101 (a.k.a. Liberty Title & Trust Building, Water Board Building), built in 1929. On the left is the original UGI Building built in 1898 to the design of Wilson Brothers & Company, with a western expansion by Perry, Shaw & Hepburn in 1923. The expanded commercial building goes by the name One City Plaza these days. In the forefront right is the pretty Romanesque architecture, Norman-style Masonic Temple, which has been around since 1873.

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Photo Credit ~1905:Library of Congress; Photo Credit 2016: Google Maps

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3. Union League Club

Year: ~1905

Just down the road from the Bellevue was The Union League of Philadelphia, founded in 1862 as a Patriotic Society to support the policies of Abraham Lincoln. Boasting a gorgeous Beaux-Arts architecture, the building still looks amazing and it still hosts the Union League Club (private, members-only).

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Photo Credit ~1905:Library of Congress; Photo Credit 2016: Google Maps

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4. Chestnut and 12th Street

Year: ~1915

These two photos taken one century apart are proof that the feel of this street is almost unchanged, thanks to the preservation of most of the old architecture. At the Southwest corner of 12th and Chestnut sits the former Beneficial Savings Fund Society building, designed by Horace Trumbauer as the bank’s headquarters in 1916. Beneficial Bank left the building more than a decade ago and the place has been vacant ever since. Across 12th Street is the red-brick mixed-use S.S. White Building, which was erected in 1867, although it isn’t showing its age.

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Photo Credit ~1915:Library of Congress; Photo Credit 2016: Google Maps

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5. South Broad Street from City Hall

Year: ~1900

Right in the heart of historic Philadelphia, on Avenue of the Arts, stands the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, located in the renovated Girard/Mellon Bank 1907 building. With an entrance flanked by Roman columns, its masonry dome is hemispherical on the exterior, the interior is octagonal, and it boasts a soaring, 4-story tall Main Banking Room.

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Photo Credit ~1900:Library of Congress; Photo Credit 2016: Google Maps

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6. City Hall

Year: ~1910

The distinguished Philadelphia City Hall at 1 Penn Square was built in 1901 and serves as the seat of government for the City of Philadelphia. The building was designed by Scottish-born architect John McArthur, Jr., in the Second Empire style. The construction lasted from 1871 until 1901 and it cost $24 million. The exterior was finalized in 1894, while the interior wasn’t finished until 1901. City Hall was the world’s tallest habitable, non-religious building at the time of its completion.

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Photo Credit ~1910:Library of Congress; Photo Credit 2012: Flickr/Dave Z

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Sites that are gone:

7. Hotel Flanders – The Cheesecake Factory

Year: ~1905

Huge, elaborate hotels were a staple of the 19th-century lifestyle in Philadelphia. They were gathering places for local socialites and travelers passing by, in addition to being just pretty to look at. Unfortunately, many of them are no longer here. Hotel Flanders is one of them. A nine-story hotel at 15th and Walnut with a beautiful facade, Flanders served Philly for decades until it was cut down to a nondescript two-story retail building sometime in the ’40s or ’50s, which housed a Bank of America branch until 2013. In 2015, a new era began for the location, with the construction of a shiny new glass-box building designed by the firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, which created Apple’s retail prototype and stores. It houses the Center City location of the Cheesecake Factory.

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Photo Credit ~1905:Library of Congress; Photo Credit 2015: Google Maps

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8. Hotel Walton – DoubleTree by Hilton

Year: ~1908

The 400-room Hotel Walton opened in 1896 on the Southeast corner of Broad Street and Locust Street and incorporated the Hotel Metropole, a smaller establishment located at the same address. After a long period of successfully serving Philly’s social elite and hosting major events of the time, the Walton went into bankruptcy and reopened as the John Bartram Hotel in 1946. The beautiful brownstone and dark red brick structure was designed by architect Angus Wade in the so-called Americanized Moorish style. Sadly, it was demolished in 1966. Nowadays, a 70’s Accordion-style DoubleTree by Hilton stands in its place.

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Photo Credit ~1908:Library of Congress; Photo Credit 2016: Google Maps

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9. Harrison Building – Centre Square

Year: ~1965

Built in 1895 by Alfred C. Harrison, a wealthy businessman, the Harrison Building served as an office building in the heart of Philadephia for decades. Its exterior design was extremely detailed and well-thought-out, culminating with the neo-gothic castle-like roof, a true architectural statement piece in Philadelphia. Records show that the building was perfectly maintained and fully occupied up until it was knocked down in 1969. Now it is the site of the modern Centre Square I, also known for Claes Oldenburg’s 45-foot Clothespin sculpture.

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Photo Credit ~1908:Library of Congress; Photo Credit 2016: Google Maps

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10. Chestnut St. and 9th St. – Nix Federal Building

Year: ~1900

The building on the right in the original photo is the Old Philly Post Office, which was demolished around 1935-1937. On the left side is the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company building, demolished also. The new structure was built in 1937–1941, known today as the Robert N. C. Nix Sr. Federal Building and United States Post Office. Designated a historic building, it was designed by Harry Sternfeld in the Moderne style with sculptures and reliefs by Donald De Lue and Edmond Amateis. It was renamed in December 1985 in honor of Robert N.C. Nix Sr., the first African-American Congressman from Pennsylvania.

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Photo Credit ~1900:Library of Congress; Photo Credit 2015: Google Maps

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11. Shibe Park – Deliverance Evangelistic Church

Year: ~1913

Once an iconic sports venue in North Philadelphia, Shibe Park opened in 1909 as the home of the Philadelphia Athletics. It was considered to have had a great influence on how future ballparks were built. The place stood out for its grand facade that was pretty unique for a ball park. In 1976, Shibe Park, also known as Connie Mack Stadium, was demolished. It is now the site of an Evangelistic church.

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Photo Credit ~1913:Library of Congress; Photo Credit 2016: Google Maps

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12. Market Street and 12th Street

Year: ~1910

The original photo depicts a busy commercial Market Street at the turn of the century. Most of the buildings are long gone. Still a busy commercial street today, it has the modern-day Marriott Downtown Hotel on the right-hand side. Its main tower was built in 1995, with additional rooms added in 1999 through a renovation of the Headhouse Building (once upon a time the head house passenger station for the Reading Terminal and the Reading Railroad company headquarters), hence the name “Headhouse Tower.”

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Photo Credit ~1971: Library of Congress; Photo Credit 2016: Google Maps

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Nadia Balint is a senior creative writer for RENTCafé. She covers news and trends in residential and commercial real estate and their impact on our everyday life, including rental housing, for-sale housing, real estate development, homeownership, market reports, insurance, landlord-tenant laws, personal finance, urban development, economy, sustainability, and social issues. Nadia holds a B.S. in Business Management from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. You can connect with Nadia via email.

Nadia’s work and expertise have been quoted by major national and local media outlets, including CNN, CNBC, CBS News, Curbed, The NY Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Denver Post as well as industry publications, such as GlobeSt, Bisnow, Inman News, Multifamily Executive, and The Commercial Real Estate Show. Nadia also wrote for Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive, HubSpot, and more. Prior to entering the real estate industry, Nadia worked in the legal field, where she gained over 10 years of experience in business, corporate, and real estate law.

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