Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Phila. / Penn Tower


Round About Philly Series
Philadelphia / Penn Tower

 Observation Deck Below the Statue
Ok, I checked out the exterior of the building, now it was time to check out the tower.  I never realized you could go up the tower of City Hall to view the skyline of Philadelphia. I was looking for a view of the city from above and remembered going to the top of some tall building to see the city from an observation deck when I was a kid.  However, a lot of security changes have taken place over the years, especially since September 11th.  A friendly doorman gave me a tip to check out City Hall and sure enough, it is the only spot in the city to get a bird's eye view.

  Penn Tower / City Hall
There were police officers coming and going from the evidence and courtrooms inside.  One pointed me to a side office doorway in one of the entrance tunnels to see about a tower tour.  There was a desk with a sign taped to the front advertising tours of the tower.  I had no idea what this actually meant or what I would be able to see.  The tour cost me five-dollars and I had to walk to the tower tour entrance on one of the upper floors by exiting to the outside of City Hall.  It took me about fifteen minutes to make my way through the maze of twists and turns to the elevator.  I got on the elevator to the seventh floor with two police officers.  I suddenly realized how much of a dork I must have looked like with my backpack on, my camera hanging around my neck and a bright orange tour sticker (see above) on my chest!  Can you say... TOURIST?    

 William Penn Above my Head
The expressions of the officers were enough to confirm my worst fears and I was sure some derogatory comment at my expense soon followed their exit off the elevator on one of the lower floors.  Yeah, I looked like a dork but I would never see those guys again so on to the five-dollar tour!  I followed a red line on the floor to the tour waiting area.  As I walked the hallways the age of the old building was showing.  I finally ended up at the waiting room and opened the door to peer inside at how many people would be joining me on my tour.  Guess what... 

Liberty # 1 / Liberty # 2 Towers
I was surprised to find the room empty and quiet, not even a city worker at the desk.  A note on the tower elevator door instructed tourist dorks like me to have a seat and read the historical displays around the room until my scheduled appointment at the top of the hour.  It was strangely dead quiet and I was suddenly all alone in the big busy city.  I was able to get a small glimpse of what was to come by peering out a few windows.  The view promised to be spectacular.  The time started to drag and still no one else came through the door.  The room attendant was also still a no-show and I was beginning to feel like I had been forgotten.  However, the elevator shaft vibrated to life and the doors suddenly opened to reveal a city worker and two tourist dorks just like me.       

The Amtrak Building
I boarded the elevator with the security officer and the small car began to climb to the observatory deck.  The elevator car was small and the sign inside said it could hold six adults... yeah, maybe in 1901 but I was now glad to be going solo.  The inside of the car had glass windows to reveal the interior of the tower.  It was a series of unfinished floors with thick brick walls.  Wooden braces seemed to hold the four sides of the tower together.  An iron spiral squared staircase seemed to follow the elevator shaft in the center.  The highlight of the ride was passing by the four squared clock faces from the inside.  I have seen stuff like this in the movies but never firsthand.  Soon we were at the top and I was instructed to exit the car to the inside of the tower, which wasn't much bigger than the car itself.  I walked in a semicircle around the elevator shaft to an open gap where sunlight was suddenly visible. 

 The Decorated Square Below
I stepped out onto the observation deck to take in the visual landscape spread out across the horizon.  The guard never followed and I was alone on top of the City of Brotherly Love.  It was strangely silent as I was enclosed in glass.  The ceiling above was a combination of glass and iron open grates and William Penn stood tall in his famous stance above me.  It had snowed the night before and snow and ice covered parts of the towering statue.

 Statue's Arm before Lifted into Position
(Source / City Archives of Philadelphia)
The statue of William Penn above my head is the largest statue on top of a building in the world .  Despite it being hollow inside, the bronze likeness of the founding proprietor of Penn's Woods weighs in at 27 tons.  The statue looks so small from the ground but is actually 37 feet tall.  There is a small access crawl space up through the statue, which comes to a small hatch door in Penn's hat that can be opened to get access to the top of William Penn's head. (No Thanks)  

Philadelphia Art Museum / Distance
I was in the dead center of the city, positioned in the middle of the compass rose of Philadelphia.  The city streets shot out in all directions at organized angles as I encircled the small deck to capture every possible view.  The sky was hazy to the south where the oil refineries steamed in the far reaches of my line of sight.  The silence was occasionally broken by loud crashes without warning that caused me to jump.  Large chunks of ice were falling off the hat and shoulders of the statue and crashing down on the grates and glass above.  The sun had recently come out to light up the cold and gray skies just in time for my fifteen-minute window enabling me to take some nice pictures of the view. 

Original Interior Stairwell
Soon my fifteen minutes were up when my city companion appeared in the gap of the tower.  He turned out to be a really nice guy who worked security for the mayor.  I asked him if he ever got tired of the view and he informed me that the tower tour guide position was rotated daily through the security detail of the Mayor's Office.  I thanked him and then worked my way down through the maze of hallways and corridors to the ground level of City Hall.  I captured a few images of the interior of the aging monument.  The iron stairwell above seemed to resemble some lost space aboard the Titanic. Hopefully funding can continue to be reserved to keep the Marble Elephant alive for the future sightseers (dorks) like me.       

Penn Tower by the Numbers
The William Penn Statue on the top of the tower weighs 27 tons...
It was created in 37 individual pieces and assembled on site...
It is the largest statue on top of a building in the world...
The Tower has four clock faces, one on each side of the tower...
Each of the four clock faces measure 26 feet in diameter...
Each clock's minute hand is 15 feet long / hour hand is 12.5 feet long...
The Weight of each clock hand is 200 lbs / total clock weight is 50 tons...
The four bronze eagles above each clock face weighs 3 tons each...
Each of the four eagles has a wing span of 15 feet...
The observation deck is 500 feet above street level...
      Did You Know: The Penn Statue designed by Alexander Milne Calder sat within the interior courtyard for one year until it was lifted into its final resting position on top of the tower of City Hall.

      Please See My Additional Photos of City Hall at...

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