At nearly every point in its history, the structure at 925 Chestnut Street has held an occupant of considerable stature. Today, the Rothman Institute at Jefferson operates from this historically rich part of Center City, making it a top destination for orthopedic treatment in the region and a valuable entity in Philadelphia’s vaunted healthcare industry.  But in the 19th and 20th centuries, the location was a valuable entity in Philadelphia’s insurance and finance industries respectively. Initially, according to Julio H. Rae’s Philadelphia Pictorial Directory & Panoramic Advertiserthe spot was utilized by unnamed retail space, shown in the sketch here below.

Circa 1851

According to King’s Views of Philadelphia, the burgeoning Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company moved in to the building just down the block in 1866.  The image below, taken from G.M. Hopkins’ 1875 Philadelphia Atlas, shows Penn Mutual at 921 Chestnut.

Penn Mutual in 1875

However, by 1890, Penn Mutual had grown substantially, requiring the annexation of its neighbors.  The 1895 image from G.W. Bromley’s Philadelphia Atlas shows Penn Mutual now also occupying 923 and 925 Chestnut.

Getting bigger by 1895

The King’s Views collection provides us with the following image from 1900, which shows Penn Mutual in its fully expanded glory.

In 1900, you could still buy coverage for death by horse and carriage

According to Wikipedia, further alterations would  be made to the structure in 1899, 1918 and 1925. When Paul Philippe Cret designed the 1931 Federal Reserve Bank, the Penn Mutual building was regrettably demolished for the most part, though some of it was incorporated into the new building.  At this juncture, according to the Library of Congress, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia came to occupy the stretch of buildings from 921 to 939 Chestnut. The photo below, also taken from the Library of Congress, shows the Federal Reserve Bank in 1951.

The old Federal Reserve Bank, not too old in 1951

According to Jefferson Hospital’s JeffNews, the structure once again housed an insurance operation when the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association (PMA) occupied the stretch of buildings through the 80s and 90s.  It was in March of 1998 when Jefferson announced that the relocation of its Rothman Institute to 925 Chestnut would “redefine the way we provide orthopaedics for the Delaware Valley.”   Though it bears some distinguishable markings from the various occupants in its past, Rothman would also redefine the way we use 925 Chestnut Street.

Current view of the building, from tenth and Ludlow. The Chestnut Street side still looks like it did sixty years ago.

–David Tomar