Delorean Time Machine: The Phoenix

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway cuts diagonally through Center City, offering a stretch rich with museums, hotels and high-rises.  Case in point, the 16-story building at 1600 Arch Street, just south of the Parkway, is situated perfectly at the intersection of all this culture and commerce.  But before the Parkway’s initial appearance in the early 20th Century, this area was just another part of Philly’s grid layout, dotted with single residences and small businesses.  The image here below, taken from G.W. Bromley’s Philadelphia Atlas, shows the southwest corner of 16th and Arch Streets at a time when planning for the Parkway was in its infancy.

16th & Arch with the anticipated arrival of the Parkway, 1910

The image above even shows faint markings indicating the intended location of the new thoroughfare.  As for 1600 Arch, its pre-Parkway life was largely as a series of nondescript businesses such as the one shown in the 1912 Department of Records photo here below. 

‘Reductions’ for all! We’re not sure of what, but they’re only $17.99 in 1912

The southwest corner of 16th and Arch is shown here below from an alternate angle, also taken from the Department of Records.

The Southwest corner of 16th & Arch, 1912

By 1917, according to Wikipedia, construction had begun on the Champs-Elysees-inspired Parkway.  Countless attractions and places of business sprouted around it.  One such place was the Insurance Company of North America.  According to the National Historic Landmarks Program, in 1925, 1600 Arch became the new home to the oldest capital stock insurance company in the U.S., celebrated for its pioneer work in marine underwriting.   The corner once known for its ‘reductions’ was now occupied by a massive steel structure. From its new location, the INA would weather the Great Depression while many of its emergent competitors floundered.  The Department of Records image here below shows the building during the lean years.  Note the brand spanking new Suburban Station just next door. 

The INA and newly constructed Suburban Station flourishing during the Great Depression, 1931. (Flourishing not shown).

INA would emerge from the Depression to become one of the most successful and innovative insurance firms in the U.S.  According to Wikipedia, its accomplishments thereafter include groundbreaking success in fire insurance, the advent of the homeowners policy and a successful 8-year sponsorship of popular CBS Radio program The Christmas Sing With Bing (Crosby).  The grandness of the structure and the importance of the accomplishments achieved within earned it a designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1978.  It is shown here below, in an image from the Department of Records, during the year of its designation.

The newly appointed National Historic Landmark in 1978

The coming years would bring a series of corporate mergers and buyouts too extensive to be interesting.  In 1991, the subsidiary INA would depart its Arch St. headquarters, though it still remains an active provider of insurance in North America.  Today, 1600 Arch Street is home to The Phoenix, bearer of 267 luxury condominium units. 

The Phoenix, 2013

Sign for INA still visible, 2013