CIHD: The Packard Motor Car Building

The Callowhill Industrial Historic District (CIHD) is bounded by North Broad Street to the west, Hamilton Street to the north, Pearl Street to the south, and 12th Street and the curve of the Reading Railroad Viaduct to the east. It is a relatively small historic district of 66 resources – 39 contributing buildings, one contributing site, one contributing structure, 24 non-contributing sites and one non-contributing building. The early phases of our exploration of The Eraserhood focus on the dedicated buildings within this district.

Panorama 777According to Reinhold Residential, current property managers for apartments housed in Philadelphia’s Packard Building, the site:

…dates back to 1910, when Packard Motors commissioned acclaimed Detroit architect Alfred Kahn to design a showroom and assembly plant in Philadelphia. This grand limestone and terracotta trimmed building with hand-carved cornices and oversized windows, was unlike anything the city had seen before.

Panorama 776While it is easy to recognize a slightly hyperbolic tone in this excerpt from their marketing literature, I would put the stress on the word, “slightly.” Like most of the dedicated edifices within CIHD, The Packard is a very special building from a lost era.

The Philadelphia Examiner, hopefully a somewhat more detached source, gushes nearly as openly about the property:

The seven story structure is a steel frame, reinforced concrete masterpiece that is clad in terra cotta exterior ornamentation befitting a palace built by one of the top luxury car manufacturer of the day.

Inside, the two-story lobby has been restored to look like it did back in 1910 and is quite lavish in its decor.  From the chandeliers, to the ornate cast plaster ceilings, to the mahogany paneling and woodwork, you can still imagine a wealthy customer sitting down to order a custom bodied town car or a merchant such as John Wanamaker’s department store, purchasing another Packard truck for their delivery fleet. Upon its completion, it served as the cornerstone of a motor car business corridor that developed along North Broad street and put Philadelphia on the map as a hub of automobile manufacturing a hundred years ago.

Of course, today the building speaks for itself.

Panorama 778