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15 historic American skyscrapers that aren't the Empire State Building

By: Matt Hickman on March 4, 2016, 12:53 p.m.
PSFS Building in 1985

Photo: Jack Boucher/Wikimedia Commons

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PSFS Building, Philadelphia

In a town where you can't swing a cheesesteak without hitting a wealth of 18th and 19th structures, the PSFS Building, America's first modern skyscraper, is an anomaly, a rebel, a wholly unexpected treat that comes complete with its own historical marker.

A 36-story former office tower that was home to the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society before being converted into the Lowes Philadelphia Hotel in 2000, the PSFS Building is older than it lets on to be. Completed in 1932, the T-shaped tower was executed in the international style, an early 20th century-borne architectural movement defined by a sleek unfussiness and reliance on modern materials (glass, concrete, steel, etc.) that didn't truly pick up steam in the United States until after World War II. That being said, the PSFS Building is an early example of a style largely associated with landmark mid-century skyscrapers like New York's Lever House (1952) and Seagram Building (1958). In addition to rejecting the mishmash of classical styles that dictated early American skyscraper design and instead embracing function and uniformity, the PSFS Building was also the second high-rise to have central AC while touting speedy, state-of-the-art elevators the likes of which had never been seen before. What else would you expect from a skyscraper that's sales brochure promised "Nothing More Modern?" Today, this timeless Philly icon stands as the city's 13th tallest building at 492 feet (or fifth tallest, if you add on the antenna).