MOTU@5 | How We Got Here Online Exhibit | Broad Street Station and Fire

Throughout October, MOTU and the Free Library of Philadelphia will be showcasing unique archival images from Philadelphia’s transportation and utlities history in an on-line exhibit called “How’d we get here?”.  Every and Monday and Wednesday in October we will be showcasing a certain segment of the exhibit (all photographs are from the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Print and Picture Collection).

On Monday we took a look at historical transportation strike images and today we’ll be taking a brief look at the history of transportation strikes in Philadelphia by selecting three of our favorite photos from the “Broad St Station and Fire” portion of the exhibit.  You can check out all of the historic transportation strike photos online here and in person at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Central Branch (1901 Vine Street).

Broad Street Station wasn’t just a train station of the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1881 until 1953, it was a muscular symbol of the largest company in the United States, designed by Philadelphia architect Frank Furness. The Broad Street Station was destroyed by a two-day fire on June 11, 1923. After being rebuilt, another fire erupted at the Station on September 12, 1943. While it was rebuilt after the second fire, its importance diminished with the construction of both 30th Street Station and Suburban Station in the 1920s and 1930s. The Broad Street Station was ultimately closed in 1952 and demolished in 1953. Where the rail viaduct that left the station (the infamous “Chinese Wall”) once stood now rise Philadelphia’s high-rise district.

The Broad Street Railroad Station

pa rr broad st

Originally designed by Wilson Brothers & Company, Broad Street Station was dramatically expanded by renowned Philadelphia architect Frank Furness from 1892 to 1893. In 1894 the PRR moved its headquarters from Fourth Street to the offices above the station, where they remained until they moved to the Suburban Station Building in the 1930s.

Fire Blazing, 1923

pa rr broad fire 1923

This picture shows the fire fighting in progress, east along Market Street with City Hall in the background. There was so much water pouring into the building that the Rapid Transit Subway beneath Market Street was being flooded and service had to be stopped temporarily.

Restoration After the Fire, 1923

pa rr broad after fire track restoration 1923

PRR workers had to get the station’s tracks and platforms back in working order for service as soon as possible.


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