Forgotten Philadelphia

Lost Architecture of the Quaker City

Thomas H. Keels
Book Cover

HC: $46.50
EAN: 978-1-59213-506-6
Publication: Sep 07

320 pages
10 x 8
1 figs., 208 halftones

Lost treasures of Philadelphia architecture come to life again


Forgotten Philadelphia provides a richly illustrated survey of landmark Philadelphia buildings that have succumbed to the ravages of time and changing tastes. More than three centuries of masterful architecture, from William Penn's Slate Roof House to Romaldo Giurgola's Liberty Bell Pavilion, demolished only last year, are brought back to life in this beautifully designed book. Writing with obvious affection as well as a deep knowledge of his subjects, Thomas Keels employs photographs, drawings, prints, maps, and architectural plans to revisit these vanished treasures. Unlike other books on landmark buildings, Forgotten Philadelphia discusses works of architecture not only from a design standpoint but also in terms of their significance to the city's political, economic, and cultural life. Organized chronologically from 1682 to the present, this book provides a context that allows readers to understand how tastes change over time, rendering obsolete the very buildings that were once considered to be works of art and genius. The final chapter, "Projected Philadelphia," describes fifteen structures that might have changed the face of the city had they ever moved beyond the drafting table.


"For the first time, Forgotten Philadelphia places the lost architecture of the City of Brotherly Love into the widest possible context. Keels draws on the rich political, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the city in ways that explain the forces that created the lost buildings and the forces that led to their demise. In the process, he illuminates the history of Philadelphia architecture at the same time that he uses its lost architecture as an important source for understanding the evolution of the city." —David Contosta, Chestnut Hill College, author of Suburb in the City: Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, 1850-1990

"Generations of Philadelphians have imposed their tastes and their aspirations on the city's landscape. This intriguing look back at the city they built identifies and explores some of the more interesting homes, shops, factories, and public structures that no longer exist. A fascinating last chapter presents a succession of ambitious plans for unrealized projects."Morris J. Vogel, Professor of History, Temple University

"Forgotten Philadelphia is a trip among old and not so old places now demolished, via illustrations, in the company of an amiable, well-informed guide. It's an enjoyable read, witty, well-researched, and engaging."Jeffrey Cohen, Bryn Mawr College, co-author of Drawing Toward Building: Philadelphia Architectural Graphics 1732-198

"Keels tells these stories in an informative and often entertaining style and the book is an engaging read for both the studious and the merely curious" — WRTI's Creatively Speaking with Jim Cotter

"(T)his book by the writer Tom Keels is valuable, fascinating, and prescient....Forgotten Philadelphia’s strength is its narrative awareness—this is a painstakingly-researched book to read through....Keels enjoys telling us about the rudimentary, curious, ornate, misunderstood, absurd." Philly

"A luscious collection of drawing and black-and-white photos of buildings that no longer exist with lively description of what they were like when they did…anyone with a stake in the city’s future should have a copy of this book by their bedside…it’s a must." Philadelphia Weekly

"For architecture, history and Philly buffs, it’s an indispensible volume...(T)he ‘Projected Philadelphia’ chapter (may be) the most compelling… Looking at these beautiful architectural drawings is like walking directly into the province of dreams, and their pure optimism – the sense of their rightness – provides this book with a melancholy-tinged but fitting finale.The Jewish Exponent

"(A) handsome volume…Not for nearly half a century…have we seen such a compilation of great departed buildings… (There) are good, important stories with good, familiar pictures." Nineteenth Century

"This book joins a small collection of architectural histories, useful for preservationists…which shift the focus from a building’s conception to an examination of the forces that led to its death. A cautionary reminder that a culture is remembered for both what it creates and what it destroys. Summing Up: Recommended." Choice

"This is a lavishly illustrated, tightly written coffee-table book, full of fascinating nuggets…Thanks to Keels’ efforts, those lost buildings won’t be forgotten." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"The second half of Forgotten (Philadelphia) makes an important contribution to our appreciation of what Philadelphia recently lost…. General readers with an interest in Philadelphia and preservationists alike will be turning to this book for years to come. Also unlike many books of photographs and postcards that have appeared in recent years, Forgotten Philadelphia is well organized and attractively formatted. It is also thoroughly indexed, and the repositories holding the original photographs, prints and drawings reproduced here are clearly identified—a lesson yet to be learned by many publishers." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

"Encyclopedic in scope and brimming with narrative detail, Forgotten Philadelphia presents a fascinating...account of significant Philadelphia buildings that have fallen to the wrecking ball....The book will be of interest not only to historians of Philadelphia, but also more generally to architectural historians, preservationists, and geographers....(T)he book is engagingly written and brings together an impressive array of evidence and detail." Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Introduction 1. Penn's Green Country Town (1682 to 1775) 2. Athens of America (1776 to 1820) 3. City in Transition (1821 to 1860) 4. Workshop of the World (1861 to 1900) 5. The Consumer City (1901 to 1940) 6. Renaissance and Retrenchment (1940 to present) 7. Projected Philadelphia Notes Selected Bibliography Index

About the Author(s)

Thomas H. Keels is a local writer and historian. He is the author of Philadelphia Graveyards and Cemeteries and co-author of Chestnut Hill.