Philadelphia: Rittenhouse Plaza Apartments

Philadelphia: Rittenhouse Plaza Apartments

Street appeal.

That's what Rittenhouse Plaza Apartments has in spades. Check out the neo-Gothic portal and the beautifully detailed courtyard and main entrance. No wonder this place is considered the toniest example of pre-war luxury apartments in Philadelphia. 

I've seen both 1924 and 1926 as completion dates for this 22-floor edifice, which sits on a prime site at the northwest corner of leafy Rittenhouse Square. The architects followed a design pattern introduced by Louis Sullivan in his 1891 Wainwright Building of treating a tall building like a classical column, with an ornamented base, a simpler middle section similar to a column's shaft, and more highly decorated crown, corresponding to a column's capital. 

In this case, the firm of McClanahan and Becker truly did an amazing job of ornamenting the base and the top of Rittenhouse Plaza with beautiful limestone and granite details. As for the shaft, there's nothing much to crow about here - it's unarticulated brick, a mixture of mostly tan with some red that gives an overall light reddish-brown look, with punched windows. The one feature that does add some interesting massing to the structure is the middle section of the facade is notched back from the building line, yielding the courtyard and a light court that runs to the top. 

One interesting thing about the Rittenhouse Plaza Apartments is that it's a co-op, not a condominium. With a co-op, you own shares in the cooperative corporation that owns the building, but while your shares entitle you to live in a particular unit, you don't own it. With a condominium, you actually own your unit. There are pros and cons to either form of ownership, but co-ops are less common outside of New York City. 

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