Notable Public Works

July 2017
The public buildings of Philadelphia were monuments to the humanitarianism and the enlightened spirit of the Quakers. At the left in the engraved view above is the House of Employment and Almshouse— the so-called Bettering House—built and largely supported by private contributions. Jt was considered “one of the principal Ornaments” of Philadelphia when it was completed in the fall of 1767. The Pennsylvania Hospital, shown at the right, was opened to patients in 1756 and quickly attracted medical students from all parts of the continent. With its accommodations for lunatics, its sanitary arrangements, and its enlightened administration, it was probably the most advanced institution of its kind then known. William Russell Birch’s view of Independence Hall (left) shows America’s most hallowed historic structure before the present steeple was added. When first used in 1735, although unfinished, it was the largest and handsomest public building in the colonies. Philadelphia was the first major city to build an adequate public water system. At right is Birch’s painting of the marble station at Centre Square, designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, to house the pumps that distributed the Schuylkill’s water.