If you’ve ever spent time on Drexel’s University City campus, chances are you noticed the grand, blonde brick and terra cotta building situated between 31st and 32nd Streets on Chestnut Street. This edifice, known today as the Main Building, or more colloquially, “Main,” initially housed every department within the university, administrative and academic alike. The Main Building was designed by architect Joseph M. Wilson and completed in 1891.
Wilson worked closely with university founder Anthony J. Drexel to create a structure that reflected the unconventional focus of the institution: business, commerce and industry (as opposed to an emphasis on liberal arts education featured by most other colleges at the time). The inclusion of all university divisions under one roof and centered around an atrium (the Great Court) provided a fresh model for an urban university building; the space offered opportunities for social experiences similar to those in a busy, commercial core.
Today, if you step inside the Main Building, you’ll notice it gives off a similar feeling. Students, faculty, staff and visitors brush shoulders or wave as they pass through the Great Court or peer down into the atrium from floors above; the building’s core serves as a gathering space for students to talk between classes and is also a prime stop on the university tour for prospective students. Despite undergoing some physical changes to accommodate the growing university and for maintenance, the Main Building has retained most of its original form and remains a significant historic building on Drexel’s University City campus.
If you’d like to view old photographs of the Main Building, visit http://www.phillyhistory.org. Use “3141 Chestnut Street” as the address.
Furthermore, if you’d like to read about the architectural history of the Main Building from 1891-1991, take a look at this article from the Drexel University Archives: http://idea.library.drexel.edu/handle/1860/1258
Check out recent photos of the Main Building below (photo credit for the following photos goes to Emily Mitnick):