One Liberty Observation Deck

March 28, 2023/Jonathan Rundle/0 Comments

For tonight’s sunset in Philadelphia, I’m going to get a bird’s eye view of the city from the One Liberty Observation Deck.

Update: The One Liberty Observation Deck closed as a result of lower tourist numbers during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Join me in this throwback post as we visit the site before COVID changed everything.

Located on the 57th floor of One Liberty Place, it’s one of the tallest skyscrapers in the city at 833 feet tall. The modernist building was completed in 1987 and was the tallest building in Philadelphia until the completion of the Comcast Center in 2008.

Looking up at One Liberty Place

One Liberty Place was designed by architect Helmut Jahn and developed by Willard G. Rouse III. It was constructed in the postmodern architectural style, featuring a distinctive spire at the top of the building

Ben Franklin

One of the fun things I liked was this Ben Franklin “low-poly” sculpture, which features Ben’s head at the top, and his feet on the bottom floor. Insinuating all the floors in-between make up the rest of his body.

Ben Franklin at the top of One Liberty Observation DeckBen Franklin at the bottom of One Liberty Observation Deck

View from the top of Philly

Once you arrive at the observation deck, you will be amazed by the stunning panoramic views of Philadelphia’s skyline, including iconic landmarks such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, City Hall, and the Delaware River.

One Liberty Observation Deck

Visitors can also see the surrounding neighborhoods and suburbs, as well as some of the nearby states on a clear day. The floor-to-ceiling windows allow visitors to fully immerse themselves in the views, and binoculars are available for those who want an even closer look.

One Liberty Observation Deck tourist taking a photo of the sunset

While peering out those windows, I zoomed in on the Masonic Temple and Arch Street Methodist Church, two beautiful old buildings.

Masonic Temple and Arch Street United Methodist Church from One Liberty Observation Deck

And with city hall nearby, we can look over William Penn’s shoulder, since the statue at the top has its back turned to us.

The Gentlemen’s Agreement

One Liberty Place was the tallest skyscraper in Philadelphia and the first building to break the “gentleman’s agreement” that no building should be taller than the statue of William Penn on top of City Hall.

This agreement was in place for nearly 100 years until the construction of One Liberty Place in 1987, which stood at 945 feet tall and surpassed the statue of William Penn by 397 feet. It sparked a heated debate about the impact of tall buildings on the city’s history and identity, and ultimately led to the lifting of the height restriction in Center City.

William Penn on top of City Hall from One Liberty Observation Deck

Some believe that One Liberty Place is cursed because it broke the agreement.

Interactive Touch Screens

In addition to the breathtaking views, the observation deck features interactive touch screens that provide information about the landmarks and history of the city. Visitors can learn about the iconic buildings and monuments that make up Philadelphia’s skyline and their historical significance. The touch screens also allow visitors to zoom in on specific landmarks and learn interesting facts about them.

For instance, you can see the info on that William Penn sculpture in the screenshot below.

One Liberty Observation Deck 3D screens

Sunset time

The sunset dips over central Pennsylvania and glitters off the other tall buildings nearby. Two Liberty Place, Comcast Technology Center, the Mellon and BNY Bank Centers are all over 50 floors tall.

One Liberty Observation Deck sunset panoramaOne Liberty Observation Deck sunsetOne Liberty Observation Deck panorama

The city starts to light up, looking past Two Liberty Center.

One Liberty Observation Deck

Visiting One Liberty Observation Deck

The observation deck was open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the last entry at 9:30 p.m. But, the COVID pandemic greatly reduced visitors to the city and the tourist-dependent observation deck closed permanently in September 2021.

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