United States Custom House

Philadelphia, PA

The United States Custom House in Philadelphia, located at 2nd and Chestnut Streets, was designed by local architects Ritter & Shay in 1932. The building, situated at the northern half of the block, is symmetrical in plan. There is a deep setback at the 4th floor, where the building transitions from square to cruciform in plan. The upper floors terminate in a tower with a flat roof.

Structurally, the United States Custom House has a steel frame that is clad in a variety of masonry materials. From the ground floor to the 12th floor, brick is used at most of the wall surfaces, with limestone employed for trim and decorative stonework. The 13th to 15th floors are also clad in brick, but terra cotta is used for trim and ornamentation, including four large eagles at each corner of the building arising from the 13th floor setback. From the 16th floor to the roof, the cladding of the structure is entirely terra cotta except for a band of glass block below the roof cornice. The windows at the 13th, 14th and 15th floors are wood double-hung windows. At the 16th floor and a setback between the 16th and 17th floors, the windows are steel hopper windows.

Download Project Profile

Scope of work

  • Investigated and documented condition of exterior masonry and windows at the 13th floor and above.
  • Investigated masonry conditions from the 6th to 11th floors at two brick corners of the building wings.
  • Updated and compared survey information from a previous investigation completed by Vertical Access in 2004.

Original architect

  • Ritter & Shay (completed 1932)

Building owner

  • The US General Services Administration

In collaboration with