PNB letters, long an iconic part of the Philadelphia skyline, to be removed Sunday

It used to be everywhere, and now it's gone. At least for now. The big bell atop One South Broad Street (formerly the PNB bldg.) is out of commission February 4, 2013, its hourly toll silenced, while repairs are made. ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )
It used to be everywhere, and now it's gone. At least for now. The big bell atop One South Broad Street (formerly the PNB bldg.) is out of commission February 4, 2013, its hourly toll silenced, while repairs are made. ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )
Posted: August 17, 2014

An iconic part of the Philadelphia skyline since the 1950s, the "PNB" letters on top of the One South Broad building will be removed by helicopter Sunday, city officials confirmed Friday.

The building recently changed hands, and the new owners requested and received approval from the Philadelphia Historical Commission last month, said Mark McDonald, spokesman for Mayor Nutter.

The 16-foot-high letters spell out "PNB" on all four sides of the high-rise built by the Wanamaker family in 1932. In the early 1950s, the building was purchased by Philadelphia National Bank, which put its name in lights on top of the art deco tower.

"The helicopter will go up there letter by letter," McDonald said.

There will be temporary street closures around the building, which is on South Broad Street between City Hall and Chestnut Street, from 6 a.m. till noon, said Streets Commissioner David J. Perri.

The helicopter will take the 12 letters and lower them down to the north side of City Hall, McDonald said.

One South Broad, as the building is known, is listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. It has been identified variously as 25, 26, and 28 stories tall. "On July 2, the Historical Commission approved the removal of this sign," McDonald said.

The permit was issued July 31, he said.

McDonald said he was aware only of the removal of the 12 letters and a steel structure supporting them. The tower also contains the 17-ton Founder's Bell in a belfry crown that is topped by the letters.

The sign survived several ownership changes. Philadelphia National Bank became CoreStates Bank, which was later bought by First Union. And then First Union merged with Wachovia.

In 2005, it was reported that Wachovia obtained city permission to remove the PNB letters, but the change did not take place.

The PNB letters have been a skyline fixture for six decades.

That will end Sunday morning.

The Philadelphia Business Journal reported in May that the building was purchased for $68 million by Aion Partners in New York in a venture with an unnamed insurance firm in Israel.

Michael Betancourt, an alumnus of St. Joseph's University, is a founding partner and managing director of Aion partners.

He could not be reached for comment.


bmoran@phillynews.com

215-854-5983

@RobertMoran215

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|