Built between 1832 and 1834, the Merchants' Exchange Building, also known as the Philadelphia Exchange, is located on the triangular site bounded by Dock Street, Third Street, and Walnut Streets. This monumental office building was designed by William Strickland and is an exquisite expression of the Greek Revival style, the first national American architectural style. The ideals of Greek democracy were attractive to citizens of the American Republic and provided the best model for American architects to emulate as a national style. The Greek Revival style can be differentiated from former styles such as the Georgian or Federal styles by its striving for archeological correctness in the use of the classical orders. The Choragic Monument of Lysicrates was the model for the building's lantern. Other surviving William Strickland designed buildings include two other park sites, Second Bank of the United States and Independence Hall Tower.
The building is significant to nineteenth century Philadelphia because it served as a commercial and financial center as well as the site of a post office. Previously, meetings between merchants took place in small coffee houses or taverns located near the Delaware riverfront. By 1831, it was believed that a central location was required to carry out business transactions and negotiations. Upon its completion, the building soon became the financial center for Philadelphia housing commercial houses, marine insurance companies, the Philadelphia Board of Trade, and the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. Located on the Dock Street side of the building, the United States Post Office occupied a large room and was the first in the country to sell stamps. In 1952, the National Park Service acquired the building and began a series of projects to restore and preserve the structure.
Merchants' Exchange Building Today
Last updated: August 30, 2016