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Second Bank Summary

Independence National Historical Park
Independence National Historical Park (INHP) is home to several of the most significant monumental masonry buildings of the early American republic.  Three of these buildings, the First Bank of the United States (1795-97), the Second Bank of the United States (1818-24) and the Merchant’s Exchange (1832-33), span a period when Philadelphia served as the nation’s capital, and then as its financial and cultural center.

Reflective of this history, these three buildings physically embody and communicate the wealth and promise of the new nation through their unprecedented and expressive use of monumental masonry construction and local stone resources.  The preservation of these buildings as architectural icons of American federalism and finance was formally recognized with the establishment of Independence National Historical Park in 1959.

front of building
A view of the southern elevation. 
The Second Bank of the United States
The Second Bank of the United States was designed in 1818 by William Strickland and constructed between 1819 and 1824. It is located on the south side of Chestnut Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The building served as the federal government’s second attempt to establish a national banking institution and represented Philadelphia as the financial center of the country. The Second Bank is one of the earliest examples of Greek Revival architecture in America and helped set a precedent of this form and style of monumental design for governmental and financial buildings. The porticoes of the north and south façades are designed in the Doric order of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. The pediment and entablature complete with metopes and triglyphs, rest on eight marble columns at each façade.  After the Bank’s charter was not renewed in 1836, the Second Bank became the United States Bank of Pennsylvania for a brief period and later served as the U. S. Custom House until 1935. The National Park Service acquired the building in 1939 and it now serves as a gallery museum open to the public within the Independence National Historical Park.
Right:  On the inner architrave, beneath the date of completion, are the names of both the architect William Strickland  as well as master stone mason John Struthers.

secb column tops
Pennsylvania marble was used because of its color and easy local access, however the overall quality of the stone is prone to be poor, being susceptible to weathering. This view of the inside columns of the south facade, clearly show major areas of spalling.
Pennsylvania Marble
The increasing importance of the use of monumental masonry construction in American building began in the early nineteenth century with the revival of Greek classicism. White marble, cut and assembled to evoke the building prowess of the ancients, was promoted as the material of choice. The massive and easily accessible beds of Pennsylvania marble, also known as Pennsylvania or Montgomery County marble, quarried just north of the city, was an important regional building stone for public and domestic structures during the first half of the nineteenth century. Benjamin Latrobe's Bank of Pennsylvania (1798-1801-demolished) and William Strickland's Bank of the United States (1818-1824) were among the first monumental stone structures to showcase the area's famous marble. By the middle of the century the overall poor performance of the stone and improved transportation systems that increased the availability of other marbles from Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont all contributed to the demise of Pennsylvania marble as a building stone. Once a building stone acquires a record of poor weatherability and is no longer commercially viable, there usually is little motivation for continued use or testing of the material. In most cases, it is only through conservation studies of deterioration and treatment of historic buildings that information about the properties and performance of specific building materials and technologies is updated or reevaluated. In the case of Pennsylvania marble, its short-lived fame and restricted use have resulted in limited modern scientific study of its deterioration and responses to conservation treatments.

stricklands name