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The more things change, the more they stay the same

June 02, 2009

The Archives recently received a series of photographs of Penn Law School and related activities in the 1960s.  One particular photograph that caught my eye shows the Law School as it looked from Chestnut Street over 40 years ago.


What you're looking at is Silverman (then Lewis) Hall, the oldest building in the Penn Law complex.  You can click on the image for more detail.

What first struck me about the image was the lack of any structures opposite the Law School on the Chestnut Street side.  The convergence of Starbuck's, abstract Liberty Bell forms, and sophisticated apartments that we now take for granted was nowhere to be found.  In its place was a parking lot and a Texaco station.  I also love the old cars, many of which were driven by faculty and staff of the Law School, no doubt.  I think we're overdue for renaissance in wood paneled station wagons and two-tone convertibles, don't you?

If you look to the right of Silverman, in the space that is now occupied by Tanenbaum lies a set of tennis courts.  On the other side of the courts is a row of dormitories that Ron Day, Head of Reference here at Biddle and our de facto historian, told me were modest, "YMCA-style" rooms that One-Ls lived in.

As any member of the Penn Law community can attest, the Law School is no stranger to capital projects.  It seems like every summer we're here, the school undergoes some kind of transformative capital project.  Change is good.

However, as anyone familiar with the Law School can tell from this image, Silverman Hall has remained relatively unaltered on the outside since the 1960s.  And upon the dedication of this building in way back in 1900, the Law School's Record (yearbook) called the structure “the most completely beautiful and beautifully complete building ever designed for the sole purpose of housing a school of law.”  Hey, we're admittedly biased, but that sounds about right. 


(Lewis Hall, c. 1901. Click for more detail. I think those are trolley tracks!)


Hope you've enjoyed this Kodachrome trip down memory lane.