Ask Benny: What's the history of the Music Building?

Dear Benny,
I have heard what is now Pennís Music Building, located along 33rd Street between Walnut and Spruce streets, was once an orphanage. Is that true?
—Academic sleuth

Dear history detective,

Actually, it is true.

Penn purchased the building now known as the Music Building, along with other property, in 1900 as part of a large-scale plan to create additional space for the rapidly growing University.

For a mere $112,500, the University purchased a large piece of property, running between 33rd and 34th streets and bounded on the south by Locust Street, from an entity called the Foulke and Long Institute—which was, in fact, an orphanage for girls. The Institute no longer exists.

The original structure for what is now called the Music Building was built in 1890. It was designed by the Philadelphia architecture firm of Cope and Stewardson. The firm’s principals, Walter Cope and John Stewardson, were considered among leading proponents of the so-called Collegiate Gothic style, which became increasingly common on U.S. college campuses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The pair also designed buildings for such universities as Princeton, Bryn Mawr College and Washington University in St. Louis.

In 1967, the Music Building underwent a major renovation, as its north wing and interiors were replaced by Alexander Ewing & Associates

Originally published on September 8, 2005