Pennsylvania Convention Center

Last updated

Coordinates: 39°57′18″N75°09′37″W / 39.95494°N 75.16015°W / 39.95494; -75.16015


Pennsylvania Convention Center
PA Convention Center 1993 Highsmith.jpg
From 13th & Arch Streets, looking east down Arch
Pennsylvania Convention Center
Address1101 Arch Street
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
OperatorASM Global
Classroom-style seating
Theatre seating
Enclosed space
  Total space1,000,000 sq ft (93,000 m2)
  Exhibit hall floor679,000 square feet (63,100 m2)
  Breakout/meeting80 rooms
  Ballroom87,408 square feet (8,120.5 m2)
Public transit access SEPTA.svg 11th Street station  : SEPTA.svg Race-Vine: SEPTA.svg Jefferson Station: SEPTA Regional Rail
Aiga bus trans.svg SEPTA.svg SEPTA bus: 4, 16, 17, 23, 27, 33, 38, 44, 45, 48, 61, 62, 78, 124, 125
Aiga bus trans.svg NJT logo.svg NJ Transit bus: 400, 401, 402, 404, 406, 408, 409, 410, 412, 414, 417
Aiga bus trans.svg Philly PHLASH

The Pennsylvania Convention Center is a multi-use public facility in the Market East section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, designed to accommodate conventions, exhibitions, conferences and other events. The "L"-shaped complex occupies four city blocks.


In the latter part of the 20th century, the Philadelphia Convention Hall and Civic Center became outmoded. With the opening of the Spectrum in South Philadelphia, fewer big sporting and entertainment events used the Civic Center. Political conventions, too, outgrew the capacity of the Civic Center to host them. By the 1980s, regional and state leaders had begun to plan for a new convention center in the heart of Center City. It was decided that the former train shed of the Reading Terminal be the site of the new center and after renovations were finished by Wilson Brothers & Company, it opened in 1993. When it did, most of the events held in the Civic Center, including trade shows and the annual Philadelphia Flower Show, moved to the new facility.

As a result of the construction of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Chinatown buildings located on Arch Street, up to the intersection of 13th Street, were demolished. [1]

Grand Hall, 1993 PA Convention Center Highsmith.jpg
Grand Hall, 1993


The Pennsylvania Convention Center comprises four main halls or rooms, smaller meeting rooms and auditoriums, and the Grand Hall, which occupies much of the trainshed of the former Reading Railroad terminal. (The rest of the train shed is occupied by meeting rooms and a hallway on the main floor, and the Grand Ballroom on the upper floor.) The headhouse entrance to the Convention Center is located at 12th and Market streets in Center City. The A, B, and C exhibit halls extend across 12th Street, one story up (the 200 level) from the street level (100 level), between 11th and 13th streets and Arch and Race streets. At the south side of the A exhibit hall, a walkway extend over Arch Street, south into the grand hall. The opposite end of the grand hall provides a gated entrance into the headhouse lobby for the Marriott Hotel that occupies the old office spaces of Reading Railroad. Access to an adjoining Marriott Hotel is gained from this lobby by means of another second-story walkway over 12th Street.

The hotel, designed by BLT Architects with completion in 1995, is connected to the Market East Station via a skybridge to the historic Reading Terminal. The 1,200-room hotel also offers restaurants, a health/fitness center, and various-sized ballrooms and pre-function areas for meetings, convention activities, and other public and private events. In 1999, designs by BLT Architects to expand the Marriott Hotel at the Pennsylvania Convention Center were completed. The upper seven floors of the historic Reading Terminal Headhouse, designed by the Wilson Brothers in 1894, provided space to expand the Marriott's conference capabilities with a 210 unit suites-type hotel featuring terraced restaurants and other public spaces. The grand ballroom occupies the Reading Railroad Company’s original waiting room. [2]

Reading Terminal

The back side of the convention center as viewed from Camac Street PaConventionBackSide.jpg
The back side of the convention center as viewed from Camac Street

Reading Terminal consists of three parts. The headhouse, a 9-story office building fronting on Market Street, that contained the passenger station and the Reading Railroad company headquarters. It was designed in 1891 by New York architect Francis H. Kimball. The trainshed, directly north of the headhouse, was designed by the Philadelphia architecture/engineering firm of Wilson Brothers & Company. The tracks were raised on a viaduct and entered the great arched shed about 20 feet (6.1 m) above street level. Its single-span arched roof structure is touted as the world's oldest surviving. Reading Terminal Market, which had prior rights to the railroad's right-of-way for the property use, was built below the trainshed. The terminal opened in 1893 and served to enhance the railroad company's power and prominence, and contributed to the city's importance.

When Reading Company ceased to exist as a railroad owner and operator, it sold the headhouse and train shed to SEPTA, the regional transit service. SEPTA operated its Regional Rail commuter lines out of the shed until 1984, when they developed Market East Station (now Jefferson Station), an underground station that bypassed Reading Terminal by running under it, and the facility fell into disuse (except for the Reading Terminal Market).

City and state officials pondered on a means to reuse the facility, and formed a convention center authority. Public reaction to redevelopment prompted the new authority to preserve the market and the train shed in its design of the new convention center. It currently oversees the operation and maintenance of the convention center.


The Pennsylvania Convention Center annually hosts the Fancy Brigade Finale on January 1, Philadelphia Auto Show in early February and the Philadelphia Flower Show in early March, as well as numerous nonrecurring conferences and conventions.

Mail-in absentee ballots for the 2020 United States presidential election in Pennsylvania were counted at this center. [3]

On March 3, 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Emergency Management Agency opened a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The site is able to provide shots to about 47,000 people a week. The mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center will operate for at least eight weeks. [4]


The new Broad Street facade of the Convention Center Pennyslvania Convention Center N. Broad St.jpg
The new Broad Street facade of the Convention Center

In December 2006, the Convention Center approved a $700 million plan to expand the Convention Center west to Broad Street, bringing the amount of convention space to approximately one million square feet. The expansion was completed in March 2011. [5]

Expansion Statistics [6]
PreviousExpansionNew Total
Number of Halls437
Number of Meeting Rooms502373
Number of Truck Berths281745
Main Level Exhibit Hall Space315,000 sq. ft. (29300 m2)213,000 sq. ft. (19800 m2)528,000 sq. ft. (49100 m2)
Street Level Exhibit Hall Space125,000 sq. ft. (11600 m2)26,000 sq. ft. (2420 m2)151,000 sq. ft. (14000 m2)
Ballroom Space32,000 sq. ft. (2970 m2)55,400 sq. ft. (5150 m2)87,000 sq. ft. (8080 m2)
Meeting/Banquet Space123,000 sq. ft. (11400 m2)123,000 sq. ft. (11400 m2)246,000 sq. ft. (22900 m2)
Total Saleable Space624,000 sq. ft. (58000 m2)376,000 sq. ft. (34900 m2)1,000,000 sq. ft. (92900 m2)

See also

Related Research Articles

Chicago Union Station Intercity and commuter terminal in Chicago

Chicago Union Station is an intercity and commuter rail terminal located in the Near West Side neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The station is Amtrak's flagship station in the Midwest. While serving long-distance passenger trains, it is also the downtown terminus for six Metra commuter lines. The station is just west of the Chicago River between West Adams Street and West Jackson Boulevard, adjacent to the Chicago Loop. Including approach and storage tracks, it covers about nine and a half city blocks.

Reading Viaduct

The Reading Viaduct, also called The Rail Park, is a disused elevated rail line in the Callowhill district of Philadelphia that has been partly transformed into a rail trail.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Suburban Station</span> Station on the SEPTA Regional Rail

Suburban Station is an art deco office building and underground commuter rail station in Penn Center, Philadelphia. Its official SEPTA address is 16th Street and JFK Boulevard. The station is owned and operated by SEPTA and is one of the three core Center City stations on SEPTA Regional Rail, and is also the busiest station in the Regional Rail network. The station was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad to replace the original Broad Street Station and opened on September 28, 1930.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Center City Commuter Connection</span> Railway tunnel in Center City Philadelphia

The Center City Commuter Connection, (CCCC) commonly referred to as "the commuter tunnel", is a passenger railroad tunnel in Center City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, built to connect the stub ends of the two separate regional commuter rail systems, originally operated by two rival railroad companies: the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Reading Company. All of the SEPTA Regional Rail lines except for the Cynwyd Line pass completely through the four-track tunnel, which contains two underground stations, Suburban Station and Jefferson Station, and the above-ground upper-level concourse for the east–west commuter lines serving 30th Street Station.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Union Station (Nashville)</span> Hotel and former railroad terminal in Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville's Union Station is a former railroad terminal designed by Richard Montfort, chief engineer of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, and built in 1900 to serve the passengers of the eight railroads that provided passenger service to Nashville, Tennessee, at the time. Built just west of the downtown area, it was spanned by a viaduct adjacent to the station and positioned to the east and above a natural railroad cut, through which most of the tracks in the area were routed. The station was also used by streetcars prior to their discontinuance in Nashville in 1941.

Reading Terminal Market Shopping center in Philadelphia

Reading Terminal Market is an enclosed public market located at 12th and Arch Streets in Center City Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It opened originally in 1893 under the elevated train shed of the Reading Railroad Company after the city of Philadelphia advocated to move public markets from the streets into indoor facilities for both safety and sanitary reasons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jefferson Station (SEPTA)</span> SEPTA Regional Rail station in Philadelphia

Jefferson Station is an underground SEPTA Regional Rail station located on Market Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is the easternmost of the three Center City stations of the SEPTA Regional Rail system, and is part of the Center City Commuter Connection, which connects the former Penn Central commuter lines with the former Reading Company commuter lines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Center City, Philadelphia</span> Neighborhood of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Center City includes the central business district and central neighborhoods of Philadelphia in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It comprises the area that made up the City of Philadelphia prior to the Act of Consolidation, 1854, which extended the city borders to be coterminous with Philadelphia County.

Broad Street Station (Philadelphia) Former railway station in Philadelphia (closed 1952)

Broad Street Station at Broad & Market streets was the primary passenger terminal for the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) in Philadelphia from early December 1881 to the 1950s. Located directly west of Philadelphia City Hall—15th Street went underneath the station—the site is now occupied by the northwest section of Dilworth Park and the office towers of Penn Center.

Reading Terminal Former rail station in Philadelphia

The Reading Terminal is a complex of buildings that includes the former Reading Company main station located in the Market East section of Center City in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. It comprises the Reading Terminal Headhouse, Trainshed, and Market.

Center City East, Philadelphia Neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA, US

Center City East is part of the downtown district known as Center City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. The area is generally bounded by Arch Street to the north, Chestnut Street to the south, Juniper Street to the west, and 6th Street to the east. The area serves as one of the major retail centers in the city as well as the home of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Harrisburg Transportation Center Intermodal station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The Harrisburg Transportation Center is a large railway station and transportation hub in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It is located on the eastern edge of Downtown Harrisburg between the intersections of Aberdeen and Market Streets and 4th and Chestnut Streets. The well-situated station is the primary hub for passenger rail and intercity bus services in the Harrisburg metropolitan area and South Central Pennsylvania.

Train shed Roofed railway tracks and platforms

A train shed is a building adjacent to a station building where the tracks and platforms of a railway station are covered by a roof. It is also known as an overall roof. Its primary purpose is to store and protect from the elements train cars not in use, The first train shed was built in 1830 at Liverpool's Crown Street Station.

Union Station (St. Louis) Former railroad station in St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis Union Station is a National Historic Landmark train station in St. Louis, Missouri. At its 1894 opening, the station was the largest in the world that had tracks and passenger service areas all on one level. Traffic peaked at 100,000 people a day in the 1940s. The last Amtrak passenger train left the station in 1978.

Market Street (Philadelphia) Skyscraper hotel in Philadelphia

Market Street, originally known as High Street, is a major east–west street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is signed as Pennsylvania Route 3 between 38th Street and 15th Street. A short portion of the road continues west from Cobbs Creek Parkway to Delaware County.

Jefferson Tower High-rise office building located in the Center City section of Philadelphia

Jefferson Center, formerly known as the Aramark Tower and One Reading Center, is a high-rise office building located at 1101 Market Street in the Center City section of Philadelphia. The building stands 412 feet tall with 32 floors and is currently the 26th-tallest building in the city.

Head house

A head house or headhouse may be an enclosed building attached to an open-sided shed, or the aboveground part of a subway station.

Wilson Brothers & Company American architectural firm

Wilson Brothers & Company was a prominent Victorian-era architecture and engineering firm established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that was especially noted for its structural expertise. The brothers designed or contributed engineering work to hundreds of bridges, railroad stations and industrial buildings, including the principal buildings at the 1876 Centennial Exposition. They also designed churches, hospitals, schools, hotels and private residences. Among their surviving major works are the Pennsylvania Railroad, Connecting Railway Bridge over the Schuylkill River (1866–67), the main building of Drexel University (1888–91), and the train shed of Reading Terminal (1891–93), all in Philadelphia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">30th Street Station</span> Railway station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

30th Street Station, officially William H. Gray III 30th Street Station, is a major intermodal transit station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is metropolitan Philadelphia's main railroad station and a major stop on Amtrak's Northeast and Keystone corridors.

Bower Lewis Thrower Architects, Ltd. (BLTa) is an American architectural firm, founded and headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with offices in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. The firm has designed, overseen the renovation, or been the architect of record for numerous projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic states.



  1. Wallace, David J. (March 8, 1998). "Near Philadelphia's Chinatown, 51 New Homes". The New York Times. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  2. "BLTa - BLT Architects : A Return on Design".
  3. Davis, Corey; McCormick, Annie (2020-11-04). "Thousands of mail-in ballots counted in Philadelphia, but thousands more remain". 6 ABC. Retrieved 2021-01-10.
  4. Laughlin, Jason; Whelan, Aubrey (March 3, 2021). "Philly's FEMA mass COVID-19 vaccination site draws thousands to its official opening". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  5. PCCA Expansion Newsletter #20
  6. Expansion Statistics, Pennsylvania Convention Center.