Philadelphia Convention Hall and Civic Center

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The Philadelphia Convention Hall and Civic Center—more commonly known as the Philadelphia Civic Center and the Philadelphia Convention Center, and formerly known as Municipal Auditorium and the Philadelphia Convention Hall—located in Philadelphia, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, was a complex of five or more buildings developed out of a series of buildings dedicated to expanding trade which began with the National Export Exhibition in 1899. There were two important buildings on the site. The Commercial Museum, built in 1899, was one of the original exposition buildings. The Municipal Auditorium (Convention Hall) was built in 1931; Philip H. Johnson was the architect. The site was host to national political conventions in 1900, 1936, 1940 and 1948.

Philadelphia Civic Center
"The Nation's Most Historic Arena"
Municipal Auditorium and Convention Hall, 34th Street, below Spruce, Philadelphia, Pa (61770).jpg
Former namesMunicipal Auditorium
Philadelphia Convention Hall
Address3400 Civic Center Boulevard
LocationPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania
Coordinates39°56′51″N 75°11′42″W / 39.947368°N 75.195043°W / 39.947368; -75.195043Coordinates: 39°56′51″N 75°11′42″W / 39.947368°N 75.195043°W / 39.947368; -75.195043
CapacityBasketball: 9,600
Concerts: 12,037 (The Beatles 1964)
Convention: 15,000
Construction cost$5.3 million
($89.1 million in 2019 dollars[1])
ArchitectPhilip H. Johnson
Temple Owls (NCAA) (1938–1955)
Philadelphia Warriors (NBA) (1952–1962)
Philadelphia Tapers (ABL) (1962)
Philadelphia 76ers (NBA) (1963–1967)
Philadelphia Blazers (WHA) (1972–1973)
Philadelphia Firebirds (NAHL/AHL) (1974–1979)
La Salle Explorers (NCAA) (1989–1996)


The Convention Hall arena was located at 3400 Civic Center Boulevard, on the edge of the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, and just to the southwest of Franklin Field. It was built in 1930 and its highest capacity was approximately 12,000. The building was an Art Deco landmark, notable for its many friezes and other decorative aspects.



Originally known as the Municipal Auditorium, the Convention Hall hosted many events, including the 1936 and 1948 Democratic National Conventions, and the 1940 and 1948 Republican National Conventions. Thus the building became known as Convention Hall. Pope John Paul II, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela all spoke there, and The Beatles, The Grateful Dead and the Philadelphia Mummers each performed there. The Philadelphia Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers both played many of their games in the arena; the 1960 NBA All-Star Game was played there.

President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke at a campaign appearance on August 29, 1964 at Convention Hall. He appeared at the Hall alongside many notable Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Democratic leaders.[2] Four days later, The Beatles played the venue on September 2, 1964 during their first tour of the United States. Tickets went on sale in May 1964 and sold out within 90 minutes.[3] The Rolling Stones played Convention Hall on May 1, 1965 during their third American tour.[4]


After the opening of the Spectrum in South Philadelphia in 1967, the building nearly became obsolete. On February 5, 1970, The Jackson 5 played their first official concert for Motown Records there. The building was later used for Atlantic 10 Conference and Big Five basketball games. Jim Crockett Promotions, under the NWA banner, and later as the Ted Turner-owned WCW, also staged professional wrestling there, which included three pay-per-view events: Halloween Havoc in 1989 and 1992 and the 1994 Slamboree event. The Civic Center also hosted the World Hockey Association's Philadelphia Blazers and the minor-league Philadelphia Firebirds hockey teams. The University of Pennsylvania used the building for commencements (due to it being larger than Penn's own basketball arena, the nearby Palestra), as did Drexel University, Temple University, and La Salle University.

Foundations of the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine being built after the demolition of the Philadelphia Civic Center

Convention Hall was torn down in 2005, after more than a decade without a regular tenant. The 1996 Atlantic 10 Men's basketball tournament was the last event ever held there (its convention functions were taken over by the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the city's central business district); prior to this, it also hosted college basketball in the form of the 1986 MEAC Men's Basketball Tournament. Afterwards, it served as a soundstage for movies and the TV series Hack starring David Morse. The Championship fight scene for Tommy 'the machine' Gun played by real life boxer Tommy Morrison for the 1990 movie Rocky V was shot there.

The Auditorium's M.P. Moller 86-rank pipe organ, built in 1931, was removed just prior to the building's demolition and placed in Pennsylvania Hall in temporary storage. In October 2006 the organ was donated to the University of Oklahoma's, American Organ Institute where it will be restored and become the centerpiece of their music programs.

The last remnant of the Civic Center, Pennsylvania Hall (built in 1978), was imploded on March 4, 2007. The University of Pennsylvania Health System's Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine opened on the site in October 2008.

One limestone frieze that adorned the Civic Center, 5 feet (1.5 m) tall and 48 feet (15 m) long and depicting the history of labor from the days of the ancient Egyptians to the 20th century, was carefully removed before the building was demolished.[5] It was purchased by the Alessi Organization in 2005 and in 2017 was installed outside its new Crossing Shopping Center at East 22nd Street and Route 440 in Bayonne, New Jersey.[6]


  1. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  2. ^ Woolley, John T.; Gerhard Peters. "Remarks in Convention Hall, Philadelphia. August 29, 1964". The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
  3. ^ Valania, Jonathan (2004-04-28). "A Hard Night's Day: Forty years ago the Beatles came to Philadelphia. And nothing would ever be the same". Philadelphia Weekly. Archived from the original on October 25, 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
  4. ^ "American Spring Tour, 1965". Retrieved 2008-12-30.
  5. ^ Hargis, Lucianna (January 29, 2019). "Historic Limestone Friezes from Philadelphia Civic Center". Olde Good Things. Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  6. ^ Keller, Kristen (November 25, 2017). "Nearly century-old work of art perfect fit for working-class Bayonne". The Jersey Journal. Retrieved November 25, 2017.

Further readingEdit

  • Hunter, Ruth (1962). The Trade and Convention Center of Philadelphia: Its Birth and Renascence. Philadelphia: The City of Philadelphia.

External linksEdit