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The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Completes Renovations

Celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, the organization has updated its elegant and historic spaces available for meetings and events

By Linden M. Bayliss

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), headquartered in Philadelphia, has announced the completion of a two-year renovation project to its facilities and technology, just in time for its 200th anniversary. HSP boldly enters its third century at the start of this year, bringing the people of the past into conversations today. Founded in 1824, HSP is one of the nation’s largest archives of historical documents. HSP proudly serves as Philadelphia’s Library of American History, with over 21 million manuscripts, books, and graphic images encompassing centuries of U.S. history.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s headquarters in Philadelphia has gone through an exterior restoration. || Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Over the course of the restoration, the society had the entire exterior repainted, painted all windows and doors, repaired broken windows, and restored and replaced several stone features that were damaged by more than a century of exposure to urban pollution. As a crowning step, HSP implemented an exterior lighting program that illuminates the portico and other key elements of its handsome structure, making the building more attractive for evening events and passersby. The completely restored facade earned a Grand Jury Award from the Preservation Alliance of Philadelphia.

The purpose-built Georgian Revival building where the society resides was designed by Philadelphia architect Addison Hutton as the first fireproof library in the U.S. and offers charming spaces for events of all kinds. The society’s most versatile space is the newly renovated and elegant Patterson Room, perfect for hosting lectures, workshops, meetings, and receptions. It has room for 160 attendees, or 120 if a dance floor is added. New dual projection and sound systems allow for on-site and hybrid formats. Part of the renovations include a new lighting scheme that has many adjustable features. Technology throughout the public spaces was replaced and upgraded to facilitate access to the collections and to ensure that programs run smoothly.

Constructed in 1889, the Reading Room was originally designed as an assembly hall to host meetings, public lectures, and celebrations. Today, the room serves as the society’s library and is an ideal historic space to host a party with its warm atmosphere, vaulted ceilings, arch windows, and bookcases. There is room for 100 seated attendees.

The Reading Room, a beautiful historic library, can host events for up to 100. || Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

The Information Commons’ historic 19th-century card catalog creates a stunning backdrop to another elegant space that is best suited for receptions of all kinds. The lighting system in the Information Commons was redesigned to provide maximum flexibility to illuminate displays of documents, artwork, and artifacts from the collection as well as to offer daytime and evening lighting scenes. The space offers room for 150 attendees.