About the Arcade Building
The Arcade Building takes its name from a grandiose two-level shopping arcade which runs straight across the lot from Olive to Pine. The arcade is an early version of the modern shopping mall, but its vaulted, tiled ceilings and ornate entrances, lamps, railings, and chandeliers are captivatingly beautiful in a way that modern suburban malls cannot hope to compete with.
The Arcade building is actually two buildings that were joined together approximately a century ago. The first building, the 18-story Wright Building, was completed in 1906. Then in 1919, the Arcade Building was built around the Wright Building with 14 stories on one side and 16 stories on the other, and the two were joined together. The keystone to this complex was the building’s two-story vaulted arcade which extends from Pine and Olive Streets and was used as one of the first indoor shopping malls in the United States.
When construction began, excavation of the site uncovered quicksand; pilings had to be sunk 50 feet into the ground to hold the building up, and extra floors were added to cover the higher construction costs. The entire project cost $3.5 million, $1 million above the original estimate. The building was supposed to have basement access to the railroad tunnels which pass by it; however, smoke from steam locomotives made this an impractical option. The entryways were sealed and never used. Today Metrolink uses the same tunnels.
For more than a decade, the Arcade Building was listed as the tallest concrete structure in the world. It was written about in “The American Architect” as a significant engineering fete of its day. The entire structure was designated a city landmark in 1980 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.