Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Corrupt and Contented

City Hall Under Construction, 1881

City Hall Under Construction

Scaffolding rising around City Hall, shown under construction in 1881, indicated the scale of opportunity available in the political system that Lincoln Steffens labeled “the most corrupt and the most contented.” (PhillyHistory.org)

Scaffolding rising around City Hall, shown under construction in 1881, indicated the scale of opportunity available in the political system that Lincoln Steffens labeled “the most corrupt and the most contented.” A monument to corruption not matched in any other city, the new City Hall covered four acres at the heart of the city where William Penn had laid out four squares to form a central park. The massive structure took thirty years to build and cost $24 million, fully $14 million in overruns. Politicians shepherding the project extracted a host of benefits for themselves, all the time keeping thousands of city workers employed.
(PhillyHistory.org)

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