• Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.
      Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.

Inside the historic Family Court

Until the Family Court's functions move to a new court building at 15th and Arch, the historic Family Court buidling is not a place the public can explore given the sensitive nature of the cases heard there. But soon enough John Windrim’s Family Court building at 18th and Vine streets will be turned into a Kimpton Hotel. When that happens more people will be able to experience the courthouse's grand interior spaces and its fine decorative finishes. It was a treat to preview that experience this week during an after-hours tour of the Family Court’s historically designated interior spaces, organized by the PennDesign Alumni Association*.

The Family Court building features 37 WPA murals by a variety of artists, gracing public areas, courtrooms, and waiting rooms. The murals, designated as historic by the Philadelphia Historical Commission, must stay in the building and some sort of public access is required. The murals are in varying condition, some are in need of conservation work, and a monitoring program must be established to ensure their long-term preservation. Other significant decorative features include a stained glass window depicting an allegory of Justice in the elevator lobby, decorative painting throughout the spaces in a surprising pastel palette, and a huge sculpture of Judge Charles Brown in the center of the main hallway. Brass fixtures - radiator grilles, lights, and large brass torchons - must stay in the building, though they can be relocated. The city, court, and developer are working together to determine the fate of other features of the building, including chairs designed for the court rooms and the huge statue of Judge Brown in the central hall.

Here’s a look at the decorative finishes inside: 

Historic Murals:

    • Courtoom A, Family Court. Mural by Alice Kent Stoddard
      Courtoom A, Family Court. Mural by Alice Kent Stoddard
    • Courtroom B, Family Court. Mural by Stuyvesant Van Veen
      Courtroom B, Family Court. Mural by Stuyvesant Van Veen
    • "Examination diagnosis and treatment cure social ills" - Elevator bank mural by Frank H Schwartz
    • "Investigation and probation humanize justice" - Elevator bank mural by Frank H Schwartz
    • Ben Franklin, West Waiting Room, Family Court
      Ben Franklin, West Waiting Room, Family Court
    • West Waiting Room murals depict important figures in American history.
      West Waiting Room murals depict important figures in American history.
    • Mural by Stuyvesant Van Veen, Courtroom D, Family Court
      Mural by Stuyvesant Van Veen, Courtroom D, Family Court
    • Joseph Hirsch mural, Courtroom C, Family Court
      Joseph Hirsch mural, Courtroom C, Family Court
    • Murals by Vincent Maragliotti, East Waiting Room, Family Court
      Murals by Vincent Maragliotti, East Waiting Room, Family Court
    • Murals by Vincent Maragliotti, East Waiting Room, Family Court
      Murals by Vincent Maragliotti, East Waiting Room, Family Court
    • Murals by Vincent Maragliotti, East Waiting Room, Family Court
      Murals by Vincent Maragliotti, East Waiting Room, Family Court
    • George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
      George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
    • George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
      George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
    • George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
      George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
    • George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
      George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
    • George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
      George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
    • img 1952George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
      img 1952George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
    • George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
      George M Harding mural, Main Hall, Family Court
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Other Decorative Finishes:

    • D'Acenzo Studios' Justice stained glass window, Family Court
      D'Acenzo Studios' Justice stained glass window, Family Court
    • Stained glass detail, Family Court
      Stained glass detail, Family Court
    • Detail of Justice window, Family Court
      Detail of Justice window, Family Court
    • This statue of Judge Charles Lincoln Brown sits in the center of the Family Court's main hall.
      This statue of Judge Charles Lincoln Brown sits in the center of the Family Court's main hall.
    • Elevator doors, Family Court
      Elevator doors, Family Court
    • Stairwell, Family Court
      Stairwell, Family Court
    • Brass grille, Family Court
      Brass grille, Family Court
    • Brass torchons, Family Court
      Brass torchons, Family Court
    • Decorative painting on beams, Family Court
      Decorative painting on beams, Family Court
    • Brass light fixture, Family Court
      Brass light fixture, Family Court
    • Waiting room, Family Court
      Waiting room, Family Court
    • Call box, Family Court
      Call box, Family Court
    • Reception Hall clock, Family Court
      Reception Hall clock, Family Court
    • Records Room
      Records Room
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* PlanPhilly is a project of PennPraxis, the applied research arm of PennDesign. Ashley Hahn is a PennDesign alumna.


About the author

Ashley Hahn, Editor, Eyes on the Street

Ashley writes and edits Eyes on the Street. She has a special interest in preservation, neighborhoods, and all things public – from policy to art. Ashley holds masters degrees in City and Regional Planning and Historic Preservation from PennDesign.

Ashley has lived in 12 zip codes that she can think of, including neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York and Philadelphia. She is proud to call 19147 home. 

Find Ashley on twitter @ashleyjhahn.


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