Travels Through
Greco - Roman Antiquity
An exploration of texts and images from Falvey Library's Special Collections works on ancient Greece and Rome.

William Strickland

Second Bank of the United States

Nicholas Biddle, president of the bank, wanted a building in the Greek style. Strickland used Antiquities of Athens to learn about Greek architecture for this project.  He submitted his project proposal in 1818, and it was chosen over the proposal of Strickland’s mentor Latrobe.   Strickland had never designed a Greek building before and based this design on the Parthenon. 

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The bank became operational under President Madison and was a very successful.  However, there was still much controversy over having a bank tied to the national government.  When Andrea Jackson came into office, he refused to recharter the bank.  It became a private a private bank in 1836.  The building ceased to be a bank in the 1840s and is now an art gallery in Independence National Park.




Merchants’ Exchange

This building was designed in 1931 and built in 1934.  It was used as a place for merchants to meet and conduct business.  Now it is part of Independence National Park.  The Merchants’ Exchange building is within sight of the First Bank of the United States, owned by Stephen Girard.  Strickland designed the Merchants’ Exchange building to fit in with the First Bank of the United States, which has similar Corinthian columns.




The Merchants’ Exchange building has two very different facades.  The front of the building shows two stories with a four-column portico much like other Greek buildings.  The rear of the building, however, is semi-circular.  Strickland designed the back like this because Dock Street, right behind the building, was a curved road.  The semi-circle also has a portico with Corinthian columns.  The tower on top of the building is based on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates.  



National Mechanics’ Bank

National Mechanics’ Bank was founded and run by Philadelphia’s mechanics.  It was built in 1837, right before the collapse of the economy.  Until the 1860’s the bank was still primarily used for the finances of mechanics.  In 1903 the building was repurposed as a church, and in 1982, a nightclub.  The building now houses a restaurant bar which encapsulates the history of the building.  The interior has peculiar décor to signify its blue-collar history, the seating is made up of old church pews, and there are nightclub lights on the ceiling.



Sources do not mention any particular inspiration for the design of the exterior of this building.  However, after seeing Strickland’s other buildings, it seems safe to say that Strickland has taken the underlying principals of Greek architecture and made it his own.  The space for the building is very narrow, so there is not much to work with in terms of grandiosity.  It shares a similar portico to that of the Second Bank of the United States, with its Corinthian columns and simple pediment.  The two outermost columns are a slight change from the other buildings, as they are not rounded.  The purpose of this is to create an “edge” for the building so that it still stands out from the others on the street.





 Images Courtesy of Jessica Margelot Unless Otherwise Noted


10-900, Nps Form, Usdi/nps Nrhp Registration Form (Rev. 8-86), and Omb No. 1024-0018. "National Historic Landmark Nomination." NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK NOMINATION (n.d.): n. pag. National Park Service, 7 Aug. 2001. Web. 2 May 2016.


Barthélemy, J.-J, and William Beaumont. Travels of Anacharsis the Younger in Greece, during the Middle of the Fourth Century before the Christian Aera. London: J. Johnson, 1806. Print.

Hammond, Bray. 1957. Banks and Politics in America, from the Revolution to the Civil War. Princeton, Princeton University Press.


"Mechanics National Bank - Architecture & Construction (William Strickland)."Mechanics National Bank - Architecture & Construction (William Strickland). Philadelphia Web Design, SEO, & Development Company, 2008. Web. 02 May 2016.


"Philadelphia Bar & Restaurant in Old City - National Mechanics."Philadelphia Bar & Restaurant in Old City - National Mechanics. Philadelphia Web Design, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.


"Philadelphia Merchant's Exchange." Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.


Stuart, James. The Antiquities of Athens. London: Haberkorn, 1762. N. pag. Print.