Description: Formerly the Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company Building, the block-long Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building has one of the most richly sculpted façades in Philadelphia. Constructed of Indiana limestone highlighted with color and gilding, its north and south pavilions are joined by a soaring, arched main entrance facing the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a celebrated example of inspired urban planning of which The Perelman Building was designed to be an integral part.
Architectural significance: Stylistically reflecting the period of transition from early 20th-century historicism to the geometric Art Deco style of the 1920s and 1930s, The Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 1980. It was built to house the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company, which occupied the building until 1972. The main sculptural elements include Egyptian-inspired flora and fauna symbolizing attributes of insurance: the owl of wisdom, the dog of fidelity, the pelican of charity, the possum of protection, and the squirrel of frugality. Many of its outstanding decorative features were designed by the leading architectural sculptor of the 1920s, Lee Lawrie, whose work also adorns such notable American buildings as Rockefeller Center in New York City, and the Library of Congress and the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.
Location: The Perelman Building is located at 25th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, just across the street from the Museum's main building. It occupies a trapezoid- shaped site bordered by Pennsylvania Avenue, 25th Street, Fairmount Avenue, and 26th Street.
Interior Space: 100,000 square feet
Site: Two acres
Architects: The Perelman Building was designed by Zantzinger, Borie and Medary who, along with the firm of Horace Trumbauer, also designed the Museum's original structure, which was completed in 1928. Leon Solon, the scholar who had advised the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the color scheme of its celebrated glazed terracotta decoration and pediment, also served as color advisor for The Perelman Building. In 1982-3, the building was restored by John Milner Associates and David Beck Architects for the Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company Building.
Current ownership and administration: Like the main Museum building, the Rodin Museum, and two historic houses in Fairmount Park--Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove--The Perelman Building is now owned by the City of Philadelphia, and will be administered by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman: Residents of Center City and collectors of modern art, Mr. and Mrs. Perelman have long been deeply involved in philanthropic causes at the local and national level. A Philadelphia-born industrialist and entrepreneur, Mr. Perelman has been a Trustee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1975, a Vice Chairman since 1992, and Chairman since 1997. The Perelmans were founding members of the Museum Associates in 1969.
On January 21, 2000, Mr. and Mrs. Perelman, who have been key advocates of the Museum's longstanding need for expansion, announced their unprecedented gift of $15 million to the Museum. It was the largest unrestricted monetary gift from an individual in the Museum's history.