Removal of ‘PNB’ Letters Suspended; Three Taken Down Already
City officials confirmed Friday that the PNB letters on One South Broad would be removed Sunday morning. The removal, to be done by helicopter, was expected to take about six hours; streets would be closed around the building from 6 a.m. to noon.
Whoops! By a little after 10 a.m., just two letters had been removed. The permit for closing the streets was extended to 4 p.m., but it didn’t appear all the letters would be removed in time.
Indeed, only one more letter was removed. After a long delay, the helicopter took away the third letter on the south side of the building. It returned again, appearing prepared to take another letter, but eventually flew away.
The removal of the final nine letters will be rescheduled for a later date.
The removal was surprising because it came without any fanfare or public discussion, though the then-still-operating Wachovia Bank received permission to take down the letters (and install a Wachovia sign) in 2005. That never happened, and the ‘PNB’ letters — which went up in the 1950s — remained a fixture of the Philadelphia skyline. PNB stands for Philadelphia National Bank, which eventually became CoreStates, then First Union, then Wachovia and finally Wells Fargo. (For now.)
Wells Fargo leases part of the PNB Building. As part of that lease, it is — well, was — responsible for maintaining the PNB letters. A spokesperson for the bank told the Inquirer the letters were unstable and needed to be removed.
“It was a public-safety concern,” Wells Fargo’s Barbara Nate told the paper. “Sixteen-foot-high letters that weigh 3,000 pounds, if they’re not stable, it’s not a good condition.”
One South Broad, originally built for Wanamaker’s department store, was sold to New York-based Aion Partners for $68 million in May. The 17-ton Founders’ Bell will remain atop the building.