Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Pitcairn Building, 1901
1027 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19107

Helene Schenck & Michael Parrington, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).
The Pitcairn Building is an eight-story commercial building located at the northeast corner of 12th and Arch Streets. The building was designed by the Philadelphia architects, G.W. and W.D. Hewitt, who also designed the Philadelphia Bourse and the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. The building is dated to 1901 by a datestone and was named for John Pitcairn (1844-1916), president and co-founder of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company. The company used the building as a prestigious office and warehouse building until 1923 when it was acquired by H. Daroff and Sons.

Daroff was a Jew from Russia who capitalized on the opportunities for ready-to-wear clothing in the city. From 1880 he was one of the major clothing manufacturers in Philadelphia and by the 1920s his company was making an important contribution to the 3.6 million suits produced annually in the city.

Prior to its acquisition by Daroff the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company had leased portions of the Pitcairn Building to clothing manufacturers. The two upper floors had also been used as a bowling alley and skating rink. The Daroff Company expanded its share of the market while at the Pitcairn Building, and by 1945 it was a nationally known company.

The Philadelphia clothing industry had its origins in sweat shops located in different parts of the city. By the 1880s the industry was becoming more mechanized, and by the early twentieth century production had moved to loft buildings in Center City like the Pitcairn Building. Under these changed working conditions unions were formed such as the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA), which successfully fought for better pay and conditions. The Daroff Company was involved in one such battle in 1929 when the ACWA struck the company. Twenty-seven days later the company signed a contract with the union, an example quickly followed by other manufacturers. The Daroff Company moved to a nearby location at 23rd and Walnut Streets in 1945. The Pitcairn Building continues to be used for various office and light industry purposes, and was recently rehabilitated for office use.

Update May 2007 (by Harry Kyriakodis):
Still standing. Following a $22 million renovation, the Pitcairn Building has recently become a loft condominium called "1027 Arch Street Lofts."