The concept of the Bourse – meaning a place of exchange – was brought to Philadelphia in 1890 by George E. Bartol, a prosperous Philadelphia grain and commodities exporter. While in Europe, Bartol visited the great Bourse in Hamburg, Germany. Upon his return to the United States, Bartol called together the most influential businessmen and merchants in the city, asking them to pool their resources to construct the city’s own business center – a Philadelphia Bourse.
In 1891, The Philadelphia Bourse Corporation was formed, with each member subscribing $1,000 to the project, by an issue of stock and mortgage. The Bourse motto was “buy, sell, ship via Philadelphia”.
The Philadelphia Bourse Building, the first commodities exchange in the United States, was completed in 1895. The building was one of the first steel-framed buildings to be constructed. Three types of masonry were used on the facade: Carlisle redstone, Pompeian buff brick and terra cotta. Inside were large columns and pilasters leading to a balcony surrounding the main floor. Bow-top girders were used to support a skylight at the third floor.
The original tenants included the American Telephone and Telegraphy, Moore and McCormick Steamships lines, grain dealers and export agents. The Bourse was also home to the Commercial Exchange, the Maritime Exchange, Grocers and Importers Exchange and the Board of Trade.
Quotations from all markets of the world and the latest financial news were received by telegraph. Pneumatic tubes connected the Bourse directly with the United States Post Office. A trading clock signaled the end of every business day.
Kaiserman Company, Inc. purchased The Philadelphia Bourse Building in 1979, renaming it “The Bourse” and adapting it as a retail and office complex. The restoration took three years to complete at a cost of $20 million, twenty times greater than the original construction cost.
Celebrating over 100 years as a center for commerce and trade, The Bourse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it is one of Philadelphia’s leading commercial complexes, home to 24 retail and food service stores and more than 50 businesses.