Blog > 401 N Broad: The History Behind Philadelphia's Hub for Innovation

401 N Broad: The History Behind Philadelphia’s Hub for Innovation

Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania, often called the City of Brotherly Love. It is known as the home of the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, where the Constitution was written, and the Declaration of Independence was signed. The city is called the hub for innovation and technology for many reasons. It is near major metropolitan areas, including Manhattan, Washington, and Baltimore. It offers affordable residential real estate options and over 20 four-year accredited colleges — all the resources to be a top player in the tech industry.

The Terminal Commerce Building

401 N Broad, the Reading Terminal Commerce Building, was built by William Steele & Sons, costing $4 million. It was the largest commercial warehouse building in the nation when completed in 1931. The infrastructure once had a freight station beneath it, replacing Reading’s North Broad Street Freight Station and rail yard previously on the site. The building measures 528 feet from Broad to 13th Street and 225 feet from Callowhill to Noble Street. The facility comprises 11 stories and 1.3 million square feet of floor space.

The Reading Terminal Commerce Building was constructed of structural steel and fireproofed with concrete. William Steele & Sons utilized steel and concrete for its durability. The Terminal Commerce Building was used to assemble military vehicles during World War II. It was home to its own post office and, later, its own dedicated zip code.

The building was constructed when North Broad Street was known as Automobile Row in the early 1900s. The southwest corner of the building’s main floor was used as an automobile showroom space. The first floor was accessible via a driveway extending from Broad Street to 13th Street on the building’s north side. The second floor was originally used for parking. At the time, many automobile makers manufactured and sold cars in buildings along Philadelphia’s main north-south avenue. Once the Great Depression hit in the late 1920s, these businesses and others shut down.

The Terminal Commerce Building included freight platforms at the track — in the basement. There were originally seven freight elevators and four passenger elevators. The elevator service saved time and money for tenants — they would not have to ship their goods by truck to railroad facilities and could do it all from the production floor.

After World War II, commercial rail traffic decreased; therefore, the companies that depended on railroad transportation left the building and the city. In 1955 the Reading Company sold 401 North Broad. The new owner renamed it the North American Building. From the 1940s to 1973, it was used as the main regional U.S. Army Induction Center. During the Vietnam War, thousands of draftees came to the building to complete tests to see if they were ‘capable’ and ‘fit’ to serve in the military. 

Around the 1970s, federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service, moved into the building. During the early 1980s, some floors were used to warehouse hard copies of records for companies, including the City of Philadelphia, General Accident Insurance, and Insurance Company of North America.  

The North American Building, due to its infrastructure, became a telecom carrier hotel, now more commonly called a colocation center, housing Internet servers, routing computers, and data storage service equipment. During the 1990s, telecommunications became the primary use of the building when Sungard Data Recovery and Amtrak moved their large mainframe computer centers into the building.

401 N Broad was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. In 2014, the building was acquired by Amerimar Enterprises and Abrams Capital. Amerimar Enterprises, Inc., a real estate, investment, and management firm, entered the wired real estate market in 2012. Amerimar was re-branded to Netrality Properties in 2015 and now goes by Netrality Data Centers.  

401 North Broad Today  

401 North Broad is the most interconnected data center in Philadelphia and in the state of Pennsylvania. Located in the epicenter of the edge, it is a renowned international gateway between Manhattan and Virginia, aggregating all east/west and north/south traffic in the city. Our facilities’ robust ecosystem includes network service providers, cloud providers, content delivery networks, and managed service providers providing redundancy, ultra-low latency, reliability, scalability, and security. The building offers retail and office space for leasing, customizable and turn-key lab spaces, a tech lounge, a conference room, and a 10,000-square-foot event space. Interested in learning more about 401 N Broad? Contact us today!    

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