The eastbound entrance to 5th Street Station on Market Street

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SEPTA’s 5th Street Station on the Market-Frankford Line finally reopened this week. The redesign took more than four years, and included back-and-forth with Philly’s Art Commission and a total closure of the stop for five months.

If you visit the Independence Hall station today, you’ll likely see construction workers. The $20.4 million project is expected to be fully complete in December, almost two years after the January 2019 ground-breaking.

The new glass-covered stairways, which are reminiscent of the Dilworth Park transit entrances, are currently only open on the northwest and southwest corners of the tourist-heavy Market Street corner, right next to the Mall and opposite the National Museum of American Jewish History and the Bourse.

Some of the fresh features already complete at the subway stop include:

  • Glass paver skylights along the hallway from the platform to the stairs
  • Patterned stone flooring
  • Burgundy and white subway tiles diagonally lining the walls
  • The station’s official moniker, Independence Hall 5th Street Station, written in striking dark blue above the fare kiosks

Strikingly absent from the station is the standard-fare pee smell that wafts into your lungs when you enter a station that hasn’t been recently redone.

Also, unlike some stops on the El and the BSL, there won’t be any 55-inch screens to display ads at the entrance, since the Art Commission denied that request back in 2016.

What there will be is 400 feet of murals, on walls that are currently covered since they’re not yet complete. Designed by Germantown artist Tom Judd, they feature prominent figures like George Washington, other colonial figures, including people of color, and a landscape of the Schuylkill River.

“I wanted to take a fairly dingy place and create this new environment…where the train pulls into the station and you have the sense that you’ve sort of arrived somewhere important,” Judd told WHYY’s PlanPhilly last year.

The flashy new station has been in the works for quite a while.

It started with the station’s “renaming” in 2016. A month later, the Art Commission gave SEPTA the green light on its plans to revamp the station. Since then, it’s been an ongoing project — one that necessitated basic repairs like updates to the water infiltration system.

Last time SEPTA refreshed the 112-year-old 5th Street Station, it was in 1974 during prep for the Bicentennial celebrations. Those renovations were only meant to last 30 years.

Though it’s undergone a few spruce-ups since then, fast forward 44 years, the station looked mostly the same, until now. Stay tuned for a grand unveiling at the end of the year.

Fancy new tiling has the name of the station Credit: Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn
The Westbound El entrance to 5th Street Station on Market Street. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY) Credit: Kimberly Paynter / WHYY
Glass paver skylights and herringbone subway tiling along the entrance hallway Credit: Kimberly Paynter / WHYY
New entrance tiling and kiosks at 5th Street Station Credit: Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...