The Athenaeum was founded in 1814 to collect materials "connected with the history and antiquities of America, and the useful arts, and generally to disseminate useful knowledge" for public benefit. Designed in 1845, it is widely hailed as the seminal American structure in the Italianate Revival Style and one of the first Philadelphia buildings built of brownstone. Plain on the exterior and deceptive in scale, the Athenaeum building contains richly embellished reading rooms with 24-foot ceilings. Into these spaces has been gathered a museum collection of American fine and decorative arts from the period 1800 to 1850. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977.
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