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Transformation of Historic Building into the Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy Earns Award

Ceremonial courtroom inside Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy

July 18, 2018

The restoration of the 100-year-old building at 12 and Chestnut streets into the Thomas R. Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy received a 2018 Grand Jury Award from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.

The alliance noted the dramatic transformation of the neoclassical building, incorporating high-tech features such as a three-story glass curtain and switchable glass walls in practice courtrooms as well as restoration of the bank’s original boardroom.

In addition to supporting the law school’s Trial Advocacy program, the Center City building also accommodates conferences, receptions and other events that allow students to engage with members of the Philadelphia bench and bar.   

The building, which was a gift to Drexel from leading trial lawyer and law school benefactor Tom Kline, was painstakingly restored by the architects from Tackett & Co. and preservation consultants Powers & Co.  

Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron gave a glowing review of the transformation on June 3.

Every aspect of the renovation of the former Beneficial Saving Fund Society has been “meticulously executed,” Saffron wrote, describing the transformation of the one-time bank into a “lavish” building where students learn courtroom skills.

Saffron notes that “the 40-foot-high banking floor, which once housed a large, circular tellers’ desk, had become quite dingy over the years, but the renovation has restored its dazzling brightness. The architects extended an existing mezzanine to make room for an 80-seat courtroom.”

Designed by prominent Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer, the building “has always stood out among Chestnut Street’s more retail-focused buildings,” the article notes, observing that the architect was able to “extract drama” from the façade on Chestnut Street, despite its narrowness and the presence of just two columns flanking the entry.

The restoration serves as “a shrine to one of democracy’s bedrock values, trial by jury – and to Kline’s career,” the article said, alluding to a life-size sculpture of the attorney at the entry and a small museum devoted to some of his path-breaking cases.