History

About Scranton Life Building

The Scranton Life Building, completed in 1916, is an example of a cellular Chicago frame office building overlaid with white Gothic Revival terra-cotta frosting, this was the last built of the fine collection of office buildings forming the margins of Courthouse Square. The use of easily cleaned glazed architectural terra-cotta tile ornament came to epitomize the development of downtown Scranton during the coal-blackened early twentieth century.

The Scranton Life Building was originally built for the Scranton Life Insurance Company in 1916. The mounted eagles on the crenelated top symbolize the protection and strength of the insurance company. The accomplished architect Edward Langley designed the building. Langley moved to Scranton in 1905 to assist in designing Scranton Central High School. He ended up staying in Scranton and designed or helped design some of the city’s most treasured landmarks. Along with the Scranton Life Building, he contributed to the design of the Lackawanna Station (now the Radisson), Immanuel Baptist Church (now the University of Scranton’s Houlihan-McLean Center), the former Globe Building, the Catlin House (home to the Lackawanna Historical Society), the former YWCA Building (now the University of Scranton’s Leahy Hall), the William T. Smith Manual Training School (now part of TCMC), the Bethel A.M.E. Church, the former Chamber of Commerce Building, the Scranton Club and many others.

While the Scranton Life Insurance Company was the original occupant, tenant of the building, countless businesses have called the Scranton Life Building home at one point. Perhaps the most famous being C.S. Woolworth. After his brother’s death in 1919, C.S. Woolworth became the reluctant chairman of the board of the Woolworth Company, an international discount store chain, after flatly refusing the job of president and chief executive. He oversaw the affairs of the global chain of thousands of stores from Suite 620 at the Scranton Life Building. His office has been preserved and is still in use at the building in its original form. He served as acting chairman until 1944 when at age 88, declining health caught up with him.

In addition to its role as an office complex, the Scranton Life building features a variety of retail establishments long rooted in the downtown community.