College Hall was the first building on the West Philadelphia campus. Designed by Thomas Webb Richards, a professor of drawing and architecture, the building housed almost all of the college functions, including the library, classrooms, laboratories and offices. In recent years, the building has been the home of the President, Provost, School of Arts and Sciences, the Department of History and the Undergraduate Admissions Office. The building's significance in the history of collegiate architecture has been recognized by U.S. Department of Interior by placing it on the National Registry of Historic Places and in the University of Pennsylvania Historic District.
The exterior of College Hall is a conventional 1870s combination of elements of both Second Empire and Gothic styles. Its massing, symmetrical form, and plasticity of ornament are clearly more connected to the design of City Hall, just begun by the time of the construction of College Hall, than to the asymmetrical English Gothic. The treatment of fenestration with Gothic motifs and the buttresses that punctuate the building's corners are more of a decorative veneer. College Hall is memorable for its striking architectural polychromy created by the use of several stones in both structure and veneer, including brown and yellow sandstone, mica schist, serpentine, and granite. The three pavilions mark the functional subdivisions of the arts, the sciences, and in the center, the administration. Large windows denote the major public spaces.