Author Archives: Ken Finkel

All We Need is Love at LOVE Park?

In order to succeed in its grand ambitions of City Beautifulism, the Parkway had to overcome a handful of awkward design moments. The first, at the base of City Hall, got the boulevard off on the wrong foot. Instead of elegance and clarity, we see Broad Street Station’s tower poking and jutting into what should have […]
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Thinking about the 21st-Century Monument

A lot of folks have given a lot of thought as to who The Thinker is and what he’s thinking about. Not everyone agrees on a single interpretation, not even the sculptor Auguste Rodin, who imagined many and wouldn’t say for sure which one he intended. Anyway, Rodin believed works of art should speak for themselves. […]
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The Search for an American Art in “Gallery C”

Construction delays scuttled the original plan to open the Centennial in April 1876, in time for the 100th anniversary of the battles at Lexington and Concord. Just as well. The nation’s first world’s fair wasn’t looking to the past so much as the American present and, even more, its future. On May 10, 1876—139 years […]
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Broad Street Run: Out of Time

At the 5.9-mile point, Broad Street runners round City Hall turning at South Penn Square. It wasn’t always like a canyon. The place had a downright downscaled feel in the first half of the 19th century, when Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s Pump House sat central in the Square and Napoleon LeBrun’s stone steps spilled onto the […]
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Lost on Broad Street

What ran up and down Broad Street a century ago? Buildings did. According to Poor Richard’s Dictionary of Philadelphia, nearly fifty of the city’s public structures: hospitals, schools, institutes, hotels, sacred places, museums, theatres, opera houses, government buildings, clubs and railroad stations were sited along the 10-mile plus length of Broad Street. As discussed last […]
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Broad and Market Streets: the Intersection of Past and Future

Philadelphia’s past and future always collided at the intersection of Broad and Market Streets. From the conception of Center Square in the 1680s to the laying of the corner stone for City Hall in 1874 it was a tentative, slow-motion collision. After that, things sped up quite a bit. By the end of the 19th-century, […]
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Debt and Consequence

It’s a classic story. Behind a noble and refined façade, (thanks to the designs of Frank Miles Day and Louis Comfort Tiffany) Horticultural Hall on Broad Street was really a house of cards, a palace built on credit. After an earlier hall on the same site burned in 1893, insurance kicked in $25,000 for a […]
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Lost Days on Broad Street

Philadelphia’s decades-long “reign of architectural terror” had finally come to an end. The powerful influence of Frank Furness, whose “violent mind” generated a “degree of depravity not to be measured in words” had played out. In its place, critic Ralph Adams Cram saw the rise of refinement and a “delicate sensibility” of a new posse […]
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Fatal Collapse at 5th and Clearfield

“My God, it’s Reiss!” shouted Alfred Haggerty. The patrolman had noticed something at the bottom of the gaping pit at the intersection of 5th and Clearfield and stared at it for minutes before realizing it was the body of the missing police officer. A week before, Joseph A. Reiss and his partner, patrolman Joseph Cheplick, […]
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Wrong Turn, Wrong Street, Wrong Day

That morning, just like any other Thursday, John Connor stepped out of his family’s two-story rowhouse, near 13th and Moore Streets, and made his way up Passyunk Avenue to his job in Center City. Summer still lingered in the sunny September air, and the 23-year-old Connor looked forward to another day behind the wheel of […]
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