Category Archives: Urban Planning

The History and Background Behind The World’s First Statue of Charles Dickens

Although I have lived in the West Philadelphia neighborhood of Cedar Park since 2006, I have not really given too much thought to the history of the Charles Dickens statue in the “Park A” part of Clark Park at 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue. In fact, the statue is of not only Dickens but his […]
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Campus Clearance: A Look Inside UPenn’s Lost Houses

  It’s hard to believe that before the 1960s, adaptive reuse was an alien concept to architects and city planners.  To universities, the planning ethos of “out with the old, in with the new” was especially potent.  Disciples of Le Corbusier and other modernists were in control of the University of Pennsylvania and American schools. […]
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The Carriage Houses of Van Pelt Street

Two months ago, while giving a book talk at Bucknell University, I was fortunate to tour an actual working carriage house, attached to an 1840s brick mansion in the small town of Mifflinburg.  My host Karl Purnell had restored his family’s carriage house to its original condition and configuration. Within its walls were a horse […]
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The First and Only to One of Many: How a Coffee Shop Helped Transform Spruce Hill

Soon after moving to West Philadelphia in 1995, Douglas Witmer joked with his brother-in-law Dan Thut that one day they would open up a coffee shop in the Spruce Hill section of West Philadelphia. Neither had business experience. Douglas studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His wife’s brother Dan had a background in […]
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100 years of the signage debate in Market East

A 1911 photo of a hodgepodge of signage covering buildings on North Juniper Street. Just over a hundred years after this photo of North Juniper Street was taken, businesses in the Market East corridor may once again find inspiration in the jumble of advertisements adorning this row of buildings. Late last year, Philadelphia adopted a […]
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“The Boulevard”

Roosevelt Boulevard, officially named the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Boulevard, is one of Philadelphia’s most important traffic arteries. It carries millions of drivers every day and is arguably the backbone of Northeast Philadelphia. Roosevelt Boulevard has become such a part of Philadelphia that when one speaks of “the Boulevard” anyone who’s lived in Philadelphia for any […]
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A Special Relationship: Philadelphia and Great Britain

With the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton dominating the news, we here at PhillyHistory.org have been reflecting on the historical ties between Philadelphia and Great Britain, many of which are captured in our photo collections. As a former colony of Great Britain, the United States has always maintained a special relationship with […]
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The Girard Piers

Philadelphia’s Delaware River waterfront has played a significant role in the city’s development ever since William Penn himself stepped foot on the area we now call, rather appropriately, Penn’s Landing. Penn’s oft-mentioned plan for Philadelphia as a “greene country towne” included a tree-line waterfront that would serve as a serene promenade for Philadelphians to come […]
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The City that Might Have Been: Edmund Bacon’s Philadelphia

Heralded as the father of modern Philadelphia, famed city planner Edmund Bacon was the man behind many of the city’s most notable post-WWII redevelopment projects, from Penn Center and Market East to Penn’s Landing and Society Hill. While these projects are well-known and have become essential parts of the Philadelphia landscape, the plans and projects […]
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Carstairs Row

Perhaps one of the things Philadelphia is famous for is its abundance of rowhouses. In fact, rowhomes are the single most numerous type of housing in the city. From small, utilitarian houses in the older sections of Philadelphia such as Queen Village to the large rows complete with porches, bay windows, and gingerbread trim in […]
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