The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is a major thoroughfare in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was designed in the early 20th century to serve as the city's cultural and ceremonial center, and was modeled after the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The Parkway runs from City Hall to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and is home to many of the city's most important institutions and landmarks.
The idea for the Parkway dates back to 1903, when city leaders began to discuss the need for a grand avenue that would connect City Hall to Fairmount Park, the city's largest park. The parkway was intended to be a grand civic space that would showcase Philadelphia's cultural and artistic heritage, and provide a focal point for public events and celebrations.
The Parkway was designed by French architect Paul Cret and his collaborator, landscape architect Jacques Gréber. Construction began in 1917 and was completed in the 1920s. The Parkway was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, one of Philadelphia's most famous citizens and one of the founding fathers of the United States.
Today, the Parkway is home to many of Philadelphia's most important cultural institutions, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, and the Rodin Museum. It is also home to several important memorials and monuments, including the Franklin Institute, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.
Throughout its history, the Parkway has played a central role in the life of the city. It has hosted many important events and celebrations, including the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Fourth of July fireworks, and the Made in America Festival. It has also been the site of many important protests and demonstrations, including the Civil Rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 70s.
It runs from City Hall in Center City Philadelphia to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the Fairmount neighborhood, with Logan Square and Eakins Oval located in between. The Parkway is approximately 1.5 miles long and is lined with numerous cultural institutions, museums, and landmarks. It is easily accessible by public transportation, including bus and subway lines, and is also a popular area for walking and biking.
Benjamin Franklin Parkway Top Tourist Attractions
The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is home to many of Philadelphia's top tourist attractions. Here are some of the most popular:
- Philadelphia Museum of Art: This world-renowned museum is home to an extensive collection of art and artifacts from around the world. Its most famous feature is the "Rocky Steps," which were featured in the film "Rocky" and provide a stunning view of the city from the top.
- Barnes Foundation: The Barnes Foundation is an art museum that houses one of the world's largest collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings. The museum also has a beautiful garden and arboretum.
- Rodin Museum: The Rodin Museum is home to the largest collection of works by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin outside of France. Its centerpiece is a bronze cast of Rodin's famous sculpture "The Thinker."
- Franklin Institute: This hands-on science museum features interactive exhibits on a wide range of scientific topics, including physics, biology, and technology. The museum also has an IMAX theater and a planetarium.
- Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul: This beautiful cathedral is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and is known for its stunning architecture and intricate stained glass windows.
- Swann Memorial Fountain: This fountain, located in Logan Circle at the heart of the Parkway, is a popular spot for photos and relaxation. It features three bronze figures symbolizing the three major streams of Philadelphia's water supply.
- LOVE Park: Officially known as JFK Plaza, LOVE Park is a public plaza that is home to Robert Indiana's famous LOVE sculpture. It's a popular spot for tourists and locals alike to relax and take photos.
- Dilworth Park: Located at the base of City Hall, Dilworth Park is a popular gathering spot with a seasonal ice-skating rink, a fountain, and a cafe.
These are just a few of the many attractions along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway that make it a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Philadelphia.
- City Hall: Located at the eastern end of the Parkway, Philadelphia's City Hall is an iconic landmark and the largest municipal building in the country. Visitors can take a guided tour of the building's ornate interior, including its famous tower with clock faces that are larger than those on London's Big Ben.
- The Academy of Natural Sciences: Founded in 1812, this museum is the oldest natural history museum in the Americas. Its collection includes over 18 million specimens, including dinosaurs, birds, and insects.
- Franklin Square: This historic public park, located just north of the Parkway, is home to a miniature golf course, a carousel, and the Franklin Square Fountain, which puts on a dazzling light and water show at night.
- Logan Square: This traffic circle marks the western end of the Parkway and is home to several notable sculptures, including the Swann Memorial Fountain and the Fountain of Three Rivers.
- Free Library of Philadelphia: Located across from Logan Square, the Free Library of Philadelphia is the city's main public library and features a stunning Beaux-Arts facade and a large collection of books, art, and artifacts.
- Shakespeare Park: Located just south of the Parkway, this small park is dedicated to the famous playwright and features a statue of Shakespeare surrounded by flowers and greenery.
- Franklin Trail: This self-guided walking tour takes visitors on a journey through Benjamin Franklin's life and legacy in Philadelphia. It includes stops at several historic sites along the Parkway and in Old City, including Independence Hall and the Franklin Court Museum.
These are just a few of the many attractions and landmarks that make the Benjamin Franklin Parkway a must-see destination for anyone visiting Philadelphia.
African-American Museum in Philadelphia
The figures shown above were originally used in a museum exhibition called "Let This Be Your Home" which explored African-American, post-bellum migration from the southern to the northern states. Contemporary visitors are invited to journey into the cultural and historical record of Philadelphia's African-American community.
This museum is home to art shows and special historic exhibits that focus on African-American themes. Also on display within its four galleries is a permanent collection of African-American art and historical photographs of Philadelphia. Additionally, the museum provides space for special cultural performances, such as an annual all-night Jazz 'Til Sunrise music marathon held every February.
Painters featured in past shows have included Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden and most recently Palmer Hayden. Forty Hayden works, including his chef-d'oeuvre "Midsummer Night in Harlem," kept visitors warm during the winter of '95. Special exhibits have included a detailed look at the civil rights movement and the rise of the black church.Three Generations Of African American Women Sculptors: A Study In Paradox
On the first and second floors, until October 1996, is an absolutely terrific exhibit entitled, "Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox." Sixty works by ten African American female artists are displayed in the nation's first major exhibition of its kind. Visitors are able to discern individual artistic growth as well as to chronicle the influence prior generations had on succeeding ones.
The exhibition starts on the ground floor and includes the works of sculptors May Howard Jackson (1877-1931) and Nancy Elizabeth Prophet (1890-1960). Prophet's polychromatic wooden busts should not be missed.
The exhibition continues on the second floor. Elizabeth Catlett's "Tired" was this writer's favorite piece in the exhibition. A terra cotta figure sits slumped on a bench, her shoulders sag, her feet are heavy, and her eyes are scooped out and hollow. These sad slits seem to see just more work and pain in the future.
Augusta Savage's (1900-1962) "Gamin," a bronze executed in 1929, shows a cocky, smart, resigned, young face set off by a tilted gap. This is a face that will outwit the Depression. Another Savage work is of Marian Anderson the great Philadelphia contralto. Most remarkable of all, perhaps, is Savage's 1931 sculpture, "Harp." Each string on the harp is a actually a human figure; each figure is a member of a choir. A hand that forms the back of the harp also holds the choir members in place. Listen closely and you almost hear the voice of angels.Healing The Body And Mind -- African American Sports Tradition In Philadelphia
The 3rd and 4th floor galleries are given over to an exhibit entitled "Healing the Body and Mind -- African American Sports Tradition in Philadelphia" (through December 1996).
The 3rd floor is a picture story of the lives of young athletes, accented with selected quotes painted on the wall. The pictures recount the role sports played in their lives. The nurturing role of the YMCA and the YWCA in the lives of Philadelphia's young African-American athletes is explored in great detail. Philadelphia's Christian Street YMCA was the country's first branch to open specifically for African-Americans. Sponsored in part by the Philadelphia Tribune, the nation's oldest continuously owned African-American newspaper, the "Y" gave the community its own teams and a place to participate in athletics.
The 4th floor is about the pros. Photos of famous professional Philadelphia athletes cover the walls. Wilt Chamberlain shares space with the Rockettes, a 1954 South Philadelphia women's basketball team. Baseball fans will enjoy photographs of the Hilldale and Philadelphia Giants, a team from the Negro Leagues. Many of the Giants were indeed baseball giants -- Roy Campanella, Judy Johnson, and Bill "Ready" Cash.
While the baseball exhibit duly notes that Philadelphia's Phillies and A's were two of the last major league teams to integrate, sometime in the early-1960s, the museum has chosen to focus on the contributions African American athletes have made.
Its coverage of boxing lacks punch. Philadelphia has long been recognized as a pugilistic mecca, and although there are photos of Philly's own champ, Smokin' Joe Frazier, among others, the rich boxing culture is never given a proper treatment. A movie on the life of Joe Louis (a Detroit fighter) does play in the gallery.
By the way, watch for the photo of Bill Cosby running in the Penn Relays, as a member of Temple's track team.
The museum hosts an annual all-night jazz jam every February. Jazz greats who have participated in the Jazz 'Til Sunrise show have included: Shirley Scott, Jimmy Heath, Jimmy Oliver, and Ted Curson.
The land on which the museum was built was once part of a historic black community.