Monday, November 18, 2013

Franklin Square Research

Originally called Northeast Square, Franklin Square was renamed in 1825 to honor Benjamin Franklin.The square, measures to be 632 feet north to south and 543 feet east to west .Although designated as a public square in the earliest city plan, Northeast Square was slow to develop, due in part to its marshy land. Its earliest use was as an open common for pasturage and as a site of horse and cattle markets. 
By the early 1740s, the First Reformed Church had begun construction of a church nearby and lacked room for an adjacent cemetery. The nearest sizeable tract of open land was Northeast Square. The original cemetery lot measured 306 feet but was the boundaries were enlarged several times throughout the century. 

In about 1776, a brick powder storage house for military supplies was constructed in the northwest portion of the square. Viewed as a safety hazard due to the development of the surrounding area, the it was relocated. It was subsequently used to store oil for street lamps in the square and in the surrounding neighborhood. In the 1810s, site was used as a horse and cattle auction site. In the 1830’s the cemetery closed and the city renovated the space for use as parkland. In 1838, the city administration decided to make use of the public area so they commissioned a marble fountain to be built in the center of the square with wrought iron railing surrounding it and curved paths running throughout the square. 

The mid to late nineteenth century was a time when the square was at its
prime as it was located in the heart of one of Philadelphia’s exclusive
residential neighborhoods. The park was the province of the elite of the city. Ladies with parasols would stroll the paths and would be joined on the weekends by their husbands and children. However during the Depression, the square became a retreat for the unemployed, derelicts, and the homeless. 

In 1915, excavations took place for the installation of a new sewer line. In the course of this
excavation, several graves were disturbed. During the excavations for the Benjamin
Franklin Bridge Plaza in the early 1920s, additional human remains were discovered.
In 1925, a water main was constructed through the square. In the course of this excavation, three human skulls were uncovered in the western part of the square. During a sewer excavation in the square in 1976, two skulls and other bones were uncovered, as well as two gravestones The most significant modern disturbance to the square was the construction of two subway tunnels and a station in the 1930s. 

The square to current date includes few remnants of its former appearance. The walkways that are left are graveled, not paved, and the fountain in the middle is surrounded by a graveled walkway. There is a brick restroom structure on the southeast side of the fountain just off the walkway. A
monument describing the Old First Reformed Church burial ground that once covered the eastern half of the square is located on the northeast side of the walkway surrounding the fountain. To the east of the fountain are a serpentine brick wall and a cement circular area surrounding a
monument honoring park police, city police, and the fire department.There is a semi-paved seating area on the west side of the square and a small playground. Diagonal paths lead to the corner of Franklin and Race Streets, the corner of Sixth and Race Streets, and to the northeast and northwest corners of the square. The rest of the square is grass lawn interspersed with trees.

Franklin Square is presently surrounded on all four sides by heavy traffic flow. Its northern boundary is the embankment for the Vine Expressway which leads to Interstate 95. Traffic on the expressway and on I-95 is visible and audible from the square. Crosswalks are few and far between, which makes getting across the bounding streets difficult. 
On July 31, 2006, after a multi-million dollar renovation, the once dilapidated park,
was restored to green space where families and visitors could safely gather. Existing features were renovated and new features added to make the 7.5 acre park a new attraction for the City. Unlike other squares, Franklin Square has set hours.

Part of the $6.5 million dollar renovation, primarily funded by a state grant, the centerpiece of the restoration was the historic fountain. To ensure sustainability, a foundation named “Franklin for the Fountain” Name a Brick Campaign was developed in which all profits  goes toward future operations of the fountain. One of the highlights of the Square is the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel. As the only one in the city of Philadelphia, it is a draw for the young and old. There is a charge of $2.50 to ride. Two playgrounds were added to accommodate the visitors and neighboring daycare centers. Equipment was installed to coordinate with two different age groups; one for toddlers (2-5) and the other to older  chlider (5-10). Park benches were also installed as well as special turf around the playground for safety.  Another highlight of Franklin Square is the 18-hole Philadelphia themed mini golf course. There is a charge of $8 for adults and $6 for children. Throughout the Square there is refreshing green space with abundant trees. Once Upon a Nation added over 153 shrubs, and 60 plus trees along with 2 picnic areas. In the summertime, the Square is used for extended hours so to provide additional safety, over 30 Franklin Fixture style lampposts were installed as well as 24 hour security. Additionally, as part of the renovation, the bathrooms received a complete makeover, adding to the comfort of the patrons of the Square. To accommodate visitors the square offers food vendors, crafts and merchandise kiosks. 

In an effort to keep visitors coming to the Square year round,
organizers have successfully promoted many types of events such as farmers
markets and other special holiday events. In 2009,
it was reported that the Square received over 750,000 annual visitors. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

City Hall's Long and Continuing History

Before City Hall’s construction began in 1871, the building's history can be traced back to Philadelphia's founding.William Penn original envision in 1682. Here he set-aside five publicly shared squares laid out on a city grid. The centrally located "Center Square" was reserved as a site for public buildings. Penn planned it to be a central plaza of ten acres to be bordered by the principal public buildings, such as the Quaker meetinghouse, the state house, the market house, and the schoolhouse. It took 200 years before the square was used for that purpose. This is because the city’s development initially expanded around the Delaware river front, rather than from river to river like Penn envisioned. The first City Hall was located in what is currently known as Old City, at 2nd and Market streets, then moved to 5th and Chestnut streets when the Independence Hall complex was built. Center Square remained unused countryside, waiting for expansion. 

Planning for Philadelphia's City Hall began before 1870, when a commission was established to oversee the construction of new public buildings. John McArthur, Jr. was decided upon to be the architect with Thomas U. Walter’s assistance. Work began a year later, in 1871, and the building was completed in its entirety thirty years later. During this long construction period many scandals of mismanagement and corruption spread. The press often referred to the building as a "marble elephant" and "the Temple of the Taxpayers". The public’s disposition of the City hall grew hostile. The work continued and City Hall was fully erected in final completion by 1901. However problems did not cease for the new building.  

City Hall's architecture is of the elaborate Victorian style referred to as French Second Empire. This style was unique to Philadelphia at this time. The initial inspiration arose from the Palais des Tuileries and the New Louvre in Paris which influenced the building's design. Because of its elaborate architecture City Hall was highly controversial from its completion. Many proposals to demolish City Hall were made. The most recent of these was considered in the 1950's. Demolition of the building was looked into, but given that the cost would have been twenty-five million dollars, which was equivalent to the amount that was spent to build City Hall, the building was saved. Once demoed, there would not have been enough money left to build a new City Hall, which would have left Philadelphia without. 
City Hall was originally designed to be the world's tallest building, but because of its long construction time, by the time it was finally completed it had already been surpassed by the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower. It did however remained to be the tallest in in Philadelphia until 1987, when a long-standing "gentlemen's agreement," was broken. This agreement discouraged constructing higher than Penn's hat. The sixty-one-story construction of Liberty Place, was the first of many build above and beyond this agreement

Today, Philadelphia City Hall is the center of Philadelphia's government and politics, and has been the focal point of Philadelphia itself for more than a century. The building takes up an entire city block, containing over 14.5 acres of floor space. With close to 700 rooms, the building houses three branches of government, the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch and the Judicial Branch's Civil Courts. Consequently, City Hall's interior is constantly being worked with. While the hallways and many rooms have been altered with dropped ceilings and new lighting, as well as many rooms having their original walls covered with wood paneling or sheet rock, a number of the building's most important rooms have been preserved or restored. 

The building's walls face each point of the compass and are arranged in a square shape. The large arched entryways open at the center of each facade, leading inward to a large open central public courtyard. The north side is also where the famous tower is located rising 548 feet above the ground, terminating at the top of the hat on William Penn's statue. Just below the statue is the visitors' observation deck, approximately forty stories above the ground. 

The truth is that City Hall currently fails William Penn’s plan to be the cultural, social and commercial heart of Philadelphia. There are many problems that arise outside and within the walls of City Hall. There are many level changes outside the Hall that tend to be confusing and make it impossible for those with disabilities to enter. There is no clear entrance to the transportation center below and offers only vacant and isolated arcades that commuters must walk through to get to the concourse. It is seen as more of a granite labyrinth that temporally house the homeless. Only the protestors from Philadelphia's Occupy Wall Street have made the most of the square which is possibly the most City Hall has ever been used in its 40 years. 

The future of City Hall seems to differ greatly from its current use now. An urban renewal project is in the midst seen to be completed in early 2014. This major makeover is to be done by Philadelphia-based architecture and landscape architecture firms OLIN and KieranTimberlake. They plan to rejuvenate this historic civic space in more ways than one. Construction on the new plaza will feature amenities such as: a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, a large lawn, a fountain, tree groves, space for events and a new gateway to and from the transportation center below. This new and flexible design allows for it as paved surface to accommodate a variety of activities including concerts, special events, public markets, winter ice-skating, and free screenings of live performances at the Kimmel Center, movies and sports on large digital screens.