5 of Philadelphia’s Most Significant Landmarks and Public Art

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Paul Farber and his team at Monument Lab specialize in helping communities dream of not just which monuments should be, but also what they could to be.


The President’s House, one of Philadelphia’s most significant landmarks, according to Paul Farber. Photograph of Mr. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

We asked Paul Farber of Monument Lab to choose five particularly significant monumental places in Philadelphia.

The President’s House

Opened in 2010, it shows where George Washington and John Adams households existed with Washington’s slave quarters. There are historical markers with the names of the nine slaves who once lived there and information about Oney Judge, who escaped. “What’s powerful about space is the story behind it,” says Farber. “It was the work of community leaders, historians and advocates who said, ‘We can’t separate these stories. The story of American freedom is also the story of slavery. The fragments of the house tell a truer story than restoration or solid architecture could. Independence National Historic Park, 6th and Market Streets, Washington Square West.

The William and Letitia Still House

In the 1850s, this little townhouse housed hundreds of escapees and their guides (including Harriet Tubman) as they fled the South. Farber’s review: “A major site in Philadelphia’s Underground Railroad history that activists fought to preserve.” 625 South Delhi Street, Bella Vista.

The John J. Wilcox Jr. Archives at the William Way LGBT Center

Archives may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of monuments, but the collection at William Way is indeed monumental. “One of the most crucial sites for learning more about LGBTQ history in the city,” says Farber, “including collections featuring materials from noted activist Gloria Casarez and the Philly AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power chapter. (ACT UP), among many others”. 1315 Spruce Street, Midtown Village.

Clothespin

Is Claes Oldenburg’s immense work of public art the simple elevation of a common object or the imposing representation of a passionate embrace? Philadelphians have been debating it for Clothespin became an indelible piece of our urban fabric in 1976. “I remember the first Monument Lab exhibit in the courtyard of City Hall in 2015, Poet Laureate Yolanda Wisher gave a talk in which she shared that for her, the clothespin symbolized home,” says Farber. “I think of his words every time I see him.” 15th and Market Streets, Downtown.

The boxers’ track

This winding path through Fairmount Park, which became a training ground for legendary Philadelphia boxers in the 20th century, was restored in the early 2000s. Farber’s take: “A place to celebrate the Philadelphia boxers of yesterday and of today, including Bennie Briscoe, Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins and Matthew Saad Muhammad, created by the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Little Giant Creative.” East Fairmount Park.

Published under the title “Monument City” in the October 2021 issue of philadelphia cream magazine.


Christopher S. Washington