Philadelphia is chock-full of exciting and unique landmarks, sights, and experiences including Independence Hall, the Magic Gardens and the LOVE Statue. These, among several other distinct characteristics, are part of what helps maintain the City’s identity. But, have you ever done a deeper dive into what Philadelphia has to offer? Here is a list of six (somewhat) hidden gems that are undoubtedly worth checking out.
22nd and Ellsworth Streets, South Philadelphia
Philadelphia is a city full of intricate murals, all with their own story to tell; and the We The Youth mural is no exception. Created in 1987, this South Philly mural is the only Keith Haring collaborative public mural remaining intact and in its original location. Haring created this piece in collaboration with CityKids of New York and Brandywine Workshop in Philadelphia.
Due to recent damage, the mural has undergone restoration which was facilitated by funding from the Keith Haring Foundation. Mural Arts Philadelphia, the nation’s largest public art program, has adopted the piece as part of its restoration program. The bright colors and cartoon-like shapes set this mural apart from other artwork in Philadelphia. There are tables and benches available for visitors to sit, relax and enjoy. So if you’re in the area, make sure to stop by and take in this distinctive piece.
Cira Centre South, 129 S. 30th Street, University City
If you’re someone who is constantly looking for the best views in Philadelphia, look no further. Cira Green is a one-acre urban park available for public use 95 feet above street level. This green space will give you some of the best views of Center City, University City, and the Schuylkill River. Cira Green in total cost $12 million and was constructed by Roofmeadow, a seven-member landscape architecture and engineering firm, and Erdy McHenry Architecture.
It provides residents and visitors with a peaceful outdoor space. Bring your pet, yoga mat, favorite book, or just yourself; Cira Green is adaptable for all of your favorite activities. Occasionally, free exercise classes are held here and word on the street is there is a new beer garden coming soon. To access the green, enter the parking garage below and take the elevator. The park is open until 10 pm in the summer, so make sure to enjoy the view while the weather is still warm!
4000 Woodland Avenue, University City/West Philadelphia
The Woodlands is 54 acres in total, including an 18th century English pleasure garden, 19th century rural cemetery, and a modern green oasis. It has been named a National Historic Landmark District in recognition of its history and available resources. In addition, the Woodlands is an educational resource for local children, community residents, university students, and scholars looking to learn more about American architectural and botanical history, urban development and the origin and growth of West Philly.
Aside from education, the Woodlands serves as a center for various activities and programs that celebrate and make available the historic buildings and serene green space. It is open daily from dusk to dawn and offers one of the nation’s most sophisticated neoclassical houses from the years following the American Revolution.
1707 Chestnut Street, Center City
If you work or live in Center City, you may have heard of this small space tucked away between Chestnut and Ranstead Streets. John F. Collins Park is a quiet hideaway in the heart of Center City’s business and retail district. If you’re not actively looking, you could pass by several times without noticing it’s even there. Throughout the week, people often eat lunch and relax here, and during the summer, you can find a wine garden every Wednesday through Friday evening.
The park was proposed by Dorothy Haas in the 1970s and designed principally by John Collins of the Delta Group. The William Penn Foundation helped fund its construction and it was officially dedicated to Collins in 1979. In 2010, the park’s ownership was transferred to the Center City District and has been restored with the help of the William Penn Foundation. If you’re in the area and looking for a safe haven from the hustle and bustle of the city, this is the perfect place.
Curtis Building Lobby, 6th and Walnut Streets, Center City/Old City
The Dream Garden Mosaic is an astonishing mural composed of hundreds of thousands of irreplaceable glass tesserae in more than 260 color tones. This piece of art is the only collaboration between Maxfield Parrish and glass master Louis Comfort Tiffany, making it one-of-a-kind. It was installed in 1916 and weighs over four tons.
A long history exists behind this mosaic, which begins with a potential anonymous buyer hoping to move it from its original location. With a desire to keep the mosaic in its rightful place, it was designated the City’s first “historic object” by the Philadelphia Historical Commission. After years of back and forth between the City, protestors, and hopeful buyers, Pew Charitable Trusts agreed to provide the necessary funds to buy out the patrons in 2001. The mural was then turned over to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts with an understanding that it would remain in its original location for more than a century.
5800 Germantown Avenue, Germantown
The Black Writers Museum (BWM) is the only museum of its kind in the United States and is located in the historic Vernon House in Vernon Park. Visitors can find exhibits of classic and contemporary Black Literature, including first edition and autographed books, rare documents, photographs, paintings, journals, magazines, and more.
The BWM is an educational institution that contains an archives, library and computer lab available for use by researchers, students, and visitors. Their mission is to inspire another generation of writers, speakers and literary geniuses that will tell the story of history from their own unique perspective. In addition, the museum is a place where visitors can explore and celebrate the history and study of Black Literature. They also host a number of events and activities that help facilitate discussion among scholars, students and those interested in Black Literature. BWM is a proud client of ESI from 2017.
Philadelphia has a wide array of secret, hidden, or generally unknown places and sights that are worth investigating. If you haven’t heard of one or more of the locations mentioned, take some time to explore and enjoy what the city has to offer. If you have visited each of these places, do a little digging on your own and get to know a little more about this great city we call home.
Emma Hart is a Drexel Co-Op student working as a Marketing Assistant at ESI. Ms. Hart is a Communications major with a concentration in Public Relations and will return to Drexel in the fall for her senior year.