Art and Controversy in Philadelphia
The Benjamin Franklin Parkway
While we walk, I’ll give you a little background on The Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Its one of the United States’ earliest examples of urban renewal. It begins at Philadelphia’s City Hall, and ends at The Philadelphia Museum of Art.
It was originally part of a movement called City Beautiful.
At the time of The Parkway’s inception, cities were trying to move away from their previously bleak, gritty, industrial, vibes.
The City Beautiful movement set out to create places where grand architecture, art, and nature converged.
The use of neoclassical architecture was employed as a tool to stir citizens’ hearts to become more virtuous and civic minded.
Unfortunately, not much thought was given to the thousands of individuals who were displaced when many of the residential areas were demolished to make way for the new, elaborately designed Parkway.
Many gave the architects' Parkway plans mixed reviews because some found the extravagant buildings garish, and accused the City Beautiful movement of being an “architecture cult.”
The Benjamin Franklin Parkway was designed to resemble the Champs-Elysee, to give the citizens of Philadelphia a little taste of Paris.
Continuing the international theme, you'll see the Flags of the World, lining both sides of The Parkway. They were originally put up for the 1976 Bi-Centennial celebration and are still up. They serve as a reminder of the import role immigrants play in the success of the city. The countries are not chosen at random. Each flag on display represents a country that has a significant immigrant population in the City of Philadelphia.
There were more buildings planned for The Parkway, including shops and restaurants. I think most Philadelphians would find more shops and restaurants a welcomed addition, but the plans were shelved at the time of The Great Depression, due to lack of funds, and have since been abandoned all together.