I visited the city on Wednesday, August 9, the city being my city, Philadelphia. My husband had a meeting at his downtown office and I decided to take the ride in and go look around.
It was a beautiful day. I rarely go into Philadelphia anymore, but for many years I was here every day – I worked in several different locations (for the same employer) in Center City and in the historic district. I also drove all over the place for my job, so I know a lot about the entire city; but it’s the hub of things I want to talk about today.
On this walk, I visited two of my favorite art pieces, both public art. I’ll show you a little bit and then, if you are interested, you can find more info on the internet or…you can visit Philadelphia!
All right. We’ll start with some relief sculptures on this building.
It’s the US Courthouse (now Robert C Nix Federal Building) and the William Penn Annex of the post office. The building is quite large – it extends a half block on Market Street and goes all the way through the block to Chestnut Street.
The reliefs I am interested in are along the 9th street facade. They were the work of Edmond Amateis and commissioned by the government through the WPA to ornament this 1930’s building.
They depict mail delivery and show it taking place in far-flung locations. I have always loved these sculptures for their style and beauty, and for the idea that mail delivery unites the world, with people working hard to get a letter where it needs to go.
Here they are: they are arranged in two pairs. You will notice a difference in the look of the reliefs – two were in the sun and two in shadow.
First, the cowboy and the city postman:
Next, mail delivery in the tropics and in the far north:
Every time I am in the neighborhood I stop to take a look. For more information look here.
Now, my other favorite. It’s Dream Garden, a huge mosaic located in the lobby of the Curtis Center at 6th and Walnut Streets, right next to the Independence Hall complex. I worked in a building around the corner for some time and when I needed a respite, I’d come over and visit the mural.
It was designed by Maxfield Parrish and created by the Tiffany studios. Many many small pieces of glass, iridescent, opaque, all glowing. It was installed in 1916 in this building, at the time the home of Curtis Publishing (Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post). The building itself is fascinating and beautiful, but I am showing you just the mosaic today.
As a note – there are a lot of pictures on the internet, better than mine – here is its official entry by its owner, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
The mosaic was almost lost to the city about 20 years ago, when its owner died and the heir proposed selling it to a Las Vegas casino. In a complicated transaction with public donations and the cooperation of other beneficiaries under the will, the mosaic became the property of PAFA and is now protected as a historic object.
I noticed some “band-aids” on the mosaic that were not there when I last saw it.
A bit of research told me that construction elsewhere in the building had shaken the structure a year ago and damaged the mosaic. I can’t find details on what the restoration plan is, except that it is being studied for repair. I feel better knowing it is in the care of a museum, at least. Anyway, my pleasure was not diminished by the “band-aids”.
All right, now you’ve seen them. My favorites.