Kelly Peterson, BMC ‘ 23 & Deniz Gonen, HC ’23

Public Programming at Philadelphia City Hall

Semester: Spring 2023

Praxis Course: Praxis II – CITY 350 Urban Projects

Faculty Advisor: Jeff Cohen

Field Site: Philadelphia Visitor Center Corporation, City Hall Branch

Field Supervisor: Tomar Jackson

Praxis Poster:

Kelly Deniz Praxis Poster_Final_Resized


Further Context:

For the spring 2023 semester, we worked as Public Programming Interns for the City Hall branch of the Philadelphia Visitor Center Corporation. Our supervisor and the head of the City Hall branch, Tomar Jackson, had been looking into revamping the existing tours of City Hall. Currently, the tours take visitors around the exterior and inside. Tomar was interested in developing specialized tours that would be supplemental to the main tour. Through a lot of trial and error, we developed a walking tour that would introduce visitors to the area around City Hall, focusing on historic buildings and public art.

Our tour would proceed as follows:

    1. Start at City Hall. Visitors would learn more about the process of planning and building City Hall and how the structure disrupted the city streets and necessitated the widening of the square it is located in.
    2. South Broad Street and the Avenue of the Arts initiative: Visitors would learn about the initiatives to make the street a center of arts culture as well as become more familiar with Philadelphia’s major arts and music scenes and institutions.
    3. Corner of S. Penn Square and 15th St: Contains two major public art pieces in the area around City Hall, the Clothespin and the Triune. Here the Percent for Art ordinance would be explained, and how that has contributed to a wide variety of public art being present on Philadelphia city streets.
    4. Dilworth Park: Speak about the old Broad Street Station, which used to serve as a hub for aboveground trains, and how much of this moved underground with the creation of Penn Center and “modern” skyscraper cities.
    5. Love Park: Learning about the history of the iconic sculpture in the plaza as well as the park’s creation and its contested history as a skate park.
    6. Mole Street: a few blocks north, Mole Street is a small narrow street between North 15th and North 16th Streets. It contains a number of extremely well-preserved row houses and would serve as a spot for visitors to reflect on the architectural evolution of Center City – especially with views of Comcast Tower and other skyscrapers in the background.
    7. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA): A chance to see more public art outside the building as well as learn about its design and significance as a center of Philadelphia culture.
    8. Masonic Temple and Municipal Services Building: Discuss Masonic Temple as a structure that predates City Hall and as a building with a rich history and beautiful exterior/interior. Municipal Services Building has a plaza with two more sculptures commissioned as a part of Percent for Art, as well as a statue of Frank Rizzo that was wildly contested before its removal in 2021.
    9. End at City Hall.

Through this process, we learned a lot about Philadelphia history – both about major institutions located near City Hall and as a more “public” history through speaking to the City Hall tour guides and hearing their feedback. We also learned how complex and nuanced the process of tourmaking is, as we revised our plans numerous times due to feedback from Professor Cohen, our Praxis seminar participants, Tomar, and the other City Hall guides. While we are presenting a completed tour, we anticipate it will go through many more stages before being given to visitors. We are excited to see how our work is implemented!