Tagged: Philadelphia

Happy Independence Day!


Fireworks over Washington, DC. Image via Reality Defined

Nation building results in icons – places of national memory.  In the United States, some of the places and icons most closely associated with its struggle for independence and freedom are the Philadelphia State House (now Independence Hall), the Liberty Bell, The Star Spangled Banner, and the Washington Monument.  Click through for more information on these international symbols of America.  I hope everyone has a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Independence Hall: International Symbol of Freedom

“Known today as Independence Hall, the stately, red brick building where our Founding Fathers made a stand against tyranny and later forged a framework for a national government speaks timelessly of freedom, democracy, and the human spirit. The enduring principles and philosophies expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have inspired numerous countries around the globe over the past two centuries. Recognizing the impact Independence Hall has had on governments worldwide, the United Nations made the building a World Heritage Site in 1979. This designation testifies that Independence Hall is an important part of the world’s cultural heritage and deserves to be protected for future generations.”

The Liberty Bell: From Obscurity to Icon

“Residents of Philadelphia in 1776 would not have been able to direct a visitor to the “Liberty Bell.” It was there–ringing out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House–but it had yet to be transformed into an international symbol of liberty. By the time the grandchildren of those early Philadelphians were grandparents themselves, however, they could easily have directed a visitor to the site of the famous Liberty Bell. It was still housed at the old State House, but by then the building had been renamed Independence Hall.”

“The Rocket’s Red Glare”: Francis Scott Key and the Bombardment of Fort Henry

“Key wrote his poem in 1814, in the last year of the War of 1812.  The United States had declared war on Great Britain in June 1812.  At first, the British were too busy fighting the French to devote much energy to the pesky Americans.  Once Napoleon abdicated in April 1814, the British set out to teach their former colonies a lesson.  In August, fifty ships sailed up Chesapeake Bay.  After occupying Washington on August 24, and burning the Capitol, the White House, and other public buildings, the British turned their attention northward.  Fort McHenry stood between the British navy and the city of Baltimore.  When the fort refused to be subdued, the ships sailed away, to the cheers of the defenders.  For many Americans, the War of 1812 was the “Second War of Independence.”

Few people remember the War of 1812 today, but the poem it inspired, almost immediately set to music as “The Star Spangled Banner,” has become the national anthem of the United States and a potent source of inspiration and community for Americans in times of crisis.”

The Washington Monument: A Tribute in Stone

“It rises tall and brilliant, its whiteness emphasized by the green grass and colorful flags that surround it. It stands at the heart of Washington, D.C., near the center of a cross formed by four of America’s most famous buildings: the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and the Jefferson Memorial.

But appearance and location are not the only reasons that the Washington Monument is one of the country’s most recognizable structures. Its prominence comes also because it commemorates George Washington, who remains one of the country’s most admired leaders more than two centuries after his death. The history of the monument reflects his contributions to the development of the United States and shows how Americans have debated the best way to honor important citizens.”

What places do you associate with the Fourth of July,with the United States, with freedom?

A Man Full of Trouble

Film and preservation often work hand in hand. Mad Men brought renewed interest to Mid-Century Modern. Downton Abbey helped save Highclere Castle and other English estates.  Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby has already inspired countless Art Deco retrospectives and it hasn’t even opened yet!  And right now in Philadelphia, a local film student is using his thesis project to marry comedy, history and preservation.

Writer/director and Temple University student Michael Johnston’s dark comedy about a suicidal Alexander Hamilton re-enactor not only promises to be a wickedly funny and clever indie short, but it is making strides toward preserving a Philadelphia landmark, The Woodlands Historic Mansion, Cemetery and Landscape.

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A still from a test shoot at The Woodlands. Image via A Man Full of Trouble

A Man Full of Trouble explores the life of Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father and part of the first American sex scandal, through the eyes of Nick Crane, a career Hamilton impersonator who is cut from the Constitutional Convention re-enactment because he berates tourists who misidentify him (which is often in a city dominated by Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson), and he attacks his fellow impersonators when they stray from the facts! Nick soon finds comfort in a beautiful woman with an  Alexander Hamilton fetish and unknowingly re-enacts Hamilton’s infamous  sex scandal .

Johnston says of his inspiration, “I wanted to write a film that explored and expressed Philadelphia’s history and architecture. Hamilton’s famous sex scandal with Maria Reynolds took place right down the street from my apartment. The story and the film’s visual style enable me to show off Philadelphia in a way I never could previously. The locations, interior and exterior, provide beautiful pathways (sometimes treacherous, ankle-twisting cobblestone streets) into Philadelphia’s colonial past.”


Researching at Temple University. Image via A Man Full of Trouble

The majority of the project will be filmed at The Woodlands, an elegant eighteenth-century neoclassical mansion on the west bank of the Schuylkill River.  Originally a classical villa with a two-story columned portico overlooking the waterway, it was enlarged in the style of British architects Robert and James Adam in 1786. It is perhaps the earliest full realization of the Federal style in the US.  Johnston calls it, “the perfect location for the film.”

The Woodlands is  intrinsic to the project. Not only is the film highlighting this National Historic Landmark by shooting on location but it is actively raising funds and awareness for The Woodlands ongoing restoration and preservation. It is featured prominently on the film’s website, Facebook page, and in media coverage.  Location fees are going directly toward restoration/preservation projects.  Additionally, the premiere party for A Man Full of Trouble will be held at The Woodlands and will double as a fundraiser for the historic landmark!


The Woodlands Mansion, Cemetery and Landscape. Image via Hidden City Philadelphia

The Woodlands is just one of several historic locations Johnston plans to film.  Other locations include Independence Hall, the Powel House, the Second Bank of the United States, and Society Hill. When asked about the “take away” for the film, producer David Leith Fraser remarked,  “The film examines one man’s conflict and the ending of the film will elicit different responses from different people. If I had to choose one, I would say the film asks that we study and preserve our history.”

If you’d like to support the making of this  film, visit its Indiegogo page and contribute!  After all, as Johnston says, “By supporting our film, you’re not only helping us rent our location, you’re also contributing to restoration and preservation of a gorgeous piece of architectural history.”

This Week

A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the newsClick on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.

Never-before-seen photos from 100 years ago tell vivid story of gritty New York City – Daily Mail


“Building roads: Workers lay bricks to pave 28th Street in Manhattan on October 2, 1930.” Image via Daily Mail

“Almost a million images of New York and its municipal operations have been made public for the first time on the internet…  Culled from the Municipal Archives collection of more than 2.2 million images going back to the mid-1800s, the 870,000 photographs feature all manner of city oversight — from stately ports and bridges to grisly gangland killings.” This photo database has the potential to be an amazing resource for researchers! Not only will it be easy to find images of buildings and streets, but the photos also contain clues about  how people lived: the food they ate, the prices they paid, the clothes they wore, how they moved from place to place, how they entertained themselves, and on and on! And for the non-researcher, they are just fun to look at! Click on the link to see more images!

Put A Bird On It – True Adventures of an Art Addict


40,000 Year Old Rock Art Site Depicts Extinct Bird. Image via News Junkie Post

Artist Sharmon Davidson explores the current cultural obsession with birds in art and its deep historical roots.  Did you know that what may be the earliest rock pictograph ever uses a bird image?! Click on the link to learn more!

A Man Full of Trouble – Indiegogo

man full

Image via A Man Full of Trouble

You may have seen this quirky dark comedy on Bricks + Mortar’s Facebook page yesterday. The film, Temple University student Michael Johnston’s thesis project,  follows the story of a suicidal Alexander Hamilton re-enactor as he’s entangled in a love affair and gears up for a duel.  According to Johnston, he wanted to make a film “that explored and expressed Philadelphia’s history and architecture.” To that end, the film is using several area locations for shooting, including the Woodlands Mansion and Cemetery. Shooting fees and donations raised at the film’s premier party/fundraiser at the mansion will benefit on-going restoration of the National Historic Landmark! Check out the link to learn more about A Man Full of Trouble and how you can help Johnston and his team make this film and restore Woodland Mansion!

The Lavish Sets of the Great Gatsby– Architectural Digest


Jay Gatsby’s opulent ballroom. Image via Architectural Digest

Look at the photograph above… do I really need to say more? Click through for more photos of Gatbsy’s mansion, the Buchanan’s house, Nick’s cottage and more!


Did You Know?: New Year Edition

Did you know that one of the longest running New Year traditions in the United States is a wild, colorful Mardi Gras-esque parade in Philadelphia?

mummers 094

Scene from 2012 Mummers Parade. Image vie Margaret Montet (click through for more photos of last year’s festivities)

Officially recognized by the city  in 1901, the Mummers Parade has roots going back to mid-17th century. Over time it has developed into unique Philadelphia tradition – a raucous 12 hour event featuring intricate and outlandish costumes, dedicated bands and a contest.  If you are in the Philly area today, be sure to check it out!  And if you aren’t, then you should definitely take a few minutes to enjoy this clip of the Mummers Parade String Bands from 1959.

Here is to a happy, healthy and bright New Year!

This Week

A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the newsClick on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.


$9 Million in Tax Credits Awarded to 7 Cincinnati Area Projects – Urban Cincy


Eden Park Pump Station Brewery. Rendering via UrbanCincy

Seven Cincinnati-area developments have been awarded nearly $9 million in tax credits from the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA) through the state’s historic preservation program. Thanks to the allotted credits, Eden Park’s 118-year-old pump station (one of my favorite Cincinnati structures) may soon see new life as a micro-brewery!


Phoenix Mayor ‘Gets’ Modern Architecture- Hello Beautiful!

Frank Lloyd Wright David and Gladys Wright house Phoenix Arizona 1952

Threatened FLW House in Phoenix. Image via Hello Beautiful!

An interesting comparison between mayoral reactions to threatened architectural treasures in Phoenix and Chicago.  Phoenix’s mayor worked to save its Frank Lloyd Wright house, while Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel came out to support the demolition of Prentice Women’s Hospital.

Philadelphia Preservation Suffers from a  “Culture of Despair” – Plan Philly

“I think the preservation needs of this city are huge. The city’s official preservation apparatus is in real trouble, and has been that way for a while. This is especially apparent to outsiders. Architectural historians marvel that buildings by nationally famous architects, like Napoleon Le Brun or Samuel Sloan, are constantly on the chopping block. But even ordinary visitors who know little or nothing about architectural history are astounded to learn that buildings like the Church of the Assumption on Spring Garden Street are in imminent danger, or that the 18th-century housing stock can come down with some regularity.

There is a real culture of despair, or resignation, when it comes to preservation in this town. It’s not that people don’t care; it’s either that they assume that the system is working, or have given up on it ever doing so.

Philadelphia has become a real can’t-do kind of place, unwilling or unable to think creatively about preservation and adaptive reuse.”

Historic Houses Struggling to Attract Visitors – The Washington Post

That historic house museums are struggling for revenue and relevance in the digital age isn’t a shock to anyone anymore. In this article, the Washington Post explores some possible solutions for adapting to a new age.