Thursday, May 16, 2013

Philadelphia Mini Trip, May 2013 - Day 1

Eastern State Penitentiary, Guard Tower

Last week I took a trip to my original home city of Philadelphia. While I never actually lived within the city limits, I grew up (for the first 14 years of my life) just a couple miles from the city line of Northwest Philly. My dad's family lived in Germantown and my aunt still lives in Mt. Airy. So as a kid we went into the city a lot from the 'burbs. But since moving away in 1985, I'd only been back into Center City a couple of times, and not really for sightseeing purposes. I took my British friend Simon to Philly a couple of times to ride the streetcars in the early part of the 2000s and since then, a couple of Phillies games, and a concert at the Tin Angel in Old City were the only recent reasons I visited. So I went back for a few days last week to catch up on the sights.

The first thing I wanted to see was the "urban ruin" of Eastern State Penitentiary. Located pretty close to the heart of the city just north of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Eastern State has been closed since the late 1960s and is now in kind of a ruinous state. But that's what makes it cool. Al Capone stayed at Eastern State and he had a bit of special treatment, as you can see from the "reconstruction" of his cell.

Cell corridor at Eastern State

Al Capone's cell at Eastern State

After visiting Eastern State, I had a timed ticket for the Barnes Foundation art collection. The story of the Barnes is pretty well known so I won't spend too much time on it (no photos anyway). The collection moved from a mansion in Merion to a new building on the Parkway after a court battle to challenge provisions in Barnes' will. The new building has more amenities and allows more people to view the collection, but the galleries themselves are the same size as the old building and the paintings hung in the same haphazard manner. Even with the timed tickets it is crowded. Maybe they should have tried, in their court battle, to be allowed to rehang the collection in a more spacious setting. They do have a lot of beautiful and famous artworks, mostly from the French impressionist and post-impressionists, Cezanne, Renoir, Matisse, Monet, Seurat.  Here's Seurat's "The Models" (Les Poseuses).

Seurat "Les Poseuses" at the Barnes - public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

After the Barnes, I poked my head into the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, which is the largest Catholic church in Pennsylvania. It was built in 1864.

Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul

The last thing for the day was to revisit the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which I'd been to a few times as a kid. Not much has changed there!  The museum is open late on Wednesdays and has a lot of family oriented things to do. It's also free on Wednesdays after 5:00. Philadelphia is famous, of course, for its favorite art son, Thomas Eakins. Here's his a detail of his "Agnew Clinic" (1889) at the Museum of Art. His more famous "Gross Clinic" is at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, where Eakins was an instructor.

Behind the Art Museum you can get a good view of the Schuykill River and the famous boathouses. The view looking back toward the museum is not bad either!

Fairmount Waterworks and Philadelphia Museum of Art

Finally, it was getting late and it was off to the hotel and dinner. I walked through Elfreth's Alley right at sunset. Elfreth's Alley is supposed to be the oldest continually inhabited residential street in America (and there's a house for sale on the left hand side...)

Elfreth's Alley
More Philadelphia to come. Don't worry, there will be cheesesteaks!

1 comment:

  1. Whoa, now those are some wonderful paintings! They look incredibly real as well...
    -Jackie @ PA real estate