The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts: An Ideal and a Symbol

By 1805, the year the Pennsylvania Acad­emy of the Fine Arts was founded, Phila­delphia had achieved a large measure of political, social and economic stability. It had been the nation’s capital and contin­ued to thrive as a center of banking and commerce. The largest city in the United States at the opening of the nineteenth century, it was arguably the center of culture, with Boston its...
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The Fairmount Water Works: “One of the Very Prettiest Spots the Eye Can Look Upon”

Error and the human condition, being bound tightly together, generally keep a sullen kind of company. Yet as unpromising as that pair might seem, their offspring sometimes attain startling beauty. Certainly the grace and charm of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Water Works, on the east bank of the Schuylkill River, derive both from the human condition and the fitful attempts to improve it....
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A Farewell to Arms: The Passing of the Philadelphia Navy Yard

Not only is the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, established in 1794, the oldest naval shipyard in the country’s history, but it is distinguished as the oldest continually operated public – that is, government – shipyard in the United States. The history of this sprawling complex is an integral part of both state and local heri­tage, as well as of the founding of the United States...
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Current and Coming

Mammoth Scale Sometime about 1808, renowned Philadelphia physician Caspar Wistar (1761-1818) – for whom the city’s Wistar Institute is named – asked sculptor William Rush (1756-1833) to create a series of large-scale anatomical models. Rush, known chiefly as a maker of civic statuary and ships’ figureheads, responded with the strangest works of his career: a massive inner...
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The Watering of Philadelphia

In the glory days of the early republic, the Fairmount Water Works was one Philadelphia’s most famous landmarks: a marvel of engineering, scenic beauty, stylish design, and civic mindedness. It was built for the most practical of purposes – to provide a clean and plentiful supply of that most essential elixir: fresh water. Today, Philadelphian’s are blessed with one of the best...
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Two Hundred Years and Counting – The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Two centuries ago, on Thursday, Decem­ber 26, 1805, seventy-one individuals gathered at the State House (now Independence Hall) to formally establish an art institution for Philadelphia. Meetings throughout the summer had led to the drafting of a charter, formation of a board of directors, and the collection of funds for a building. By the day after Christmas, a professional calligraph­er had...
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Old World Influences on Pennsylvania Gardens

Quaker merchants who followed founder William Penn (1644-1718) to his beloved colony planted formal, English-style gardens amidst the native forest landscape. An ornamental garden suitable for a family of means in Great Britain in the seventeenth century consisted of a residence with a series of three terraces descending from the rear elevation. The upper terrace, often used as an extension of...
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Bookshelf

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: 200 Years of Excellence Edited by Jane Watkins 2005 (312 pages; cloth, $80.00; paper, $60.00) Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: 200 Years of Excellence is difficult to summarize without relying on superlatives to describe its richness in both text and illustration. The hefty volume is elegantly designed, brimming with color and insightful narrative....
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