Philadelphia is a city of parks, thanks to William Penn and surveyor general Thomas Holme's ingenious planning in 1682. But a lot of the city's green spaces have changed since then. Last May, Curbed Philly featured the transformations of five well-known Philly parks, showcasing how Fairmount Park, Rittenhouse Square, and other public spaces have evolved from long ago to today.
But five parks wasn’t enough, so here’s another round of before-and-afters of old and new green spaces, from the iconic Logan Circle to the small but significant Louis I. Kahn Park at 11th and Pine.
Logan Circle—It may be a circle today, but this iconic public space was one of William Penn’s original five squares, called Northwest Square. Pictured here in 1929, Logan Circle had a harrowing beginning: The site first served as an execution spot and burial ground. In the early 1900s, architect Jacques Gréber re-designed the square into Logan Circle with the Swann Fountain as part of the construction of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. More recently, there’s been some push from the public to turn the circle back into a square.
Devil’s Pool—Locals have been (illegally) swimming in Philly’s most popular watering hole for decades. Legend has it that the aqua-colored pool in the Wissahickon got its name from the Native American Lenape tribe, who allegedly considered it a spiritual site for good and evil. In this photo taken in 1898, visitors stand on top of the wooden bridge that was a popular jump-off spot into the pool. Today, a much taller stone bridge has taken its place, so most jumping takes place on the cliffs.
Washington Square—Clearly, not much has changed at Washington Square. The green oasis was another one of William Penn’s original five squares, dubbed Southeast Square. And like Logan Circle, it served as a burial ground, especially during the American Revolutionary War. It wasn’t until 1825 that the square was renamed to honor President George Washington. Today, it’s the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and surrounded by a mix of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century buildings, including the historic Curtis Center.
Louis I. Kahn Park—The corner of 11th and Pine streets has undergone one of the most drastic transformations. Initially, the grand Gladstone Hotel (also known as the Greystone Luxury Hotel) stood here until it was demolished in 1971. The low-maintenance concrete park that followed memorialized the Philly-based architect, and a group of residents have worked to improve the corner and turn it into the lush, inviting space it is today.
Drexel Park—This 2.5-acre park in West Philly offers one of the best views of the city skyline, but that wasn’t always the case. Originally, it was home to Consolidated Laundry company, featured on the left side of the street in this photo taken in 1927. When the building was razed, there were talks of building student apartments on the empty lot, but residents pushed for Drexel University to turn the site into a neighborhood park instead. It officially opened in 2008 and cost $500,000 to build.
- Philadelphia Parks: Then and Now [Curbed Philly]
- Remembering Independence Hall through the years [Curbed Philly]
- Bartram's Garden unveils 19th-century flower garden makeover [Curbed Philly]