Penn & the Making of University City

  • November 18, 2018
  • 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
  • Meet on the northeast corner of 40th and Baltimore (3940 Baltimore in Google Maps)
  • 14

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The University of Pennsylvania’s leafy campus looks like its been there since the Ivy League school’s founding, but in fact it is a recent creation. Between 1955 and 1975 Penn worked with City and State officials to radically transform the area between 32nd to 40th, and Spruce to Market, closing streets, undergrounding the Woodland Avenue trolley line and tearing down numerous row houses, including much of the neighborhood known as the “Black Bottom.” This tour will explore how Penn used the powerful mechanisms of urban renewal created after World War II to acquire land and fund new construction for the rapidly growing university. We’ll also take a look at the evolution of Penn’s relationship with the surrounding community, from the defensive urbanism of the 70s and 80s to the creation of the Penn Alexander School and housing subsidy program for university employees during the presidency of Judy Rodin.

But let’s not forget the architecture! Penn’s campus features some of Philly’s most magnificent buildings, including the Fisher Fine Arts Library designed by Frank Furness (we’ll peak our heads in), College Hall and the Quadrangle Dormitories. It is also home to some unfortunate examples of 1960s brutalism, along with quite a bit of new construction.

Don’t miss this chance to learn about how Philadelphia’s most prestigious and powerful institution reshaped its surroundings. We promise you’ll never look at University City the same way again!

Tour guide Adam Clements moved to Philly from New England to attend La Salle University, where he earned an MA in Public History. A resident of West Philly for almost a decade, he is fascinated with the neighborhoods of this city: how they started, what made them change, and where they are headed.


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