Franklin Parkway Walking Tour, Philadelphia

Franklin Parkway Walking Tour (Self Guided), Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin Parkway is a scenic boulevard running through the cultural heart of Philadelphia. Named for America's Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, this mile-long tree-lined parkway is lined with several notable sights and world-class museums.

At its heart lies Logan Circle, a charming green space centered around a picturesque fountain. This spot can provide a refreshing break on a hot summer day.

As you stroll along Franklin Parkway, you'll inevitably come across the Shakespeare Memorial, a tribute to the renowned English playwright.

Further down the road, proudly stands the All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors. This solemn monument honors the bravery and sacrifice of African American soldiers and sailors who served in various conflicts throughout American history.

One of the parkway's highlights is the Franklin Institute Science Museum – a great destination for those interested in hands-on exhibits and engaging displays.

Nearby, you will find the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, which pays homage to one of the Founding Fathers and a key figure in American history.

Art enthusiasts can explore the Barnes Foundation and the Rodin Museum, both housing impressive collections of art and sculpture. These cultural institutions offer a unique and enriching experience for visitors, making them must-visit locations on the parkway.

The grand finale of your journey leads you to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art. Known for the famous "Rocky Steps" and its vast art collections, this cultural gem captivates art lovers and admirers of the city alike.

In essence, Franklin Parkway is a treasure trove of culture, history, and art in Philadelphia. So, follow this self-guided walk to appreciate its remarkable landmarks on your next trip to the city. Franklin Parkway promises an exciting adventure!
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Franklin Parkway Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Franklin Parkway Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Philadelphia (See other walking tours in Philadelphia)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Logan Circle
  • Shakespeare Memorial
  • All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors
  • The Franklin Institute Science Museum
  • Benjamin Franklin National Memorial
  • Barnes Foundation
  • Rodin Museum
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
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Logan Circle

1) Logan Circle

Logan Circle, also known as Logan Square, is an open-space park located in the northwest quadrant of Center City Philadelphia. It holds a special place in the city's layout as one of the five original squares planned in the city grid. This park is not just a green space but also a historic area, having been part of William Penn's original 1684 plan for Philadelphia. Originally named "Northwest Square," it was renamed in 1825 to honor James Logan, a prominent Philadelphia statesman.

The park's most striking feature is the Logan Circle, a beautifully designed circular area that features a large water fountain. This circle is the centerpiece of the park and is surrounded by a traffic circle that carries 19th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. These roads provide connections to 18th and 20th Streets on the east and west, and Race and Vine Streets to the south and north. The circle is situated within the original boundaries of the square, which is why the terms Logan Square and Logan Circle are often used interchangeably when referring to the park.

Logan Square is not just a place of beauty and history but also the heart of its namesake neighborhood, playing a central role in the community. In recognition of its historical and cultural significance, Logan Square was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, underlining its importance not only to Philadelphia but also as a part of national heritage.
2
Shakespeare Memorial

2) Shakespeare Memorial

The Shakespeare Memorial in Philadelphia stands as a testament to the city's appreciation of the Bard's literary genius. Conceived in 1892 by artist John Sartain, a member of the Fairmount Park Art Association (now known as the Association for Public Art), the idea was to honor William Shakespeare through a monument funded by public and private subscriptions. However, it wasn't until the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 1916 that this concept gained significant momentum, highlighting Philadelphia's need for a Shakespearean tribute.

By 1917, sufficient funds had been raised for the memorial. The development of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during this time led to the commissioning of Alexander Stirling Calder for the project. Calder, renowned for his other local works such as the Swann Memorial Fountain and the Calder Statues, was chosen to bring this vision to life.

The original location for the memorial was in front of the Free Library. The sculpture was cast in 1926 by the Roman Bronze Works and was officially dedicated on April 23, 1929, coinciding with Shakespeare’s birthday. However, due to expressway construction, the memorial was relocated in 1953 to its current position.

The sculpture itself is a poignant representation of Shakespeare's themes of Comedy and Tragedy. It features two figures: Hamlet, depicted in a moment of introspection with his head resting against a knife, and Touchstone, the jester from "As You Like It," captured in a moment of laughter at Hamlet's feet. The base of the sculpture bears the famous quote from "As You Like It": “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players,” encapsulating the essence of Shakespeare's perception of life and human experience.
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All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors

3) All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors

The All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors in Philadelphia is a war memorial dedicated to honoring African American servicemen from Pennsylvania who participated in American conflicts ranging from the American Revolutionary War to World War I. This memorial was crafted by the sculptor J. Otto Schweizer and officially dedicated on July 7, 1934. In 1994, it was relocated from West Fairmount Park to a more prominent spot along Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Logan Square.

The structure of the monument is impressive in size, standing approximately 21.5 feet (6.55 meters) tall, and rests on a base that is about 17 feet (5.18 meters) wide and 13.5 feet (4.11 meters) deep. Constructed primarily from granite, the monument features bronze sculptures as integral parts of its design.

The front side of the monument is adorned with a "conspicuously Caucasian" female figure representing Justice, who is depicted holding a laurel wreath in each hand, symbolizing Honor and Reward. Accompanying this figure are military personnel, with two soldiers and a sailor on her right, and three soldiers on her left, all donned in World War I uniforms.

In contrast, the reverse side of the monument showcases four Caucasian female figures embodying War, Liberty, Peace, and Plenty. Additionally, this side includes a dedication plaque and a bas-relief of the Seal of Pennsylvania. The monument is topped with four American eagles, symbolically guarding The Torch of Life. Each of the bronze figures incorporated in the memorial is approximately 6 feet (1.83 meters) tall.

The All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors stands as a poignant tribute to the contributions and sacrifices of African American servicemen in the history of the United States military.
4
The Franklin Institute Science Museum

4) The Franklin Institute Science Museum (must see)

The Franklin Institute Science Museum, named in honor of the renowned American scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin, stands as a hallmark of science education and development in the United States. Established in 1824, it is one of the country's oldest institutions dedicated to science. Located in Philadelphia, the museum also includes the esteemed Benjamin Franklin National Memorial.

The Science Center within the museum caters to a diverse audience, offering exhibitions that appeal to both adults and children. The first floor is particularly notable for its focus on space and includes a Planetarium, providing an immersive experience into the wonders of the cosmos. On the second floor, visitors will find a gift shop along with two interactive and educational exhibits, one about the brain and the other about the heart, both designed to be engaging and informative. The third floor takes a deep dive into the world of inventions and machines, featuring fun educational games that illuminate the creative process behind technological advancements. For those interested in astronomy, the fourth floor houses an observatory equipped with a large telescope, offering a closer look at the night sky.

Adding to the museum's historical significance is the Budd BB-1 Pioneer, displayed prominently in front of the museum. This aircraft, notable for being the first stainless steel airplane, was built by the Edward F. Budd Manufacturing Corporation and has been a part of the museum's exhibit since 1935.

Furthermore, The Franklin Institute is renowned for its longstanding commitment to recognizing excellence in science and technology. Since its inception in 1824, it has administered the longest continuously awarded science and technology awards program in the United States and one of the oldest globally. This tradition underscores the institute's ongoing dedication to fostering scientific inquiry and education.
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Benjamin Franklin National Memorial

5) Benjamin Franklin National Memorial

The Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, a significant monument to one of America's most illustrious figures, is located within the rotunda of the Franklin Institute science museum in Philadelphia. This monumental site features a grand statue of Benjamin Franklin, renowned as an American writer, inventor, statesman, and one of the Founding Fathers. Crafted by James Earle Fraser, the statue stands impressively at 20 feet (approximately 6.1 meters) in height. Fraser worked on this project from 1906 to 1911, with the memorial being officially dedicated in 1938.

This enormous statue weighs about 30 short tons and is perched on a pedestal made from white Seravezza marble, itself weighing 92 short tons. The statue is the centerpiece of Memorial Hall in the Franklin Institute, an architectural wonder designed by John Windrim and inspired by the Roman Pantheon.

Significant enhancements were made to the memorial in 2008. These improvements included a restoration project that saw the introduction of a multi-media presentation, titled "Benjamin Franklin Forever." This 3½-minute show leverages digital projection, theatrical lighting, and audio effects to celebrate Franklin's legacy.

Additionally, the refurbishment enhanced the acoustics and incorporated state-of-the-art LED lighting. The oculus of the memorial was also restored and re-gilded to its original splendor. An engaging aspect of the memorial is the projection of Franklin's quotes onto the walls throughout the day.
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Barnes Foundation

6) Barnes Foundation (must see)

The Barnes Foundation, situated in Philadelphia, is a renowned art collection and educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation for art and horticulture. Founded in 1922 by Albert C. Barnes, who gained wealth from co-developing Argyrol, an antiseptic silver compound, the Barnes Foundation has a rich history. Barnes, known for his business savvy, sold A.C. Barnes Company before the 1929 stock market crash. He initially founded the Foundation in Merion, but in 2012, the collection moved to a new facility on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.

Today, the Barnes Foundation is home to an extraordinary collection, encompassing over 4,000 objects. This includes a remarkable array of over 900 paintings, with an estimated value of around $25 billion. The collection is particularly noted for its extensive array of works by Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Modernist masters. This includes a significant number of pieces by Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso, along with a specially commissioned large mural by Henri Matisse, made explicitly for The Barnes. Beyond these, the collection is also rich in other European and American paintings, showcasing the breadth and diversity of art history.

Moreover, the Barnes Foundation's collection extends beyond these well-known Western artworks. It also houses a significant compilation of African art, antiquities from ancient civilizations such as China, Egypt, and Greece, and Native American art, reflecting a global perspective and a deep appreciation for various artistic expressions across cultures and time periods. The Foundation, thus, stands as a testament to the vision of Albert C. Barnes and continues to be a pivotal institution in the world of art and education.
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Rodin Museum

7) Rodin Museum (must see)

The Rodin Museum, situated in Philadelphia, is an art museum that boasts one of the largest collections of the renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin's creations outside of Paris.

The museum was established as a gift to the city of Philadelphia by Jules Mastbaum (1872–1926), a prominent figure in the movie theater industry. In 1923, Mastbaum embarked on a mission to collect Rodin's works with the goal of creating a museum to enhance the cultural life of the city's residents. In just three years, he managed to assemble an impressive collection of Rodin's pieces, including bronze sculptures, plaster studies, drawings, prints, letters, and books. In 1926, Mastbaum enlisted the services of French architects Paul Cret and Jacques Gréber to design the museum building and its surrounding gardens. Unfortunately, Mastbaum did not live to see his vision come to fruition, but his widow, Etta Wedell Mastbaum, upheld his commitment to the city, and the museum officially opened its doors on November 29, 1929. Notably, the museum features murals created by the painter Franklin C. Watkins.

Prominently displayed in the museum's entry courtyard is one of Rodin's most famous works, "The Thinker" (1880–1882). Previously, visitors would enter through a replica of "The Gates of Hell," situated at the main entrance, which is no longer in use. This colossal bronze doorway, standing at a height of 5.5 meters, was initially conceived for the Museum of Decorative Arts, originally intended for Paris but never realized. Rodin meticulously sculpted over 100 figures for these doors from 1880 until his passing in 1917. The casting on display at the Rodin Museum is one of only three originals. Several of Rodin's iconic pieces, including "The Thinker," were initially conceived as studies for these doors and later evolved into independent works of art.

Throughout the museum's various rooms, visitors can explore a diverse array of Rodin's creations, including notable pieces such as "The Kiss" (1886), "Eternal Springtime" (1884), "The Age of Bronze" (1875–76), and "The Burghers of Calais," a monument commissioned by the City of Calais in 1884.
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Philadelphia Museum of Art

8) Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, with its roots dating back to 1876 as part of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, stands as a significant cultural landmark. The main building, completed in 1928 on Fairmount, crowns the northwest end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at Eakins Oval. This prestigious institution is renowned for its expansive collection, which encompasses over 240,000 objects. The collection's diversity is impressive, featuring major works of European, American, and Asian origin across various mediums such as sculpture, paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, armor, and decorative arts.

Beyond its main building, the museum extends its reach through several annexes. Notably, the Rodin Museum, also situated on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, located just north across the street from the main building, expand the museum's offerings. The Perelman Building, opened in 2007, is particularly notable for housing an extensive collection of over 150,000 prints, drawings, and photographs, along with 30,000 costume and textile items, and more than 1,000 modern and contemporary design objects, including furniture, ceramics, and glasswork.

The museum's scope extends to the historic colonial-era houses of Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove, both nestled within Fairmount Park. These houses add a historical dimension to the museum's diverse portfolio. Owned by the City of Philadelphia, the main museum building and its annexes are managed by a registered nonprofit corporation. The museum is not just a repository of art but also a vibrant center for cultural exchange, hosting several special exhibitions each year. These include touring exhibitions in collaboration with other museums both in the United States and internationally.

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