A luncheon in Girard Fountain Park
after the Oct. 5, 2007, dedication of Keys To Community,
a nine-foot bronze bust of Benjamin Franklin
by sculptor James Peniston
Not to be confused with Stephen Girard Park in south Philadelphia.
Girard Fountain Park is a 0.15-acre (610 m2) pocket park in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia, at 325 Arch Street. It is open to the public during daylight hours and is maintained by the Philadelphia Fire Department.
The park was created in the mid-1960s after the demolition of four 3- and 4-story commercial buildings that had stood on the northeast corner of 4th and Arch Streets. A firehouse was built on the corner lots, while the lot formerly occupied by 325 Arch was cleared.
The park was improved following the 1976 grant of money from a city-held fund established by banker Stephen Girard (1750–1831) to improve areas near the Delaware River.
An October 2009 photo looking south from within the park toward the fountain and the bust of Franklin.
In 1971, a sculpture of Benjamin Franklin by local sculptor Reginald E. Beauchamp was installed atop the park's front wall. It was made of acrylic and covered with almost 80,000 pennies collected from local schoolchildren, and it incorporated a device that delivered a recorded two-minute speech on fire prevention at the push of a button. Penny Franklin was unveiled on June 10, 1971, by U.S. Mint Director Mary Brooks. Over the next two decades, the sculpture, also known as Penny Benny, became "one of the city's best-known landmarks." But it eventually deteriorated and became a potential hazard. For a while, the sculpture was kept from tumbling onto the sidewalk by ropes rigged by the firefighters from the firehouse next door. In 1996, it was removed to city storage.
In 2003, the city's public arts agency commissioned sculptor James Peniston to replace the older work. Peniston sculpted a bust of Franklin in bronze and covered it with casts of 1,000 keys collected from local schoolchildren. Called Keys To Community, the one-ton sculpture also contains several brass nameplates representing Philadelphia firefighters fallen in the line of duty over four centuries. The sculpture was partially funded by the Fire Department and by more than 1.5 million pennies donated by schoolchildren in 500 area schools. It was unveiled and dedicated on October 5, 2007.
The park itself had fallen into disrepair by the mid-1990s, and its gate was generally kept locked by the Fire Department. But a restoration effort, begun around 2005 and led by Old City residents Janet Kalter and Joe Schiavo, brought the park back into public use. In the wake of the sculpture's dedication, Fire Department officials consented to restoration work on the fountain. The work began in June 2008 and the fountain was restored to operation in August. The Fire Department formally returned the fountain to service in a Nov. 1 ceremony.
A horseshoes pit has been added to the park.
- A history of the park's location at jepsculpture.com.
- Photo of buildings demolished to clear parkland, November 20, 1959, PhillyHistory.org.
- Photo of rear wall under construction, December 14, 1967, PhillyHistory.org.
- Photo of rear wall under construction, 1969, PhillyHistory.org.
- Photo of rear wall, completed, March 30, 1969, PhillyHistory.org.
- Photo of front wall with Penny Franklin sculpture, May 11, 1977, PhillyHistory.org.
- Photos of Keys To Community, 3 October 2007, Flickr.com.
- Keys To Community's entry at Philadelphia Public Art@philart.net.
- Before-and-after photos of restored park, August 2008, Flickr.com.
- 2009 photos of restored fountains.
- New York Times description of "Keys To Community", October 9, 2013
Coordinates: 39°57′09″N 75°08′47″W / 39.952502°N 75.1462815°W
- ^ "James Peniston Sculpture: Work: Keys To Community, 2007," retrieved 13 October 2007.
- ^ a b "Girard Fountain Park Now Re-open to Public!". Old City Civic Association. 2008-09-06. Retrieved 2008-08-29.
- ^ "James Peniston Sculpture: Location: Keys To Community, 2007," retrieved 29 October 2007.
- ^ "Girard Fountain Park- Philadelphia, PA Image Gallery". Waymarking. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- ^ "James Peniston Sculpture: Penny Franklin retrieved 29 October 2007.
- ^ "Mint Director Unveils Penny Franklin Sculpture." U.S. Treasury Department, June 10, 1971. Retrieved 29 October 2007.
- ^ "Big Heads," Scene on the Road, blog post by Philadelphia Inquirer photographer Tom Gralish, 22 October 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2007.
- ^ "Statue may return to mint condition," Philadelphia Inquirer, August 19, 2001. Retrieved 29 October 2007 via LexisNexis.
- ^ "Ben Franklin is busted," The Bulletin, October 9, 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2007.
- ^ Kuznits, Hadas (2008-11-01). "Refurbished Fire Station Fountain Unveiled in Old City". KYW Newsradio 1060. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
- ^ Freeman, Amy (2009-09-02). "Parking". Phillyist. Retrieved 2009-09-03.