Philly Tale to Tell


See William Penn on top of City Hall? A little Philly tale to tell…A while back, it was decreed that no building could be taller than Billy Penn atop City Hall. The colonial gent faces Penn’s Landing and presides over the City of Brotherly Love.

City Hall used to be the tallest building until the City and its buildings grew and grew with the construction of One Liberty Place in 1987. Legend held that no other building in Philadelphia should be higher than Penn’s protective outstretched hand, or the City would be cursed and the sports teams would lose every year thereafter. Poor Eagles, Phillies, 76’ers, and Flyers.


But back in 2008, the Phillies won the World Series after a statue of William Penn was affixed to the taller Comcast Building when the last beam was positioned. Then the run of luck changed for all the other teams too, all winning multiple times, or at least, the Eagles getting to the Super Bowl.

How can communities initiate change?

It obviously has nothing to do with placing a founder on top of a civic building, but if you want more beauty or nature (or winning sports teams) in your community you take a pro-active stance.


I don’t talk architecture on this blog, but an architectural project in which I was involved included the community of Buffalo back in 1994, so I know being pro-active helps. In it, design professionals gathered community representatives to mobilize citizen participation, those who would be affected by the design project. The objective was to brainstorm how the project will ensure that community needs will be met, compromising, and innovating to prioritize an agreeable outcome.

While in Philadelphia…

I saw a rather remarkable project by the art community that showed some brotherly love of which the city is known. The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is responsible for colorful murals painted in collaboration with locals. There are over 4000 paintings transforming Philadelphia’s neighborhoods into outdoor art museums. Each contribute to a walking art tour of the city’s culture.


Everyone from taggers, school kids, cops, prisoners, teachers, and senior citizens plan and paint murals accessible to everyone. The murals beautify their communities, connect with neighbors, fight graffiti and ultimately reduce crime in neighborhoods which are now swelling with civic pride.


Sure sometimes murals are lost in real estate deals, but Philadelphia continues to paint. If you are interested in knowing more, listen to the audio or search for images of these murals.

We were on a moving bus, so I could not get good photographs with my small Nikon camera. Just thought readers should know that communities can make a difference even in the worst parts of town to forever change the mind-set of the people who live in them – to make their places better. Whether waterfront development, garden walks beautifying a city like here in Buffalo, or murals changing perception in sketchy neighborhoods, all it takes is a collaboration of really motivated individuals.


If I walked the City, I would have shown you something else interesting about the Penn statue. When it rains, it looks like Penn is urinating on the City. With just the right angle, the position of his hand outstretched just makes the rain flow just right. For all the symbolism the creators instilled in the statue, they should have thought that one out.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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22 Responses to Philly Tale to Tell

  1. I feel very privileged to live in the suburbs of this city with the beautiful and meaningful murals. I think one of your photos was of the wall art by the the person who created the amazing ceramic walls.

  2. alesiablogs says:

    I have a friend that just came back from there on vacation and she said she loved the sandwiches!! haha I love these murals.

  3. David says:

    I really like that first photo of city hall. The lighting is fantastic as are all the vertical lines. The lighting in the upper portions going from dark to light at the subject is like a leading line.

  4. It appears Philadelphia has some amazing street art…I think it is such an interesting canvas for an artist.

  5. bren0404 says:

    I am a Communities In Bloom judge and some of the communities that we judge have murals in their town or city and showing your discussion would be of interest to them

  6. arlene says:

    Interesting sites you have here Donna.

  7. Great article, but I really love that first photo.

  8. Loretta says:

    Great murals and architecture. Even though we live about 40 minutes south of Philly, I had never visited those mosiac gardens till last week. They are a sight to behold.

  9. So glad I stopped in. So many great photos here. The murals were really amazing. I’m showing the construction one to my hubby since he’s been in the construction field for most of his life.

  10. That’s amusing, some great graffiti and reminds me of the Luhrman Romeo and Juliet opening with the skyscrapers towering above the statue of Christ. Is that William Penn of Quaker history?

  11. I love these murals, and how this project brought people together in a positive way. And since you mentioned the Phillies, I just have to point out that the Cubs are third in the NL Central.

  12. Nice to see this project in my birthplace…I haven’t been back in quite a while as most of my family is now gone.

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