A chance to see new Penn Treaty Park inspired art, and artifacts, too

Back in the 1680s, William Penn and the Lenni Lenape Native Americans are believed to have signed a treaty of peace and friendship beneath a grand elm tree that grew in what is now Fishtown’s Penn Treaty Park.

While William Penn never did anything as historically convenient as to explicitly write about the event in his journal, people have for centuries composed prose and created artwork to memorialize it. 

This weekend brings a chance to see both a new work of art chronicling the history of Penn Treaty Park and a collection of art, artifacts and documents that depict the signing and trace the history of the spot where it happened, which became a park in 1893.

Saturday, a mural depicting the history of Penn Treaty Park that was painted on a building across the street from the park will be dedicated. The mural, located at 371 E. Allen Street, was created by artist Miriam Singer with imagery suggested during community workshops. These featured images include the treaty elm, the wampum belt given to William Penn, and a whole school of shad. A walking tour will showcase this mural and two others, which are collectively part of the Take Me To the River series, a joint project of the Mural Arts Program and the New Kensington CDC. The dedication and tour begins at 2 p.m. Learn more here.

In celebration of the new mural, the collection of the The Penn Treaty Museum, which is usually only available online, will be on display inside the building, which is at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Columbia Avenue, across from the park and behind Johnny’s Hots. The collection will be on display Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., and from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Longtime Penn Treaty advocate John Connors, who has personally amassed much of the collection, owns the building.

In this video, Connors talks about the creation of the museum, and about one recently acquired artifact.

Connors, with the help of local historian Kenneth Millano, Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Pastor John Norwood, Tim Martin of Framing Philadelphia and others, is setting up a gallery style exhibit, where viewers see objects, artwork, letters and other artifacts arranged by period, as though they were walking along a timeline.

The very first room will include some things that the museum doesn’t own, and are on loan: Native American artifacts that were recently found nearby.

Connors , who by day is executive director of the South Jersey Mechanical Contractors Association, said in a recent interview that he hopes the mural and the exhibit will raise awareness about the museum, which he hopes someday will be housed in a permanent location. This was the vision of Etta May Pettyjohn, the late community activist and school principal who was one of the people who inspired Connors.

Recently, the desire of the riverward neighborhoods’ to showcase their history and art became one of the goals of the Central Delaware Master Plan. At a recent meeting, planners and the public discussed the vision for a museum, gallery and cafe space somewhere near Penn Treaty Park.

Reach the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com

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