The Free Library of Philadelphia reopened Shakespeare Park on Tuesday after almost a year of planning and renovation.
The improvements include new flowerbeds, light fixtures, walkways and other landscaping changes. A grant from Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development funded the project.
Kyle Smith, the library’s curator of orchestral music, opened the ceremony by reciting a verse from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” while wearing full Elizabethan regalia. The quotation is from the character Duke Senior who has just been banished to the woods and soon realizes the beauty all around him.
“And this our life exempt from public haunt finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in every thing.”
Library President Siobhan A. Reardon echoed that idea when she spoke about the thinking behind the restoration.
“The idea was that we wanted to create a lovely, more comprehensive entrance to parkway central because the prior Shakespeare Park was really becoming a little bit beaten up. So we said there’s nothing better than to have a gracious lovely entrance to the building, a contemplative space, a thinking space, and you know good to sit and relax too.”
Homeless people can often be found in the park and charitable groups sometimes distribute food to them there.
To conclude the ceremony, construction workers removed the fencing surrounding the space to open the park officially to the public. As part of the beautification project, the façade and the vestibule of the library building were also cleaned and restored.