From Above: Building the Parkway and Art Museum, 1920 and 1921

Back in March, I mentioned that Eyes on the Street would start showcasing historic images from the Free Library’s amazing Print and Pictures collection. We’re starting off this feature with a batch of aerial photographs taken in the 1920s, and where better to begin than on the Parkway, where we’ve been hanging out this month. To learn more background about these aerial photographs, head over here.

In 1917, the city started building the Fairmount Parkway according to Jacques Gréber’s plan. In 1919, as the Parkway started to take shape, construction began on the Pennsylvania Museum (aka Philadelphia Museum of Art) at Fairmount, designed by Horace Trumbauer’s firm. Here are two early aerial photographs showing the museum and parkway under construction.

Both images show the extensive site clearance and what the construction looked like in 1920 and 1921. Familiar sites in the 1920 photograph above include the Water Works and the form of Parkway with its freshly planted allee of plane trees. Zoom in to see teams of mules or horses carting away construction debris, and the productive, dense city beyond.

In the angle below from 1921, industrial buildings along the Schuylkill, like the Pennsylvania Door and Sash Company’s, catch my eye. Upon closer inspection you can see a streetcar, trucks, and automobiles crossing the Spring Garden Street Bridge and the museum’s foundation taking shape.

1921 Museum Construction, Fall 1921. (Image no. 2612) | Aero Service Corp. | Aerial Viewpoint, Spring, TX
(Aero Service Corp | Aerial Viewpoint, Spring, TX)


These images are part of the Free Library’s Print and Picture Collection, and are used by PlanPhilly/Eyes on the Street with the express permission of Aerial Viewpoint, which owns these aerial images. For reproductions contact Aerial Viewpoint.

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