Philly is getting a Civil War memorial honoring black soldiers

Philadelphia’s newest Civil War memorial will honor black soldiers who fought in the brutal war over slavery. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Mütter Museum will unveil the “interpretative sign” at Philadelphia National Cemetery north of Germantown to honor the men of the United States Colored Troops buried at the VA cemetery. 

“Across the country, people are questioning the presence of statues and monuments to soldiers of the Civil War, but in Philadelphia, a new memorial will be dedicated at Philadelphia National Cemetery. Of all the monuments and statues to Civil War generals and soldiers in the City of Philadelphia, none recognizes the achievements of the black soldiers,” said Mütter Museum director Robert D. Hicks, Ph.D. in a public statement announcing the commemoration. The Mütter will co-co-sponsor the sign’s dedication ceremony as part of a series of events commemorating the medical dimension of the Civil War. “Black soldiers experienced higher mortality due to disease than white troops during the war, and doctors—usually white—struggled to understand how black bodies differed from white ones,” Hicks said in a press release. “The data collected on the health and performance of black soldiers constituted the first public health record of African-Americans in the United States.”

The recognition comes in the heels of the unveiling of a statue of Octavius Catto located in front of City Hall last year, the first public statue honoring an African-American in Philadelphia. The discussion on monuments past and present, who and what they commemorate, and what would be appropriate in the current city of Philadelphia continues as we develop our public spaces.

Fall foliage at Philadelphia National Cemetery. Credit: Matthew Szalwinski for Hidden City Philadelphia
Fall foliage at Philadelphia National Cemetery. Credit: Matthew Szalwinski for Hidden City Philadelphia (Matthew Szalwinski for Hidden City Philadelphia )

Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 21, 2018, at 11 a.m. for the dedication ceremony.

The triumphant return of civilization to 16th and Vine

Two apartment buildings, perched on either side of I-676, could transform a “quintessential automobile landscape” and reestablish a walkable thoroughfare from Logan Square to 16th Street that “dramatically [pulls] these two parts of the city back together,” Inga Saffron writes. Saffron “can’t help” but admire the designs of the Alexander and the Franklin Tower Residences at 16th and Vine, which will house in total 637 apartments, despite the Alexander’s  “deeply conservative wedding cake format…built on nostalgia” and the Franklin Tower’s “generic glass slab” aesthetic. The designs and materials, Saffron explains, are “still a marked improvement” over the previous “wasteland of surface lots.” At the street level, Saffron appreciates the Franklin Tower’s “continuous row of shop fronts along 16th Street” and pedestrian scale. The Alexander, and its surrounding micro-neighborhood “looks and acts as though it had just moved onto an urbane block of Park Avenue” that connects the passerby seamlessly back into Center City.

Of course, the designs are not without fault. Saffron criticizes the Alexander’s “weird mismatch of style knockoffs,” as well as its excessive interior courtyard and an oddly-placed drainage ditch along the sidewalk. Lack of ambition aside, Saffron remains hopeful that the two towers have set the stage in transforming a former wasteland into a welcoming, pedestrian-friendly public green space, and that marks the triumphant return of civilization.

Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Place, the world’s first Certified Autism Center?

Sesame Place makes history as the world’s first theme park to receive designation as a Certified Autism Center, Philly Mag’s Joe Trinacria reports. The designation requires Sesame Place to continuously train team members with the “requisite knowledge, skills, temperament, and expertise to interact with all families and children with special needs, specifically on the autism spectrum.” This takes into consideration “sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor and social skills, program development, and emotional awareness,” Trinacria writes. For the parents, Sesame Place has established a “sensory guide to map out activities and rides that are best suited for their children” as well as a Ride Accessibility Program that matches the individual abilities of visitors to the requirements of each ride.

Elmo’s world isn’t the only place to find innovative approaches to play, reports WHYY News’ Shai Ben-Yaacov. Following the lead of cities such as London, New York, and Berkeley, the Free Library of Philadelphia opened the first of three  “risky play”  installations that encourage free, imaginative play, with the belief that physical activity helps kids develop skills that are applicable in an academic setting.

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