"Sunken Gardens" and "Concourse Level"
New content has been added to the “Descriptions” tab of the Avenue of American History website (Program Details > Project Buildings > Descriptions). This section describes for the first time the “Sunken Gardens” and the “Concourse Level.”
After learning of the Centennial Commons (CC) project in Fairmount Park on land adjacent to and nearby Memorial Hall, Joel Levinson wrote an Initial Assessment of Compatibility addressing what at first appeared to be a conflict between the CC project and the AAH project. The AAH Development Group has since received positive feedback from the manager of the CC that seems to support the idea that the two projects could coexist and be mutually supportive.
The Rotary Club of Philadelphia
The Rotary Club of Philadelphia has scheduled a presentation on November 9th at the Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church for The Avenue of American History Development Group to present an overview of the project to its members.
Joel Levinson and Stella Murray met with Douglas C. Dolan, President and Executive Director of the Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle in Doylestown, PA. Mr. Dolan said that if the Avenue becomes a reality, objects from the Mercer Museum collection could be lent to the Development Group for display in time-appropriate Halls of History. Douglas Dolan offered to provide on-going advice regarding museum operations and curatorial concerns.
Parks and Recreation
Joel and Stella also met with senior staff at Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation to discuss the feasibility of locating the project in Fairmount Park on land in front of Memorial Hall. The Development Group is looking into the identified obstacles that may render the Fairmount Park site an impractical prospect.
The Open Lands Protection Ordinance
At the suggestion of Parks and Recreation (P&R), the AAH Development Group contacted the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) to see if parcels of land controlled by PIDC might be available for the Avenue. None were large enough and/or suitably located. The Open Lands Protection Ordinance states that the Fairmount Park parcel cannot be considered if other land in the City is available for the project. The very fact that no other land parcels in Philadelphia are large enough and suitable for the Avenue, in itself would seem to eliminate or minimize one of the obstacles raised by Parks and Recreation; that is using the parcel in question. Another obstacle set forth in the Ordinance prohibits removal of open spaces unless an equal amount of land nearby is substituted. To address this matter, Joel Levinson intends to explore the feasibility of proposing an idea called Penn’s Plan Extended as illustrated in the Broad Street Comes Alive catalogue for the exhibit of the same name that was held at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in 1978. Moreover, there are PIDC industrial parcels in West Parkside that might be considered for the swap.
The AAH Development Group has been notified by the Executive Director of USA250 that the organization intends to feature the Avenue of American History project on the USA250 website. USA250 shares the goal of developing commemorations in 2026 for the Sestercentennial.
The AAH Development Group is continuing to explore the feasibility of creating a virtual Avenue of American History experience on the internet as a stand-alone option and as a complementary way of providing access to the Avenue for people around the world who could not travel to Philadelphia to visit the actual institution.
If built, The Avenue of American History will take its place among other significant Philadelphia Firsts such as: the first “Planned City” in North America; first public library (Benjamin Franklin’s [B. F.] Library Company); first volunteer fire department (B. F.); first hospital in America (B. F.); first university in America (University of Pennsylvania [B. F.]); first 4th of July celebration; first American flag; first stock exchange in the US; first Mint in the US; first art museum in the US (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts); first zoo in the US; first world’s fair in the US (the Centennial Exhibition); first American metropolis designated as a World Heritage City. If the groundswell of support for the Avenue of American History in Philadelphia ultimately translates into construction of the first incremental museum dedicated to recording generational legacies, Philadelphia will have one more significant achievement to add to its impressive List of Firsts.
National Constitution Center and Museum of the American Revolution
Joel looks forward to meetings being arranged with representatives of the National Constitution Center and the Museum of the American Revolution.
For individuals who are not currently on the list to receive the Avenue of American History Newsletter, a “Newsletter” tab has been added to the project’s website. A form has been added for those who wish to receive the Newsletter on a regular basis.
The official website for the Avenue of American History is located at: www.avenueofamericanhistory.org.
Stella Destephanis Murray is working as a paid summer intern. She has been creating AAH communication documents (website, prospectus, flyer, business cards) and assisting Joel Levinson in the development of a master plan for the Avenue of American History. She is also exploring potential relationships with the Smithsonian Institution, the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Google. Ms. Murray is a student of architecture and a future Schreyer Honors College scholar at the Pennsylvania State University.
A digital version of the Prospectus has been completed and is available upon request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The site currently under consideration is a parcel of land fronting Memorial Hall in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Memorial Hall was constructed in 1876 and is now occupied by the Please Touch Museum. The building is an important work of architecture that has been preserved from the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the United States. Building the Avenue of American History on the Centennial site to commemorate the Sestercentennial has obvious historical resonance and significance. Discussions are underway with various City and regional agencies who are involved with Fairmount Park.
Outreach to Philadelphia's Department of Parks and Recreation
Joel Levinson has been invited to present the Avenue of American History project on July 8th to Stephanie Craighead, Director, and her top staff at the Department of Parks and Recreation.
The AAH Development Group received a proposal from Econsult Solutions to perform a Phase 1 Feasibility Study dealing with the project’s financial feasibility on the Centennial site and addressing the project’s programmatic content in relation to other history-based institutions in the area.
The Microsoft School of the Future sits immediately adjacent to the proposed Avenue of American History site in Fairmount Park. We are exploring the idea of a contest wherein students would suggest what the contents would be of our generation’s Hall of History (2001-2025) and explain the reasons for their selections. Joel Levinson and the School’s Principal, Richard Scherin will be developing the contest parameters, which will serve as a prototype for others schools locally and nationally, should the pilot program prove successful. The goal is for students to better engage with America’s history in a way that will develop critical thinking and civic participation.
A meeting is planned with USA250’s Executive Director, Jon Grabelle Herrmann to explore the coordination of goals and activities between the Avenue of American History and USA250.
Constitution Center, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and
Issued periodically, the Avenue of American History newsletter serves to update interested parties on the efforts underway to create the AAH in Philadelphia. The project is intended to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America in 2026.