Mural Hazard: City Halts Construction at Curtis Center to Protect Dream Garden Mosaic

The mosaic in the lobby was threatened by vibrations from renovation work, according to L&I.

Dream Garden mural, Curtis Center | Photo by Jared Brey

Dream Garden mural, Curtis Center | Photo by Jared Brey

The Department of Licenses and Inspections announced on Monday that it has issued a stop-work order for renovations being done at the Curtis Center over concerns about the historically certified Dream Garden mural in the center’s 6th Street lobby.

The 15′ x 49′ glass mosaic is owned by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. According to Karen Guss, a spokeswoman for L&I, PAFA alerted the Philadelphia Historical Commission that vibrations from construction at the Curtis Center had become a threat to the mural. The Historical Commission then contacted L&I, which sent an inspector to the site and ordered work to be halted “unless and until stronger and more effective protections for the mural are arranged.”

Historical Commission director Jon Farnham said on Monday that he wasn’t sure how grave the threat to the mural was, but that he’d heard that the construction work had caused some plates to shift and some pieces of glass to become loose or dislodged.

PAFA representatives weren’t immediately available. A call to the property owner, Keystone Property Group of Conshohocken, wasn’t immediately returned.

A public relations firm later sent a statement to Philly Mag on behalf of Keystone: “As committed stewards of history and active investors in The Curtis and surrounding Independence Mall properties, we have taken great care to preserve the beauty and history of the local architecture, as well as the Dream Garden mural. We will continue to take every necessary precaution to ensure that all of the unique and historic features of our buildings are fully maintained.”

Dream Garden was created by Louis Comfort Tiffany, a New York-based artist who worked with glass. It was based on a painting by the Philadelphia artist Maxfield Parrish, and installed in the Curtis Center in 1916.

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