Don’t Eat the Portico Just Yet: Fairmount Park Mansions as Gingerbread Houses

Mount Pleasant created by Chef Peter Scarola of R2L.

Mount Pleasant created by Chef Peter Scarola of R2L.

Our friends over at Foobooz went over to the Shops at Liberty Place to take a look at some delicious-looking edible real estate: 13 gingerbread houses, each one a replica of a Fairmount Park historic building. Local pastry chefs served as general contractors on the home-building project, which will be on display until November 22nd, at which point we plan to rush the place and eat at least one window.

Foobooz has plenty of beautiful photos of the finished products, but below, we have a few comparison shots of the real buildings next to their sugary imitations. To see six of the actual buildings in person, check out the Historic Houses of Fairmount Park Holiday Tour (Dec. 5-15).

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The Gingerbread Mansions of Fairmount Park


From now till November 22nd, thirteen gingerbread houses representing mansions of Fairmount Park will be on display at the Shops at Liberty Place. All thirteen were created by local pastry chefs who really got into the spirit of it all, accessorizing their houses with pretzel fences, gumdrop trim and peppermint stick columns.

The gingerbread house display is a preview event for the annual Historic Houses of Fairmount Park Holiday Tour that runs from December 5 to the 15th. Six park houses will be open and decorated for the holidays. Trolley tours are available and tickets can be purchased online.

Check out the gingerbread mansions » 

Eakins Oval About To Become Philadelphia Family Fun Spot

Our friends at Foobooz have already noted the arrival of food trucks at Eakins Oval—it’s part of a broader summertime transformation of the space into a community fun spot for the summer, documented today by NewsWorks, which includes a new beach featuring 16 tons of sand:

This whole beach concept is the first iteration of a three-year plan — “The Oval” — to activate the Parkway. With help from a roster of partnering organizations, the pop-up park will be open every day until Aug. 18, when the Parkway will be given over to the Labor Day weekend “Made In America” concert preparations.

“The Oval” is not an appeal to tourists, according to Mark Focht, deputy commissioner of the parks and recreation department. Rather, it is for the estimated 70,000 residents in the Parkway’s immediate neighborhoods.

“Historically, the folks in Logan and Fairmount and Spring Garden have looked at the Parkway as the edge of their community — the end,” Focht said. “Instead we want them to see it as the common space, the common park.”

A full calendar of events at The Oval—at the museum end of the Parkway—can be found here.

Fairmount Park Conservancy the Latest Victim of William Penn Foundation Grant Suspensions

Last night, City Paper reported that the $2 billion William Penn Foundation would be suspending grants to city-related agencies indefinitely. The report identified a funding request for Bartram’s Mile, a trail extension linking the East and West banks of the Schulykill River, though it’s unclear which group applied for the grant.

Today, I learned that the Fairmount Park Conservancy also received a letter announcing that its grant application had been suspended. (FPC operates under a public-private partnership.) The proposal, submitted in late 2012, requested $75,000 for planning work in West Fairmount Park. FPC Executive Director Kathryn Ott Lovell says she’s not exactly sure where the money would have gone, except to “work with parks and rec. in the community to really think about some possible improvements to West Park.” FPC has received numerous recent grants from the William Penn Foundation, including one in 2011 for $82,500.

Still optimistic that her grant will eventually come through, Lovell stresses that she thinks the William Penn Foundation “has a great vision for parks space.”

The WPF suspended such grants in order to deal with an ethics complaint submitted by a coalition of public school advocates that charges the mega-philanthropy has violated the city’s lobbying code. (The first complaint that’s been issued under the city’s new code.) The coalition argues that by providing the Boston Consulting Group with a grant to conduct the report that led to Philadelphia’s school-closure plan, it was effectively doing BCG’s bidding to encourage the “privatization” of public schools, and thus, should have registered as a lobbyist. In order to make sure they’re in compliance with the lobbying ordinance, WPF is suspending grants that may violate it. All previously awarded grants will, however, be disbursed; this decision only affects pending and forthcoming applications.

The city, for the record, doesn’t think there’s an issue with grants like these. “We don’t see the problem with the lobbying registration and reporting ordinance [with respect to] these grant requests and grant funding the way the William Penn Foundation seems to,” said the Mayor’s press secretary Mark McDonald.

Nor does Parents United for Public Education, one of the groups that submitted a complaint, which stresses it’s never had an issue with the sort of benign grants to city agencies and public-private partnerships WPF’s been disbursing for years.

There are, of course, more groups whose requests have been put on hold, and I’ll update the item as I learn more.

Religious Groups Sue Philadelphia Over Outdoor Feeding Ban

A complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania today on behalf of several religious groups in the area argues that the city’s ban on feeding homeless people in city-owned parks violates the right to freely exercise religion protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. [Metro]

Dog Set on Fire at Fairmount Park

A PSPCA officer has reported that a male, “pit bull-type” dog was wrapped in a blanket and set on fire at 33rd and Cecil B. Moore in Fairmount Park today. The dog will be taken back to the PSPCA headquarters for a necropsy (an animal autopsy) to determine the cause of death. [NBC Philadelphia]

HughE Dillon: Fairmount Park Conservancy Celebration

Thursday night, the Fairmount Park Conservancy held its 2012 Centennial Celebration, bringing guests together at the Horticulture Center. The event featured a cocktail reception, silent auction and awards program, and co-chairs were Daniel K. Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Citizens Bank, and Constance H. Williams, Philadelphia Museum of Art chair. (Honorary co-chairs were Mayor Nutter and Lisa Nutter.) The evening honored the Vanguard Crew for corporate stewardship (they put in more than 80,000 hours sprucing up the park); Joseph Manko Sr., for civic leadership, and park champion Ryan Howard. Scott Palmer, the Phillies’ director of public affairs (left), emceed the event. Also pictured: Kathryn Ott Lovell (second from left), executive director of the Conservancy, Ruben Amaro Jr. (center), Jami Schnell (second from right), and John Nickolas (right).

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Philly’s Urban Polo Team Wins Another Championship

Work to Ride—a non-profit created to help urban youth access equine sports—won its second consecutive National Interscholastic Polo Championship. Last March, the Fairmount Park-based program produced the first all-black high school team to win the championship. They recently followed that up with a double-overtime, shootout victory over a team from California to bring back a title from the finals at the University of Virginia. [CNN]

Philly One of World’s Best Cities for Parks

As if we needed any reminder after the gorgeous weather we enjoyed last week, Frommer’s has included Philly on its list of the greatest cities in the world for for parks. New York, Chicago and San Francisco were the other American cities to make the cut. Now, if only it were still 78 and sunny outside… [Frommer's]

14 Ways to Make Philadelphia Better

Not very long ago, I wrote a post about my retail wish-list for our city (speaking of which―Nordstrom! Crate and Barrel! DSW! Where are you, already?), and lots of people chimed in with suggestions of their own. Evidently, lots of us crave more and better for Philly, at least when it comes to shopping. And―no matter how much we love and take pride in our city―I suspect most of us still want more and better for our city in other realms, too.

When I do interviews with prominent Philadelphians, I always ask them what they think this city still needs (the answers are fascinating), and every time I travel to another city I take note of cool things that I think Philly could copy. It’s pointless, maybe, in these harsh economic (totally bankrupt) times, and possibly a little shallow given all the troubling local and national headlines lately to daydream about more stuff I want for my city. But then again, change often begins with a dream (plus a few ideas), doesn’t it? (And anyway, why can’t we work toward some new cabs?)

So here, then, is my running list of wants.* What’s on yours? Read more »

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