11 Things You Might Not Know About the 1926 Sesqui-Centennial Exhibition

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

In 1876, Philly put on a Centennial Exhibition that set the gold standard for big, innovative civic parties. Fifty years later, it put on a Sesqui-Centennial International Exhibition that, well, tanked. A new book from Temple University Press, historian Thomas Keels’s Sesqui! Greed, Graft, and the Forgotten World’s Fair of 1926, has the whole sad story of the failed fair, which opened to the public on May 31, 1926. Here, some highlights from the municipal celebration that makes Frank Rizzo‘s Bicentennial debacle look good. Read more »

Straight Talk With Bicentennial Architect Peter Chermayeff

Demolition work was underway on the old Visitor Center as of April 26. Photo by the author.

Demolition work was under way on the old Visitor Center as of April 26. Photo: Izzy Kornblatt

The old Independence Visitor Center, constructed by the National Park Service for the 1976 Bicentennial celebration, has not been receiving a lot of love in recent years. A replacement on Independence Mall opened in 2001, rendered the old building basically obsolete; and about a decade ago, the Bicentennial bell housed in the center’s bell tower broke and was never repaired. Now the building is being demolished to make room for the planned Museum of the American Revolution, and no one, as far as I can tell, seems to really mind.

The building’s architect, Peter Chermayeff, doesn’t either. “I’m not surprised that the building is being replaced, because I don’t think of it as very strong or a very important piece of contemporary architecture,” he said when informed of the demolition. “I’m not terribly sorry to hear that it’s going.”

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Man Acquitted of Threatening to Bomb Liberty Bell

The 42-year-old Portuguese man who was arrested in January for allegedly threatening to park officials that he was going to blow up the Liberty Bell was acquitted by a Court of Common Pleas judge yesterday.

The judge, Diana Anhalt, believed Carlos Balsas’s story that he had explained to park officials when they tried to search his back that he had a “bunch of exclusives,” not explosives.

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Hanging Out with Disappointed Tourists on Independence Mall


The great thing about government shutdowns it that they bring people together. If you go to Independence Mall today—or any day for the foreseeable future—you’ll notice large groups of people standing around on the grass, talking to one another. How nice. These are people who came for the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, or the Independence Hall Visitor Center–all of which are closed. In fact, if you want to play a sadistic parlor game, go linger by the entrances of any one of these places, wait for unsuspecting tourists to pull fruitlessly at the doors, and then–preferably leaning against a wall, with a toothpick in your mouth–say, ‘Closed, pal.’

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Philly’s National Parks Are Definitely, Maybe Shutting Down Tomorrow


So, you may be wondering, what does the coming government shutdown mean for Philadelphia? Well, a wide swath of federal workers will be furloughed beginning at midnight tonight, and Philly’s got quite a few of them, from Social Security Administration workers to Department of Justice employees working at the 2nd District courthouse. But while it’s unclear exactly how the shutdown will affect all those employees, there is one thing we do know for sure: All 401 U.S. National Parks will be shut down tomorrow, including Independence National Historic Park, which employs around 200 people. I.e, The freaking Liberty Bell will be closed. As will freaking Independence Hall. (Also: Valley Forge National Park.) Tourists, get ready to get your kicks by staring thoughtfully at the facade of the Second Bank of the United States.

h/t Philly.com

Police Issue Citations, Make No Arrests at Recent Marijuana Legalization Protest

The marijuana menace apparently has not yet been eradicated from out fair city. On Sunday, radical group of protestors, united under the “Smoke Down Prohibition” banner, marched from LOVE Park to Independence National Historical Park for a moment of so-called “cannabis reflection” at 4:20. But don’t be fooled: These folks were doing marijuanas.

Organized by Ed Forchion, popularly known as “NJ Weedman,” the Panic Hour, this past Smoke Down Prohibition was the sixth in a series; a previous protest netted several notable arrests about a month ago. But the righteous whip of the Drug War hasn’t deterred these dopers, and at this demonstration police merely ticketed seven attendees. Oddly enough, though, there have been no reports of insanity or lawless violence at the hands of the loco weed, but give it time. There is, after all, a good reason why marijuana is illegal. Right? [Philly.com]

UPDATE: Ed Forchion did not organize the event, he merely promoted it as indicated in the comment thread below.

New Report: Here’s How Much Tourism Impacted Philly Last Year

Eds, meds, and…tourism. That basically sums up Philly’s 21st century economy. But how many tourists really show up? How much do they bring in? And who are they all? Well, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation has answers, courtesy of its annual report.

  • Since 1997, Philly’s experienced a 45% growth in visitation. 38 million American tourists showed up last year, 12 million more than in ’97.
  • 89,000 regional jobs are supported by tourist dollars.
  • 7 new hotels are currently being built.
  • $410 in annual taxes are saved by region households thanks to tourist dollars.

And here’s the profile of Mr. Average Philadelphia tourist: He’s 44, married, makes $85,000 a year and isn’t bringing the kids for the weekend. Why the growth in tourism? Well, just check out this unintentionally (I think) hilarious infographic the report has prepared for us:

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