Still Decoding ESPO’s Enormous Old City Mural — Let’s Talk Big Picture

Part 3 in our efforts to unlock the secrets of Steve Powers’ Second Street masterpiece


photo by Steve Weinik/Mural Arts Program

The Mural Arts Program people were kind enough to send over some of photographer Steve Weinik’s masterful macroscopic photos of the mural, which, I should probably mention, has a title: Old City Mural. It’s nice to know the title, and it’s nice to see that it’s spelled “Old” and not “Olde.”


[detail] photo by Steve Weinik/Mural Arts Program

Philly has undergone a long, silent, internal battle to get the spelling of Old City correct. Several businesses in the area like it with the “e.” The El stop at Second and Market used to have the e’s but somewhere along they way put little squares over them. It threw off the kerning a bit, but it was technically correct (the best kind of correct). Because it’s definitely “Old City” not “Olde City.” “Olde” sends the wrong connotations, if you ask me. Like this is some EPCOT reproduction of a Dickensian village with shoppes and chimbly sweeps weeping in their knickers or whatever. This is an old city, and Old City is the oldest part (post-colonially speaking).

ESPO, as you can see, pays homage to this struggle in giant legged letters. There is a pale E, but he’s slumped over on the sidewalk, worn soles exposed. He couldn’t keep up.

While I have your attention: My annotations of this massive mural will continue on Monday (I need a break, people) and already I’m seeing some things I don’t know and don’t know how to Google. I could just ask Mr. Powers, but it’s way more fun to crowdsource. Can somebody please tell me who this dude is? He looks so familiar but I just can’t place the face.

photo by Patrick Rapa

photo by Patrick Rapa

This is part 3 of a no-end-in-sight series. Here’s Part 1. Here’s Part 2. We’ll continue with Part 4 Monday. Please email me with help regarding the weird spaceman guy. Like, is that a radiating jewel on his head? Is he wearing a helmet or a turban?