The Philadelphia Athenaeum is celebrating its 200th Anniversary! “The Athenaeum of Philadelphia is an independent member-supported library and museum that engages members, scholars and the interested general public to join actively in the cultural and intellectual life of Philadelphia and participate in historical, literary and educational activities. To that end, the Athenaeum must be a diligent steward of its National Historic Landmark building and its collections of books, manuscripts, architectural drawings, photographs, and historic objects.”
The challenge of the upcoming exhibition was to submit images of landmarks or places listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Philadelphia. Smukler has two pieces selected, the maximum allowed under the rules of the competition. The first, entitled “Snake” is a relief found on the exterior of Philadelphia’s City Hall. “The building was designed by Scottish-born architect John McArthur, Jr., in the Second Empire style, and was constructed from 1871 until 1901 at a cost of $24 million. Designed to be the world’s tallest building, it was surpassed during construction by the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower, though it was at completion the world’s tallest habitable building.” With almost 700 rooms, City Hall is the largest municipal building in the United States and one of the largest in the world.
Smukler’s second piece, entitled “Cell Number Four” was taken at Eastern State Penitentiary. ESP was operational from 1829 until 1971. “Notorious criminals such as bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone were held inside its innovative wagon wheel design. At its completion, the building was the largest and most expensive public structure ever erected, and quickly became a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide.”
The Athenaeum building itself was designed in 1845 by the innovative architect John Notman (1810-1865). It is widely hailed as the seminal American structure in the Italianate Revival Style and one of the first Philadelphia buildings built of brownstone.
Exhibition Dates: June 29-August 8
Opening Reception: Sunday, June 29, 2:00-5:00pm. Free.
Rich Smukler was born and bred in Philadelphia and currently resides in Boca Raton, Florida. He is a graduate of Central High School, Penn State University and Villanova University School of Law. His works have been featured in numerous museums, galleries and private collections internationally. You can see more of his works at http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com. (Kick back and stay awhile)