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Memorial Hall (Philadelphia)

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Title: Memorial Hall (Philadelphia)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fairmount Park
Collection: 1876 Architecture, 1876 Establishments in Pennsylvania, Art Galleries Established in 1876, Beaux-Arts Architecture in Pennsylvania, Buildings and Structures Completed in 1876, Buildings and Structures on the National Register of Historic Places in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Centennial Exposition, Fairmount Park, Historic American Buildings Survey in Pennsylvania, National Historic Landmarks in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, West Philadelphia, World's Fair Architecture in the United States
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Memorial Hall (Philadelphia)

Memorial Hall
Home of the Please Touch Museum
Memorial Hall (Philadelphia) is located in Philadelphia
Memorial Hall (Philadelphia)
Location West Fairmount Park
4231 Avenue of the Republic
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19131
Built 1876
Architect Herman J. Schwarzmann
Architectural style Beaux-Arts
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 76001665[1]
Added to NRHP December 8, 1976

Memorial Hall, is a Beaux-Arts style building in the Centennial District of West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Built as the art gallery for the 1876 Centennial Exposition, it subsequently housed the Pennsylvania Museum of Art (now the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts). Since October 18, 2008, the Hall has served as home to the Please Touch Museum.

The building is located west of the Schuylkill River, at the corner of East Memorial Hall Drive and the Avenue of the Republic.[2]


  • Background 1
  • Philadelphia Orchestra recordings 2
  • Richie Ashburn viewing 3
  • Please Touch Museum 4
  • Gallery 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Ground plan of Art Gallery and Annex (1876).
Vestibule, during the 1876 Centennial Exposition.

Memorial Hall was designed by Herman J. Schwarzmann, and is an early example of monumental Beaux-Arts architecture in the United States. Schwarzmann, the chief engineer of the Fairmount Park Commission, also designed the temporary Horticultural Hall for the Exposition.[3] Construction began on 6 July and was completed for the opening ceremonies on 10 May, at a cost of $1.5 million dollars. President Ulysses S. Grant and other dignitaries presided over the event, which was the first major world's fair to be hosted in the United States.[4]

The exterior is finished with granite and the interior is decorated with marble and ornamental plaster. The building is 365 feet (111 m) by 210 feet (64 m) with basement and ground floor, and 150 feet (46 m) tall at the top of the building's most distinctive feature, an iron and glass dome. Surmounting the dome is the 23-foot-tall (7.0 m) statue of Columbia (the poetic symbol of the United States) holding a laurel branch. At the corners of the dome stand four statues symbolizing industry, commerce, agriculture and mining. Memorial Hall was the inspiration for the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany.[5]

Memorial Hall was designed to house the Centennial Exposition's art exhibits. The exposition received so many art contributions that a separate annex was built to house them all. Another building was built for the display of photography.[6]

After the Exposition, Memorial Hall reopened in 1877 as the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art and also served as the first home of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which remained there until 1929. The building was taken over by the Fairmount Park Commission in 1958.[7][8] It also was used for a gymnasium and a swimming pool in both wings. In 1982, the building was being used as a police station.[8][9]

Philadelphia Orchestra recordings

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Philadelphia Orchestra made a number of recordings in a basketball court in Memorial Hall under the batons of Riccardo Muti and Wolfgang Sawallisch. Memorial Hall was used because the Academy of Music, the orchestra's home at the time, was considered not resonant enough.[10]

Richie Ashburn viewing

In September 1997, a viewing for former Philadelphia Phillies baseball player and long-time broadcaster Richie Ashburn was held shortly after his death from a heart attack in New York City. Several hundred thousand people mourned his death as they walked by his casket in the Grand Hall.

Please Touch Museum

The Hall fell into disrepair until 2005, when the Please Touch Museum began an $85-million renovation to convert it into its new home. The museum opened its doors to the public on October 18, 2008.[11] Memorial Hall's eastern lawn serves as the home field for Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia, a vintage base ball team which plays by 1864 rules.


Renovated Memorial Hall, Spring, 2010

See also

Beaux-Arts doorway



  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Filler, Martin, Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume 1, New York: The New York Review of Books, 2007, ISBN 978-1-59017-227-8, p. 226
  6. ^ Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Exhibition, pages 101 - 103
  7. ^ , page 105
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "The History of Please Touch Museum" from the museum's official website

External links

  • Media related to Memorial Hall (Philadelphia) at Wikimedia Commons
  • "Memorial Hall" U.S. History - Independence Hall Association
  • Listing, drawings, and photographs at the Historic American Buildings Survey
  • International Exhibition of 1876 Memorial Hall Philadelphia Buildings
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