• Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.
      Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.

From Above: Philadelphia Museum of Art (1927)

As the Philadelphia Museum of Art edges toward its 90th birthday, starchitect Frank Gehry has designed an expansion of our most prized cultural landmark. Here's a view of how the museum looked when it was brand new in the late 1920s.

This month we learned the first significant details about the planned expansion of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, designed by Frank Gehry, carved out of the granite below the terraces. The museum will mount an exhibit about its expansion from July 1-September 1, 2014, accompanied by public presentations and lectures about the museum’s history and future.

As we look forward, here's a look back at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) as it appeared in 1927 when exterior construction was finished. The building on Fairmount was built through the 1920s, opened to the public in March 1928, and proved immediately, immensely popular. To the left of the museum, glowingly white, is the new Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company buidling - now PMA's Perelman buidling - which opened the year of this photograph. 

The Beaux-Arts museum building, classically balanced, reigns over the rational Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a wedge of new City Beautiful planning inserted into the industrial city. (The massive Baldwin Locomotive Works occupy blocks east of the parkway stretching to Broad Street.) This view shows what the Parkway looked like before Eakins Oval was built. Rudolf Siemering’s Washington Monument sits centered below the museum steps but this is before the flanking Price and Ericsson fountains would be added in the 1930s. Note also Swann Fountain (1924) and the new library, which also opened in 1927, as you look down the parkway toward sooty City Hall.

    • Completed Art Museum, 1927 | #7626 Aero Service Corp | Courtesy of Aerial Viewpoint, Spring TX
      Completed Art Museum, 1927 | #7626 Aero Service Corp | Courtesy of Aerial Viewpoint, Spring TX

Click here to enlarge, and tell us what you see.

The aerial image above is part of the Free Library’s Print and Picture Collection, and is used by PlanPhilly/Eyes on the Street with the express permission of Aerial Viewpoint, which owns these aerial images. For reproductions or permissions inquiries contact Aerial Viewpoint. 

To learn more background about these aerial photographs, head over here


About the author

Ashley Hahn, Editor, Eyes on the Street

Ashley writes and edits Eyes on the Street. She has a special interest in preservation, neighborhoods, and all things public – from policy to art. Ashley holds masters degrees in City and Regional Planning and Historic Preservation from PennDesign.

Ashley has lived in 12 zip codes that she can think of, including neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York and Philadelphia. She is proud to call 19147 home. 

Find Ashley on twitter @ashleyjhahn.


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