Philadelphia Landmark Profile: Eakins Oval
Philadelphia is home to some of the most beautiful architecture, history, and culture in the U.S. At Maxwell Realty, we know Philly. Read on for the insider’s guide to one of Philly’s best loved spots: the iconic Eakins Oval.
Intersecting pedestrian pathways, fountains and sculptures comprise the Philadelphia Art Museum’s beckoning traffic circle: Eakins Oval, proposed by Parisian urban planner Jacques Gréber 1917, with a vision for it to become Philadelphia’s own “Avenue des Champs-Elysees” on the Ben Franklin Parkway.
This “Oval” was named after Philadelphia’s world-renown realist painter and fine arts educator, Thomas Eakins (1844-1916). He is best known for his infamous painting “The Gross Clinic,” created for Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition. The painting was a gift of the Alumni Association to Jefferson Medical College and purchased by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (where it can be viewed) in 2007.
Beneath Eakins Oval runs two rail traffic tunnels, constructed in the 1920s: the lower tunnel, which was for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (now used by CSX freight trains), and the upper tunnel, which carried the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company’s Spring Garden streetcar line (which has since been rebuilt for westbound traffic from Pennsylvania Ave to the Spring Garden Street bridge, over the Schuylkill River).
The highlight of Eakins Oval is the first Washington Monument, overlooking the Ben Franklin Parkway, created by Rudolf Siemering in 1897. Siemering signed a contract in 1881 with the Society of the Cincinnati of Philadelphia, an organization founded at Philadelphia’s City Tavern (closed permanently December 2020) on Oct 4, 1783. The majestic monument of George Washington showcases a close likeness, as Siemering used a mask that Washington had made and one of his portraits for accuracy. Washington’s is horsebound, facing City Hall, on the top tier of this three-tiered sculpture; on the middle level are allegorical figures and on the lowest level are stunning sculptures of Native Americans and native animals to America. On May 5, 1897, President William McKinley attended the dedication of the statue to commemorate soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War at the Green Street entrance of Fairmount Park; this would later be moved to Eakins Circle in 1928.
Today, people find themselves continuously drawn to Eakins Oval: Philadelphia’s famous 4th of July concerts; a starting point and often ending point for various competitive runs and fundraising walks/runs such as the Half Marathon, the Full Marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, to name a few; the premier spectator spot for the oldest Thanksgiving parade in the country (102 years old;) where Pope Francis greeted his onlookers; and the NFL Eagles 2018 victory parade route!
If you’re ready to make Philly your home, contact Maxwell Realty to learn about available properties in your ideal neighborhood.
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