On The Anniversary Of Bacon’s Death, Harry Remembers

 

Edmund N. Bacon (1910-2005)

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of the death of Philadelphia’s Modernist city planner, Ed Bacon. Over the years, as I was grappling with this bundle of contradictions that is Philadelphia, I would run into Mr. Bacon. Once, as a brash thirty-something, I accosted him in Rittenhouse Square with questions about the Center City commuter tunnel, which combined the vestiges of the Reading and Pennsylvania Railroads.

I had seen Bacon at several events in the early 2000s, but how interesting was it for me to actually speak with “The Father of Modern Philadelphia?”

“To Harry / Good Luck / Edmond N Bacon / Dec 5, 2003″

He responded to my queries, perhaps with a bit of ire, but that was what I had expected. Yet I believe that the episode—one of perhaps hundreds he had had over the years—pleased him, as here was someone showing an interest in one of his life’s achievements.

In the next few years before his death, I encountered Bacon a few more times, the last during a “Save the Boyd” event in late 2003. The Friends of the Boyd were formed to save the Boyd Theater, an art deco landmark on Chestnut Street between 19th and 20th, one block from Rittenhouse Square. Known as the Sam Eric Theater when it closed in May 2002, the Boyd is Philadelphia’s last intact movie palace. I’ve been somewhat involved in the effort to save the Boyd since about that time.

On December 5, 2003, the Friends of the Boyd presented The Philadelphia Story (1940) at International House as part of its fundraising activities. (One motion picture from every decade of the twentieth century was featured in this film series.) The event included a VIP reception with Bacon as special guest.

I had brought with me a copy of the November 6, 1964, issue of Time magazine with Bacon on the cover. An eBay purchase only a few days before, it was published only three weeks before I was born. I also had a copy of Bacon’s Design of Cities,  first published in 1967 (my copy was a revised later edition). I resolved to get him to sign both items, which, after a bit finagling, I did. Plus, I got to speak with him again about the city we both love.

When he addressed the crowd during his remarks, I gave him a copy of the issue of Time. Somebody snapped a photograph of him just when he has holding it up to make a point. The somebody, a kind soul, later emailed me that photo. So I have a picture of Ed Bacon holding the very magazine that he had just signed for me. The photo, the issue of Time, and Bacon’s Design of Cities are the most prized items in my collection of over 2,000 books and all kinds of ephemera about Philadelphia.

Time magazine, November 6, 1964, issue.

About the author

Harry Kyriakodis, author of Philadelphia's Lost Waterfront (2011), Northern Liberties: The Story of a Philadelphia River Ward (2012), and The Benjamin Franklin Parkway (2014), regularly gives walking tours and presentations on unique yet unappreciated parts of the city. A founding/certified member of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides, he is a graduate of La Salle University and Temple University School of Law, and was once an officer in the U.S. Army Field Artillery. He has collected what is likely the largest private collection of books about the City of Brotherly Love: over 2700 titles new and old.



2 Comments


  1. A couple months ago I was browsing Second Mile thrift store at 45th and Walnut, and stumbled upon a first edition of Design of Cities. After buying it (for under a dollar!) I opened it up and realized that IT WAS SIGNED BY HIM. IN 1967. As a UPenn architecture student you could imagine my thrill.

  2. This reminds men of the time I met Mr. bacon in 1965 as a student at St. Joseph’s College. A friend of mine and I were attempting to put together a symposium on Philadelphia and he graciously agreed to meet withus for a half hour. The symposiummnever got off the ground but it was a thrill to get to sit with himn for that time and discuss Philadelphia. He and Dithat two-headed monster, Clark-Dilworth, were the first to begin the long coming resurgence of Philadelphia which today seems to be gathering momentumcaprice, munedic

Recent Posts
Preservation Alliance Launches

Preservation Alliance Launches “Places To Save” List

October 20, 2014  |  Buzz

The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia reboots their annual "Endangered Properties" list with new "Places to Save" announcements > more

Bless Our Beer Gardens, Past and Present

Bless Our Beer Gardens, Past and Present

October 20, 2014  |  Behind the Facade

Drinking al fresco reached new heights this summer as brilliantly designed beer gardens popped up all over the city. This isn't anything new though, says Nic Esposito. Philadelphia has been publicly drunk since 1671 > more

Old City Orange Façade To Be Preserved

Old City Orange Façade To Be Preserved

October 20, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Historical Commission okays Old City development, the emblematic stairway at the Barnes, Blatstein serious yet anxious about The Provence, 10 homes for NoLibs, and a salvaged cornice delights in Fishtown > more

The Tombstone Wall Of Society Hill

The Tombstone Wall Of Society Hill

October 17, 2014  |  Vantage

With October at hand and Halloween on the way, we thought a series on historic cemeteries was most appropriate. Our first story presents the strange tale of thirty tombstones that sit embedded in the back wall of the Presbyterian Historical Society > more

Existential Tug-Of-War Along West Cecil B. Moore Avenue

Existential Tug-Of-War Along West Cecil B. Moore Avenue

October 17, 2014  |  Morning Blend

The identity crisis of TempleTown, Family Court opens, artist space coming to Grays Ferry, mixed-use for Ridge, inside the Bok storage facility, and PhillyU collects $60M > more

Improvements Possible For The Schuylkill Boardwalk

Improvements Possible For The Schuylkill Boardwalk

October 16, 2014  |  Morning Blend

How to upgrade the successful trail extension, Temple investing in its athletic programs once more, developer slowly selling houses in Somertown, and lackluster restriping plans for Washington Avenue > more