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
A Monumental Shift At Dilworth Park

A Monumental Shift At Dilworth Park

October 24, 2014  |  Vantage

Olin's design for Dilworth Park gives Philadelphia what it has long struggled for: a suitably grand approach to the monumental City Hall, says Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin. Here's his review of the park, now essentially complete > more

Kenney To Hist Commission: Put Buildings On Register, Get More Funding

Kenney To Hist Commission: Put Buildings On Register, Get More Funding

October 24, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Firm would simply recoup money through ads, Councilman Kenney wants to bolster Historical Commission, Councilman Henon undaunted by Planning Commission’s non-recommendation for Mayfair overlay, and Guinn hard at work on latest mural > more

Bill Seeks To Preempt Tragedy With Better Data For Firefighters

Bill Seeks To Preempt Tragedy With Better Data For Firefighters

October 23, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Blueprint reconnaissance for firefighter safety, improvements to the Burk Mansion, City Council considers beautification of vacant land by former convicts, and more inaction on PGW sale > more

Why The Flying Saucer Deserves Your LOVE

Why The Flying Saucer Deserves Your LOVE

October 22, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Preservation Alliance calls iconic LOVE Park building a “place to save,” zoning changes introduced for parts of North Philly, another firm for the Navy Yard, and a sinking pharmacy in South Philly > more

The Missing Namesake Of North Philly's Lost Necropolis

The Missing Namesake Of North Philly’s Lost Necropolis

October 21, 2014  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Next up in our Halloween cemetery series: Harry K hits the tomes looking for the missing obelisk of Monument Cemetery. Is it sitting in a gravestone dumping ground at the foot of the Betsy Ross Bridge? Its fate may be forever unknown > more

Of Birds And Drinking Water

Of Birds And Drinking Water

October 21, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Inside the East Park Reservoir, Temple students adopting blocks, UCD to start early on 40th Street plaza, and Jewish life gets a boost at Penn > more