With Retirement of John Gallery, Preservation In Philadelphia At A Crossroads

 

John Andrew Gallery | Photo: Paul Dry Books

John Andrew Gallery, 72, who has led the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia in its mission to advance historic preservation throughout the region for nearly a decade, will retire from his position as executive director at the end of the year.

His departure opens up many possibilities and an equal number of questions about the future of the organization, which came to be seen during his tenure as a reliable critic and invaluable auxiliary of the city’s under-resourced Historical Commission.

Randy Mason, chair of University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation and a member of the Alliance’s board of directors, is co-chairing the national search for Gallery’s replacement. Mason indicated that it was too early to talk about potential candidates, but said the Alliance was “not looking for a new direction, but looking for new leadership that will be able to build on the foundation of all the things the Alliance does well now,” specifically the initiatives that Gallery and other Alliance members have started to better “weave preservation further into neighborhoods”.

About the qualification of a potential replacement, Mason said that the Alliance was looking at “how [an executive director] was going to compliment the strengths of the board and the staff,” and that anyone with the appropriate qualification could apply through their website.

Gallery, who has served in various capacities throughout the Philadelphia world of planning and urban development, was notably the first director of the City’s Office of Housing and Urban Development (OHCD), under Mayor Frank Rizzo. An indisputably powerful and deeply knowledgeable figure, Gallery has been an independent-minded and sometimes polarizing actor within Philadelphia’s tightly-knit preservation world. “I think it’s really significant that he’s not in anybody’s camp,” said John Kromer, a senior consultant at the Fels Institute, and a project manager under Gallery at the OHCD, later becoming director of that agency himself during the administration of Ed Rendell.

“You can’t identify him with the CDCs, or the private developers, or the city’s administration, or some political person,” Kromer said. “He’s consistently independent and he can sometimes be unpredictable. And I think that’s particularly important for someone who’s a leader and an advocate for historic preservation.”

A Boston native, Gallery was drawn to Philadelphia in the 1960s following an encounter he had with then-Planning Commission director Ed Bacon, after a lecture the planner gave to Gallery’s class at Harvard University. Gallery was completing a master’s degree in architecture, and said he approached Bacon about employment at the Commission, which was still in the public eye after the success of the recently completed Society Hill project. In an interview given to Sam Katz as part of the documentary film project “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment,” Gallery called Bacon “an incredible public speaker,” and says Bacon told him to “‘give us a call when you finish your degree’.”

Gallery co-authored Man-Made Philadelphia, a Guide to Its Physical and Cultural Environment, in 1972

Gallery was also impressed with a plan to build a new city hall in Boston, submitted by Philadelphia-based architecture firm Mitchell/Giurgola (which exists now locally as MGA Partners). Although the plan was eventually turned down, the newly graduated Gallery was so impressed that he resolved to travel to Philadelphia and seek employment with either Romaldo Giurgola or Ed Bacon. Ironically, Mitchell/Giurgola was working on a project for Bacon’s Planning Commission when they picked up Gallery as an employee, and the young architect ended up working for both men simultaneously. His time with the Commission would introduce him to Philadelphia’s twin poisons of poverty and structural decay, which would influence his philosophy on housing issues and historic preservation.

About the author

Ryan Briggs is a journalist who lives in West Philadelphia. A veteran of several economic development agencies in Philadelphia, Ryan has contributed to the Philadelphia City Paper, Next City and other fine, local publications. Follow him on Twitter at @rw_briggs.

Send a message!



No Comments


Trackbacks

  1. Design For The Sky | Hidden City Philadelphia

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

 

Recent Posts
Developers Continue To Distrust Central Delaware Master Plan

Developers Continue To Distrust Central Delaware Master Plan

September 27, 2016  |  Morning Blend

The imperative of collaboration in reaching a critical mass on the Delaware, proposed regional rail power plant draws residents’ ire, L&I releases more data sets, and Walnut Lane Bridge reopens > more

The Crisis On Jewelers Row: Mayor Kenney We Need You

The Crisis On Jewelers Row: Mayor Kenney We Need You

September 27, 2016  |  Soapbox

The tools are in hand to stop Toll Brothers' tower (and get it built somewhere else), architectural historian and preservation professor Aaron Wunsch argues. Can Jim Kenney deliver? > more

Ground Broken On Reuse Of Old Spring Garden School

Ground Broken On Reuse Of Old Spring Garden School

September 26, 2016  |  Morning Blend

North Philadelphia eyesore being converted into 37 units of subsidized housing, Fishtown entertainment complex opens, and Kenney the pedestrian champion > more

The Tale Of Catfish And Waffles

The Tale Of Catfish And Waffles

September 23, 2016  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Long before chicken and waffles took hip restaurant menus by storm Philadelphia was famous for the meal's precursor, catfish and waffles, served at inns and taverns on the banks of the Wissahickon Creek and the Schuylkill River. Harry K. sets the table and serves us up a heaping plate of local culinary history > more

Requiem For A Moderne Gem, William Penn Annex Post Office

Requiem For A Moderne Gem, William Penn Annex Post Office

September 22, 2016  |  Vantage

Contributor Ann de Forest delivers a eulogy for the decline of civic architecture and the closing of an iconic post office on East Market Street. > more

Residential Towers To Connect Old City With Northern Liberties

Residential Towers To Connect Old City With Northern Liberties

September 22, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Apartment high-rises planned for East Callowhill, Little Pete’s replacement moves ahead, adverse possession in Fishtown, conserving INHP’s bronze statues, and Clarke defends low-density urban development > more