The Last Elephant of West Mount Airy

 

Photo: Steve Currall

On the northern corner of West Mount Airy Avenue & Greene Street in West Mount Airy, a multi-colored fiberglass elephant stands triumphantly on the side lawn of a private residence. The colorful beast remains a local attraction, standing out so clearly from its setting of stately granite homes and shaded, uncongested streets.

The elephant, however, is but one remnant of a larger effort to juxtapose zoology with urbanity. For six weeks in the autumn of 2006, the public art exhibit “AbZOOlutely Chestnut Hill” featured 50 such painted fiberglass animals along Germantown Avenue. There was certainly little conceptually innovative by this display, with the international “CowParade” and the Main Line’s “Art Unleashed” as clear antecedents. Yet several prominent architectural firms sponsored pieces, enough to elicit some additional publicity.

The subsequent raffle, auction, and sale supported the Chestnut Hill Community Fund, the Philadelphia Zoo, as well as the beatification and preservation of the Chestnut Hill District, which had conceived of the series. The figures were mostly purchased by various businesses (only some of which continue to be on public display), while others, like the elephant in question, were snatched up by private individuals.

For photos taken of the 2006 public exhibit on Germantown Avenue, see a Flickr album HERE.


View Larger Map

About the author

Stephen Currall recently received his BA in history from Arcadia University. Before beginning doctoral studies, he is pursuing his interest in local history, specifically just how Philadelphians engage their vibrant past. Besides skimming through 18th century letters, Steve is also interested in music and travel.

Send a message!



Leave a Reply

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

Recent Posts
City Council To Vote On Ridge Avenue Demo Moratorium

City Council To Vote On Ridge Avenue Demo Moratorium

December 13, 2017  |  News

A bill to place a temporary hold on demolition applications for 300+ historic properties along Ridge Avenue goes before City Council tomorrow. Michael Bixler has the details > more

The Marvelous Multiple Occupations Of The Midtown II

The Marvelous Multiple Occupations Of The Midtown II

December 11, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

Last June, one of Center City's last classic diners, Midtown II at 11th and Sansom, closed its lunch counter for good. The high-profile property is now under development, although plans for the space remain elusive. The Shadow takes us behind the façade to reveal a lively list of tenants and a colorful history of reuse > more

Secrets! Romance! Scandal! The Hush-Hush Love Of Philly's Paint King And His Irish Lass

Secrets! Romance! Scandal! The Hush-Hush Love Of Philly’s Paint King And His Irish Lass

December 8, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. takes us to Old City where the flames of a secret affair scorched newspaper headlines in the early 1900s > more

Marc Lamont Hill Energizes Germantown Ave With New Bookstore Cafe

Marc Lamont Hill Energizes Germantown Ave With New Bookstore Cafe

December 6, 2017  |  Vantage

Academic, activist, and political commentator Marc Lamont Hill carries the tradition of the Black-owned bookstore into the 21st century with Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books. John Henry Scott has the details > more

Give $$$, Get a Cool Perk: 2017 Campaign

Give $$$, Get a Cool Perk: 2017 Campaign

December 4, 2017  |  Vantage

Hidden City's annual fund drive is in full swing on Generosity and we've got a brand new batch of perks celebrating Philadelphia available. Here's a look at this year's killer lineup > more

Three Historic Designation Removals Call Procedure Into Question

Three Historic Designation Removals Call Procedure Into Question

November 30, 2017  |  Vantage

Three historic properties on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places were abruptly stripped of legal protection last week. Contributor Starr Herr-Cardillo unpacks the details of each situation > more