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February 24, 2016

Ed Bacon On The Future Of Philadelphia, Circa 1962

“Rhythmic waves of expansion and succession.” Form, Design and the City, the educational film from 1962 that was created by Reynolds Metals Company uses that phrase to explain a then-coming wave of new construction to the city that would dramatically revitalize Philadelphia. (And one that can still be used to describe similar projects in the 21st century). Hosting this nearly hour-long time capsule is Ed Bacon, the still awe-inspiring city planner who shaped the Philly of today. From the video’s YouTube page:

It was during his tenure at the City Planning Commission that Bacon and his staff conceived and implemented numerous large- and small-scale design ideas that shaped today’s Philadelphia. These design concepts became Penn Center, Market East, Penn’s Landing, Society Hill, Independence Mall, and the Far Northeast. The Center City Commuter Connection, a seemingly radical idea at the time, was conceived during the 1950s by Planning Commission staff member, R. Damon Childs, who succeeded Bacon as Executive Director.

Not all of the concepts that Bacon supported materialized. One proposal that he inherited from Robert Mitchell was to encircle Center City with a series of expressways, including the so-called “Crosstown Expressway” (I-695) and the Vine Street Expressway (I-676) linking the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) with the Delaware Expressway (I-95) via South Street. Three of the four expressways were built; however, the Crosstown Expressway faced significant local opposition and was never built, while a scaled-down expressway was built at Vine Street.

Both a nostalgic look at how we got here and a glimpse at a Philadelphia That Never Was, we recommend you set aside some time to take this film in and marvel at how far we’ve come over the decades.