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Philly stoops to replace benches in Washington Square

Josh Middleton

Philadelphia is a stoop kind of town. Whether we live in South Philadelphia, West Philly or out in Fishtown, we all have memories of sitting on the stoop outside our house, chatting with neighbors, feeding a stray cat or playing stoop ball with the neighborhood kids. But with Philadelphia in the midst of a rapid change—when so many homes are being razed to make way for modern, decidedly stoop-less apartment complexes—are we in danger of losing this aspect of our identity?

That’s the question at the heart of a new community art project, called “On the Threshold (Salvaged Stoops, Philadelphia),” that gives new life to approximately 12 stoops that were collected from home demolition projects around the city. For nine weeks starting September 16, these stoops replace the benches along the eastern quadrant of Washington Square—the section near 6th and Washington streets.

Artist Kaitlin Pomerantz collected the stoops and rebuilt them with the help of a local masonry union. She says their location in Washington Square—a former public burial ground—has multiple meanings. They’ll serve as seats where passersby can rest in a public space, but their placement, side by side like tombstones in a graveyard, will honor the homes and traditions being lost in this moment of rapid redevelopment in Philadelphia.

stoops washington square

Photograph: Courtesy Mural Arts Philadelphia/Monument Lab

“I’m astounded by the number of structures coming down that are being replaced by buildings that don’t retain the same character,” she says. “I’m hoping this project will be a way for people to think about what is lost during a time of development and inspire them to come up with strategies to preserve all culture, history and folklore that’s embedded in local architecture.”

The project is part of Monument Lab, a citywide Mural Arts Philadelphia project that enlists 20 artists to create monuments that reflect every Philadelphian and the issues facing our city. These temporary shrines will be displayed in 10 public parks and neighborhood centers between September 16 and November 19.

Check out our guide to Monument Lab to discover four other cool projects worth seeking out in parks around Philadelphia. And learn more about Pomerantz’s project in the video below. 

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