Text by: Monica Zaleski
Giant stone arches curve toward the lawns of West Fairmount Park, at Lansdowne Drive. Topped with hierarchic statues (two equestrian and two figures positioned on towering pillars), and decorated all around with inset busts of ranking military men and reliefs depicting allegorical figures, the Smith Memorial Arch was built as a tribute to Pennsylvania’s Civil War heroes.
A wealthy Philadelphian named Richard Smith, who made his fortune as a type founder, commissioned the monument in 1891. By 1912 it was complete.
The Civil War monument forms the gateway to Fairmount Park’s Centennial District, the grounds where the 1876 World’s Fair was held. A short walk from the monument is Memorial Hall, former touchstone of the exposition and current home to the Please Touch Museum.
Today the green mall edged by the Smith Memorial Arch is the perfect spot for a picnic, lawn games, and card tables on a sunny afternoon.
The seating area, on the park side of the monument, might be considered a romantic antecedent to Philly’s Love Park. Known as the Whispering Benches, the curved stone walls will carry hushed words from your mouth to the listening ears of that special someone seated on the other end.
(Free tip: Ask your honey to meet you in the middle for a smooch.)