University of Pennsylvania
btwn. 34th and 38th Sts. and Walnut and Spruce Sts.,
The Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, or “Penn” as it is locally called, is the oldest and most esteemed of the many universities in Philadelphia.
The first official university in the country was founded in part by Ben Franklin in 1740. Franklin designed an educational program that included practical applications in commerce and public service along with classics and theology. This laid the groundwork for the multidisciplinary and liberal arts curriculums practiced at many modern colleges and universities today, so you can blame Ben for all those annoying general education requirements.
The campus didn’t move to its current site until the 1870s, after more than a century in Center City.
Today, the attractive campus is in the heart of University City, the most developed section of West Philadelphia just across the bridge from Center City. Be sure to stroll along Locust Walk, the typical ivy-covered walkway lined with trees and stately architecture. If school is in session, you’ll be surrounded by Penn students promoting fraternity parties, groups, and events and enjoying college life.
No matter when you come, you’ll notice the many monuments to Ben Franklin along and around the walk. Sit next to his bronze sculpture on a bench near 36th and Walnut Streets for a popular photo op. A large statue of him sits on a pedestal on Locust Walk near 34th and Walnut Streets.
Across from the statue, you’ll see a modern statue of a large broken button, courtesy of Claes Oldenberg, also responsible for the Clothespin sculpture near City Hall. Rumor has it that the ultimate feat for a Penn student is to have sex on the button—although it’s hard to imagine this is possible considering the near-constant bustle of Locust Walk.
Beyond the button is the Van Pelt Library, an excellent place to study, read, or use the free Internet, or to visit the rare books room on the 6th floor. The library is open to the public with a photo ID. There are many notable buildings worth exploring on campus, but be sure to stop in at the rotating exhibit in the Arthur Ross Gallery in the stunning Fisher Fine Arts Library (across College Green from the Van Pelt Library). And all true sports fans will want to see the historic basketball arena, the Palestra (220 S. 32nd St.).
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition