Please Touch Museum
Memorial Hall in Philadelphia, Pa.
Award Type: Honor Award
A beloved Philadelphia landmark, Memorial Hall, the granite Beaux-Arts masterpiece in Fairmount Park, is one of just two remaining buildings constructed for the Centennial Exposition of 1876. With its prime perch above the Schuylkill River, Memorial Hall's soaring 150-foot iron-and-glass dome topped with a 23-foot-tall statue of Columbia provided a dramatic home for the Philadelphia Museum of Art for more than fifty years. Later used as a recreation center, police station and recording studio, Memorial Hall was closed in 2000 after years of severe deterioration, including a leaky roof, crumbling plaster and façade damage.
After decades on the sidelines, Memorial Hall is back in the spotlight as the new home of Please Touch Museum, an award-winning learning center for children, which opened in its new home in October 2008. Decades of deterioration have been swept away in an $88 million restoration that brings the shine back to this National Historic Landmark. In the central rotunda, historic colors, ornate plasterwork and marble gleam again. Elsewhere, exhibits include displays recalling the glory days and long-term impact of the 1876 Exposition, and a glass-and-steel addition – the only major alteration to the historic building – houses a colorful 1920s-era carousel.
"More than a century ago, Memorial Hall was designed to be a world-class museum for the city of Philadelphia, and, now after years of neglect, it again serves that purpose," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "Thanks to a visionary group of architects, museum officials and city leaders, the Please Touch Museum will provide children with the opportunity to experience a great historic building, which is the first step in developing the next generation of historic preservationists."
Along with Please Touch Museum at Memorial Hall, project manager Northstar Advisors was honored as a co-recipient of the award. The project architect was Kise, Straw and Kolodner, and general contractor was a joint venture of Daniel J. Keating Company, Bittenbender Construction, and McCrae Construction.