Posted August 16, 2023

Storefront on campus transformed with depictions of North Philadelphia history

In a storefront at the intersection of Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, Temple has installed 11 temporary panels depicting key places in North Philadelphia's history.

One of the panels installed in the storefront at Broad & Cecil B. Moore
The panels highlight places that have shaped North Philadelphia's history, including the John Coltrane House, the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, the Uptown Theater, and others.

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, as is often declared, the panes near the corner of North Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue offer a view into the historic soul of North Philadelphia.

Temple’s designers visually transformed the 11 windows of a former bookstore at the northwest corner of the intersection. While a new tenant is sought for the storefront, temporary panels highlighting the community’s history are erected along the facade.

“It is a testament to the rich history and legacy of North Philadelphia and its residents’ contributions to American society,” said Valerie Harrison, Temple’s vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. “This is a place that has contributed to the fabric of the world. It launched educators, doctors, lawyers, entertainers, activists, artists and thought leaders who have changed the world.”

The “Greetings from North Philadelphia” windows feature panels dedicated to Temple’s Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection; the Uptown Theater, part of the circuit for African American entertainers; the Wagner Free Institute of Science and the residences of well-known contributors to the arts such as painter Henry O. Tanner under the store’s green awnings. The designs drew inspiration from vintage postcards.

The Freedom Theatre, for example, served as a performing arts home for teenager Leslie Odom Jr., who later starred in Hamilton and took home the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical in 2016 for his portrayal of Alexander Hamilton’s longtime rival—and eventual killer—Aaron Burr.

Also featured among the panels is the Church of the Advocate, where the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party hosted the group’s 1970 national conference. Father Paul Washington of the church and then-Philadelphia Bar Association President Robert Landis helped secure the church and Temple University as the venue for the massive meeting.

“Inspirational art can add a human touch to commercial spaces, making them more inviting,” said Jonathan Reiter, associate vice president of finance. “We undertook this project to enhance the area’s visual appeal and emphasize its significance to the Temple community.”

Reiter said that the bookstore formerly housed at the site has been relocated into the Main Campus store and will eventually be in the new Paley building, scheduled to open in the fall of 2025.

- Deirdre C. Hopkins