Memorial Hall, a National Historic Landmark, was built as the art gallery for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, the first major World’s Fair in the United States. During the exposition, 20 nations exhibited 3,256 paintings and 627 sculptures and 431 works of applied art within its walls. Nearly 10 million people visited the fair during its six-month run, taking in 60,000 exhibits in more than 240 structures spread over 284 acres in Fairmount Park. Tours for adults of Memorial Hall’s Beaux Arts grandeur are available by appointment.
Memorial Hall Facts and Figures:
- Architect: Herman J. Schwarzmann
- Contractor: Richard J. Dobbins
- Length: 375 feet
- Width: 210 feet
- General Height: 59 feet
- Dome Height: 150 feet
- Exterior Facade: granite
- Interior: marble, metal and ornamental plaster
- Construction Cost: $1.5 million
- Post-exhibit Uses:
– First home of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of the Arts
– Recording studio for Philadelphia Orchestra
– Recreation center including a swimming pool, basketball court and boxing ring
Centennial Exhibition Facts and Figures:
- Dates: May 10 through Nov. 10, 1876
- Attendance: 9,789,392 (U.S. population was 40 million)
- Entry Fee: 50 cents (U.S. average daily pay was $1.21)
- Size: 284 acres
- Exhibits: 60,000 including the introduction of root beer, the telephone, and kindergarten.
- Countries Represented: 38
- Cost: $8.5 million
Restoring the Dome – 2015
Memorial Hall’s most distinctive feature is its iron and glass dome, topped by a 23-foot-tall statue of Columbia, the poetic symbol of the United States, holding a laurel branch. At the corners of the dome stand four statues symbolizing industry, commerce, agriculture and mining.
The dome was showing the wear of time, weather and neglect when, in 1984, workers replaced broken glass and flashing; removed, reinforced and reinstalled all sculptures, and more. But by 2004, the City of Philadelphia was forced to install netting and a large membrane at the level of the inner dome lens to prevent interior damage from birds and rain.
The six-month $1.25 million restoration restoration, led by architects Kise, Straw & Kolodner, was completed in December 2015. The work applied Decothane, an epoxy coating reinforced with a woven fabric that cures flexible, remains nearly transparent and can be pigmented to match virtually any color. The five statues (Columbia, and those representing industry, commerce, agriculture and mining) were restored with fiberglass and zinc patching. Financing was provided by the city’s capital budget ($1 million) and the office of Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. ($125,000).< EmploymentNewsroom >