FRANKLIN SQUARE — There’s more than carousel rides, mini-golf (with holes that pay homage to Philadelphia landmarks), a playground and food for sale at Franklin Square, these days.
The park’s 181-year-old centerpiece, the newly renovated Franklin Square Fountain, was unveiled Wednesday night.
Now, through the end of September, you can catch a dynamic state-of-the-art fountain show featuring spectacular dancing water effects and colored lights choreographed to music.
UWishUNu reports the $2 million renovation installed five kinds of water effects including jets, air-powered nozzles, geysers, swivels and more mechanisms of water design help bring the show to life.
Each choreographed fountain performance features water spraying and soaring in the air, in sync with music and — special for the evening — new colorful LED lighting, for free.
- Daytime performances run every 30 minutes from noon until 2pm.
- Evening performances run every 30 minutes from 6pm until the 10pm closing, through Sept. 2; then until 7pm through Sept. 30.
According to Historic Philadelphia, the Franklin Square Fountain is the oldest refurbished and functioning public water fountain in the United States. It stands as a marble masterpiece built in 1838 after Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution calling for a fountain of “grand dimensions.”
Now, it’s the longest-surviving fountain in one of William Penn’s original five public squares laid out in 1682, in his original plan for Philadelphia.
Visit Philadelphia says Franklin Square was originally called North East Publick Square but was renamed in honor of Benjamin Franklin in 1825. The square is the fabled site where Franklin conducted his famous experiment involving the use of a kite and key in the discovery of electricity. That’s the reason for the large stainless steel Bolt of Lightning sculpture erected in 1984.
Penn’s other public squares were Centre Square (now City Hall), Southeast Square (renamed Washington Square), Southwest Square (renamed Rittenhouse Square) and Northwest Square (renamed Logan Square).
Franklin Square, eight acres at 200 N. 6th Street, did not have an easy history.
Over the years, it has served as a cattle pasture, a horse and cattle market, a burial ground, a drill and parade ground for the American military during the War of 1812. It finally became a beloved city park in 1837.
But cars, the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Vine Street Expressway (I-676) changed the neighborhood.
Wikipedia says during the Great Depression, the square became a place for homeless and unemployed, and after, neglect from city government.
That “caused the square to be an encampment site for the homeless and a place for drug dealers.”
Without pedestrians, the PATCO Speedline’s underground Franklin Square Station, which was its last stop before crossing the Delaware River to New Jersey, closed in 1979. (It could finally reopen!)
The park and fountain were renovated several times, most recently in 2006. At that time, it had been 30 years since the previous renovation, and it restored fountain’s vintage marble and surrounding wrought iron fence.