Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

The beautiful and historic Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul,  the head church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia (raised to the rank of an archdiocese in 1875), was built from 1846-1864. The cathedral was the site of two papal Masses

The grand Palladian facade

Here are some interesting trivia regarding this cathedral:

  • The cathedral is the largest Catholic church in Pennsylvania
  • It is the largest brownstone structure and one of the most architecturally notable structures in the city of Philadelphia.
  • Presented in a RomanCorinthian style of architecture, the cathedral was modeled after the Lombard Church of St. Charles (San Carlo al Corso) in Rome.
  • It is 250 ft. long, 136 ft. wide and approximately 156 ft. high from the floor to the top of the dome (209 ft. from the floor to the top of the 11-foot gold cross atop the dome and  314 ft. from the pavement).
  • It was designed by Napoleon LeBrun (a native Philadelphian born to French-Catholic parents) from original plans by the Rev. Mariano Muller and the Rev. John B. Tornatore.
  • The brownstone facing, now atmosphere and weather-worn and pinkish in color, originally came from quarries in Connecticut and northern New Jersey.
  • The cathedral’s pipe organ, one of the largest in Philadelphia, has 75 ranks of pipes, 90 stops and 4,648 pipes on 4 manuals and pedals.
  • According to local lore and the parish’s history, the Philadelphia Nativist Riots, which represented the height of Anti-Catholicism and Know-Nothingism in Philadelphia, greatly influenced the design of the building. The light-colored, tinted clerestory  windows were built very high to inhibit vandalism from possible future riots (Legend has it that the architect and construction workers would throw stones into the air to determine the height of where the windows would be placed).

Here’s the historical timeline of the cathedral:

  • On September 6, 1846, it, the cornerstone of the cathedral, a gift of Mr. James McClarnan, was laid in the presence of some 8,000 persons.
  • From 1846 to 1851, LeBrun supervised the project
  • In 1851, by John Notman (noted for his Philadelphia ecclesiastical architecture) took over the supervision of the project
  • In 1857, LeBrun’s again supervised its construction.
  • On November 20, 1864, the cathedral was dedicated and solemnly blessed, with Bishop James Wood officiating.
  • On July 6, 1877, the altars, dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart, were blessed.
  • On June 30, 1890, it was solemnly consecrated.
  • From 1914-1915, Arch. Henry D. Dagit completely renovated the cathedral interior under the direction of Archbishop Edmond F. Prendergast, adding the apse behind the High Altar, while D’Ascenzo Studios executed the apse’s stained glass windows and mosaic murals.
  • During the 1955-1957 renovation and expansion, semicircular apse was built to extend the sanctuary to its present depth of 54 ft.; lower stained glass windows were added to the new sanctuary apse (added with a stained glass window, from Conmick of Boston, depicting the Baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist and Sts. Peter and Paul baptizing prisoners in the Mamertine prison in Rome with water from a miraculous spring) and baptistery; and cast bronze doors (leading from the main façade into the narthex, or vestibule) and bronze handrails (along with the doors of the Race Street entrance to the cathedral) were installed.
  • On June 24, 1971, the cathedral was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
  • On October 3, 1979, Pope John Paul II celebrated a Papal Mass here.
  • On September 26, 2015, Pope Francis celebrated a Papal Mass here.

The cathedral’s aqua oxidized-copper vaulted dome, rising 156 ft. above the floor, and grand Palladian facade, designed by Notman in the Italian Renaissance manner, were added after 1850.

Commemorative Plaque of Pope John Paul II Visit

The old chapel on the north side of the basilica that was built in 1856 was replaced the Chapel of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament which was dedicated on October 11, 1955, the Feast of the Maternity of Our Lady.

The cathedral’s doors

The building’s main façade, graced by four massive, 60 ft. high (6 ft. in diameter) Corinthian columns, has niches with bronze statues of the Sacred Heart (to whom the diocese was consecrated by Bishop Wood on October 15, 1873); Mary, the Immaculate Conception (proclaimed patroness of the United States at the First Council of Baltimore in 1846, it was sculpted at the Joseph Sibbel Studios and installed in 1918); and Saints Peter and Paul, (the patrons of the Cathedral Basilica) both sculpted in the Gorham Studios.

The spacious interior

The spacious interior, largely decorated by Constantino Brumidi (a Greek/Italian-American painter best known for his murals in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.), features an oversized apse of stained glass and red antique marble in proportions reminiscent of Roman churches. The two large paintings, The Ascension of our Lord and the Adoration of the Kings from the East, decorate the ends of the transept.

Painting of “Adoration of the Kings from the East”

The 50 ft. wide and 192 ft. long great nave, lighted by bronze chandeliers weighing a half ton each, has a vaulted ceiling rising 80 ft. above the floor. The nave and transept are separated from the side aisles by massive pillars (which give way to arched recesses for altars and the baptistery) while a white marble altar rail, with three bronze gates, separate them from the sanctuary.

Painting of “The Ascension of Our Lord”

The Assumption of the Virgin into Heaven (1868), the striking oil on canvas ceiling mural in the dome, the pendentives and the portraits of St. Matthew (Angel), St. Mark (Lion), St. Luke (Winged Ox) and St. John (Eagle) in the medallions on the spandrels at the base of the dome, were painted by Brumidi. At the dome’s next level are panel paintings entitled Angels of The Passion (with each group of angels is an emblem of the Passion).

The dome

The ornate main altar, built with Botticino marble with Mandorlato rose marble trim, and the three altars, on each of the side aisles, point to an Italian Renaissance flavor. The front of the main altar is decorated by 3 gilded bronze discs, the central one bearing the HIS, the Greek inscription of Jesus Christ.

The High Altar

The 38 ft. high baldachin (or canopy) over the altar, of antique Italian marble, is surmounted by a semicircular bronze dome, the underside of which is a marble mosaic whose central figure is a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

The baldachin

The mosaic carries in Latin an inscription which translates: “In every place there is offered and sacrificed in My Name a clean oblation.” White, 10 ft. high, Italian marble angels, its decorative rosettes of Botticino marble, stand at the corners of the baldachin.

Two side altars are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel

The shrines dedicated to St. Katharine Drexel and St. John Neumann have 7-ft. high sculpted marble statues of these recent saints.

St. John Neumann Altar & Shrine

St. Katharine’s shrine retains the original altar donated in the 19th century by St. Katharine herself, along with her sisters, Elizabeth and Louise, as a memorial to their deceased parents, Francis and Emma Drexel.

Memorial altar to Archbishop Ryan

The memorial altar to Archbishop Patrick John Ryan, to the right of the altar dedicated to St. Katharine Drexel, was designed with the ancient Celtic Cross, to the left of which is the statue of St. Patrick while to the right is the statue of St. John the Evangelist.

Altar dedicated to the Holy Souls

The altar on the south side, between the Shrine to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and the baptistery, is dedicated to the Holy Souls and was modeled after the Blessed Sacrament altar in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, installed in December 2009, was the thought of Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali.

Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe

The choir stalls and the Cardinal’s chair, both of American black walnut, have wooden screens inspired by the famous metal rejería found in many cathedrals in Spain. The octagonal pulpit, opposite the Cardinal’s chair, has a carved walnut canopy and was constructed with marble matching the altar.

Mural of Blessed Mary’s Assumption

The baptistery, enclosed by a bronze screen inspired by a similar one in the Cathedral of Toledo in Spain, has the coat-of-arms of Cardinal John Francis O’Hara (carrying his motto in Latin “If you follow her you shall not go astray”) set into the top center of the screen.

The choir loft

The altar dedicated to the Holy Souls, to the left of the baptistery, is modeled after the Blessed Sacrament Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The main sanctuary and eight side chapels can comfortably seat approximately 1,240 worshippers (1,500 with added temporary chairs) in pews of walnut wood. The confessionals, their privacy secured by red velvet curtains, have a walnut finish while the floor is of white and black marble tiles.

The pipe organ

The choir loft, at the rear of the cathedral, has a richly ornamental organ screen (or casing) designed by Otto R. Eggers (who also designed the Jefferson Memorial, the Mellon Art Gallery, and the National Gallery of Art, all in Washington, D.C.) and built with carved walnut. The casing which encloses the pipes is one of the most outstanding in the country. High above the screen is a majestic stained glass window of the Crucifixion. The case enclosing the organ was most likely built by Edwin Forrest Durang, one of the cathedral architects and builders.

A mural (north), designed by Leandro Velasco, depicts people and events in the Church’s involvement with Pennsylvania history. At the top are the coats of arms of Pope Paul VI and John Cardinal Krol, and the bottom is the symbol of the 41st Eucharistic Congress, Philadelphia, 1976. The historic scenes are of George Washington and members of the Continental Congress at Old St. Mary’s Church; St. Katharine Drexel, Sisters of St. Joseph caring for the wounded on the Gettysburg battlefield; and Commodore Barry, founder of the United States Navy.

The statues of St. Peter (south side/rear) and St. Paul (north side/rear), the patrons of the cathedral, were moved from the now closed Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament and installed inside the cathedral in August 2009.

Another mural (south) by Leandro Velasco

In the bowels of the building, under the main altar of the cathedral, is the compact “Crypt of the Bishops” with the remains of most of the bishops and archbishops, as well as several other clergymen, of Philadelphia. The crypt, reached by stairs behind the main altar, is the final resting place of:

  • Michael Francis Egan, O.S.F. – the first Bishop of Philadelphia, he was consecrated on October 28, 1810 and died in 1814.
  • Henry Conwell – second Bishop of Philadelphia, he was consecrated 1820. He died on April 22, 1842.
  • Francis Patrick Kenrick – the third Bishop of Philadelphia, he was elevated to Archbishop of Baltimore in 1851. He died in 1863.
  • James Frederick Wood – the fifth Bishop, he became the first Archbishop of Philadelphia in 1875. He died on June 20, 1882.
  • Patrick John Ryan the sixth Bishop, he was the second Archbishop of Philadelphia. He died on February 3, 1911.
  • Edmond Prendergast – the seventh Bishop, he was the third Archbishop of Philadelphia. He died on February 26, 1918.
  • Dennis Joseph Dougherty – the eighth Bishop, he was the fourth Archbishop of Philadelphia and the first to be elevated to Cardinal. He died on May 31, 1951.
  • John Krol– the tenth Bishop, he was the sixth Archbishop of Philadelphia and the third to be elevated to Cardinal. He died on March 3, 1996.
  • Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua – the eleventh Bishop, he was the seventh Archbishop of Philadelphia and the fourth to be elevated to Cardinal. He died on January 31, 2012.
  • Ames J. Carroll – bishop who died in 1913.
  • Francis I. Clark – bishop who died in 1918.
  • Cletus Benjamin – bishop who died on May 15, 1961.
  • Gerald P. O’Hara – bishop who died on July 16, 1963
  • Gerald V. McDevitt – bishop who died on September 29, 1980.
  • Francis Patrick O’Neill – pastor of St. James, Philadelphia, 1843–1882, died 1882.
  • Maurice Walsh – pastor of St. Paul’s Philadelphia (1832–1888) who died in 1888.
  • James Corcoran – professor at Saint Charles Seminary who died in 1889.
  • Francis Brennan – Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments,he was the first American to receive an appointment to the Roman Curia. He died on July 2, 1968.
  • John Patrick Foley – President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, he was the seventh Philadelphia priest to be elevated to Cardinal. He died on December 11, 2011.

Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul: 18th St. & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (opposite Logan SquarePhiladelphiaPennsylvania 19103.  Tel: (215) 561-1313. Open daily, Mondays to Fridays,  7:30 AM to 5 PM; Saturdays, 9 AM to 5:15 PM; Sundays, 8 AM to 5 PM.

The Moshulu (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)


After our visit to the Independence Seaport Museum and the museum ships USS Olympia and USS Becuna, Jandy and I, our curiosity piqued, hopped over to the adjacent Moshulu which was also docked at Penn’s Landing.  We discovered it was a floating restaurant and, as it wasn’t officially opened yet (it opens at 5 PM), asked permission if we could explore this  four-masted steel barque, a first for both of us.

Check out “Independence Seaport Museum,” “Independence Seaport Museum – USS Olympia” and “Independence Seaport Museum – USS Becuna

We weren’t here to try out its food but the Moshulu’s dining rooms and outdoor decks do take full advantage of the unparalleled views of the city skyline and waterfront.

The author at the upper deck of the Moshulu


Here are some interesting trivia regarding this ship:

  • The Moshulu is the largest remaining original windjammer in the world. Whilst windjammers exist and sail the seas to this day, the last windjammer carrying cargo was the Peruvian Omega (ex Drumcliff) which was in use until her loss in 1958.
  • She was built by William Hamilton and Company, on the River Clyde in Scotland and, along with her sister ship Hans, was one of the last four-masted steel barques to be built on the river (Archibald Russell was launched in 1905).
  • Moshulu is the world’s oldest and largest square rigged sailing vessel still afloat.
  • She is the only restaurant venue on a tall ship in the world.
  • The Moshulu was originally named Kurtafter Dr. Kurt Siemers, director-general and president of H. J. Siemers & Co, a Hamburg shipping company.
  • She was built at a cost of £36,000.
  • The Moshulu was built for G. H. J. Siemers & Co. and originally used in the nitrate trade.
  • Moshulu was made famous by the books of famous travel writer  Eric Newby who, at the age of 18, was apprenticed aboard the Moshulu, joining the ship in Belfast in 1938. The journey was documented in Newby’s books The Last Grain Race (1956, refers to the last grain race before the outbreak of World War II) and Learning the Ropes: An Apprentice in the Last of the Windjammers (1999, contains more than 150 of the photographs Newby took while aboard).
  • Moshulu’s route to Australia took her around Cape Horn a remarkable 54 times without incident.
  • On June 10, 1939, Moshulu wins the very last race of square-rigged sailing ships between Australia and Europe while carrying 59,000 bags of grain, weighing 4875 tons with a record speed of 16 knots in 91 days (15,000 miles) from Australia to Queenstown Cobh Ireland, a faster passage than that of any of the other sailing ships making similar passages that year.
  • Its restaurant has gained recognition as an award winning, AAA 4 Diamond rated Restaurant, Bar and Deck.

The Moshulu had the following general characteristics:

  • Length: 121 m. (396 ft., overall), 109 m. (359 ft., on deck), 102.2 m. (33.5.3 ft., between perpendiculars)
  • Beam: 14.3 m. (46.9 ft.)
  • Height: 65 m. (212 ft., keel to masthead truck), 56 m. (185 ft., main deck to masthead truck)
  • Draft: 7.4 m. (24.3 ft.) at 5,300 tons
  • Depth: 8.5 m. (28 ft., depth molded)
  • Depth of Hold: 8.1 m. (26.6 ft.)
  • Displacement: 7,000 ts (1,700 ts ship + 5,300 ts cargo)
  • Sail Plan: 180 m²; 34 sails: 18 square sails, 3 spankers, 13 staysails
  • Depths: 2 continuous steel decks, poop, midship bridge and forecastle decks
  • Installed Power: no auxiliary propulsion; donkey enginefor sail winches, steam rudder
  • Propulsion: wind
  • Highest Recorded Speed: 17 knots(31 kms./hr.)
  • Complement: 35 crew (maximum)
  • Crew: 33 (captain, 1st & 2nd mate, 1 steward, 29 able seamen)[
  • Boats & landing craft carried: 4 lifeboats

Here’s a timeline of the ship’s history:

  • On April 18, 1904, the Kurt was launched with Captain Christian Schütt as her first master.
  • Between 1904 and 1914, under German ownership, Kurt shipped coal from Wales to South America, nitrate from Chile to Germany, coal from Australia to Chile, and coke and patent fuel from Germany to Santa RosalíaMexico.
  • In 1908, under the command of Captain Wolfgang H. G. Tönissen, she made a fast voyage from Newcastle, Australia, to Valparaíso with a cargo of coal in 31 days.
  • In 1914, upon the outbreak of World War I, Kurt was sailed to Oregon, under the command of Captain Tönissen, then laid up in Astoria.
  • In 1917, when the United States entered the war, she was seized as prize booty, kept in commission and  temporarily renamed the Dreadnought (“one who fears nothing”) but, as there was already a sailing ship of that name registered in the US, she was renamed the Moshulu (which had the same meaning in the Seneca language) by Edith Wilson, the First Lady of the United States and wife of President Woodrow Wilson (who was of Indian extraction herself).
  • Between 1917 and 1920, Moshulu was owned by the U.S. Shipping Board and carried wool and chrome between North America, Manila and Australia.
  • From 1920 to 1922, it was owned by the Moshulu Navigation Co. (Charles Nelson & Co., a lumber firm) of San Francisco
  • In 1922, Moshulu was sold to James Tyson of San Francisco and, that same year, was repurchased by Charles Nelson.
  • From 1920 to 1928, the big four-masted barque ran in the timber trade along the U.S. west coast to Australia and South Africa.
  • In 1928, after her last timber run to Melbourne and Geelong, Australia, Moshulu was laid up in Los Angeles.
  • Later on, she was kept in places in or near SeattleWashingtonLake Union, Winslow on (Puget Sound), and Esquimaltin British ColumbiaCanada 190 kms. (100 nautical miles) northwest of Seattle.
  • In 1935, the Moshulu was bought for $12,000 by Gustaf Erikson of Finland, a successful ship owner of 25 vessels, 11 four-masted barque windjammers, who had found profits in bringing grain from Australia.
  • On March 14, 1935, when the contract was signed, Captain Gunnar Boman took over the ship and sailed Moshulu to Port Victoria. Gustaf Erikson had her operate in the grain trade from Australia to Europe. During the period of Erikson ownership the working language of the ship was Swedish, even though it sailed under the Finnish flag. The ship’s home port at the time, Mariehamn, is in the Swedish-speaking Åland Islandsof Finland.
  • At the end of 1938, the ship left Belfast, under the command of Captain Mikael Sjögren, sailing to Port Lincoln, in South Australia, with a load of ballast stone, arriving there in 82 days, a good passage for a windjammer. In Port Victoria, Moshulu took 4,875 tons of bagged grain on board and began her return voyage to Ireland. She had a crew of 33, which included two Americans, J. Ferrell Colton of Molokai, Hawaii (publisher of “Windjammer Significant”) and John W. Albright of Long Beach, California (who would become a square rigged ship captain himself).
  • On June 10, 1939, Moshulu arrives in Queenstown (Cobh, Ireland) winning the very last race of square-rigged sailing ships between Australia and Europe.
  • In November 1942, when she returned to KristiansandNorway, again under the command of Captain Mikael Sjögren and with a cargo of wheat from Buenos Aires, the ship was seized by the Germans and, step-by-step, stripped of her mast and spars.
  • in 1947, after breaking her mooring and capsizing in a storm close to shore at a beach in Østervik near Narvik,  she was demasted by a salvaging company
  • On July 1948, she was re-erected, stabilized and towed to Bergen. The ship’s hull was sold to Trygve Sommerfeldt of Oslo.
  • A few months later, the ship was transferred to Sweden
  • From 1948 to 1952, she was used as a grain store in Stockholm.
  • She was then sold to the German ship owner Heinz Schliewen, who wanted to put her back to use under the name Oplagas, a merchant marine training ship carrying cargo. Schliewen already used the four-masted steel barques Pamir and Passat (both former Flying P-Liners) for that purpose, but before Moshulu was re-rigged, Schliewen went into bankruptcy.
  • In 1953 Moshulu was sold to the Swedish Farmers’ State Union (Svenska Lantmännens Riksförbund) of Stockholm
  • Beginning on November 16, 1953, she was used as a floating warehouse.
  • In 1961, the FinnishState Granary bought the ship for 3,200 tons of Russian rye.  She was towed to a small and picturesque bay in Naantali, a town near Turku, and she continued to be used as a grain warehouse.
  • In 1970, the ship was bought by David Tallichet of the American Specialty Restaurants Corporation, who rigged her out in Scheveningen, Netherlands with machine (not hand) welded masts, yards, standing rigging and lines, of lighter materials. Other sources have it that The Walt Disney Company bought the ship but soon transferred it to the American “Specialty Restaurants Corporation.”
  • In 1974, she was towed to South Street Seaport, New York City.
  • In 1975, the Moshulu was opened as a restaurant
  • In 1989, the she closed after being damaged by a four-alarm fire.
  • In 1994, the Moshulu was purchased by HMS Ventures, Inc. and, under Mrs. Dodo Hamilton of the Campbell’s Soup family, was painstakingly restored in Camden to her original glory
  • In 1996, it was docked at Pier 34 on Philadelphia’s waterfront and opened as a restaurant on the Delaware River.
  • In 2002, the Moshulu was relocated to its current location under restaurateur Martin Grims.
  • On May 2003, its current owners, SCC Restaurants LLC, reopened the restaurant. 


The Moshulu was featured in the following movies:

Moshulu: Penn’s Landing, 401 S. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106 (Click here for map). Tel: 215.923.2500. Fax: 215.829.1604.  E-mail:  Website: Open Mondays– Thursdays, 5 to 9 PM; Fridays & Saturdays, 5 to 10PM; Sundays 10AM to 2:30PM and 5 to 9PM.

Independence Seaport Museum – USS Becuna (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

USS Becuna

After exploring the exhibits of the Independence Seaport Museum, Jandy and I went out to the waterfront and boarded the World War II/Cold War submarine USS Becuna, anchored next to Admiral George Dewey‘s flagship the USS Olympia, to check the innards of the submarine, a first for both of us, and get a glimpse of all aspects of a submariner’s life.

Check out “Independence Seaport Museum – USS Olympia

National Historic Landmark Plaque

Jandy at the conning tower

Both boats are very good static displays and kept in pretty good condition. The USS Becuna (SS/AGSS-319), a Balao-class diesel-electric submarine of the United States Navy nicknamed “Becky,” was named for the becuna, a pike-like fish of Europe.

Forward Engine Room

Forward Torpedo Room

The author at the crew’s berthing area

Exploring the full length of the sub, from stem to stern, requires going into tight spaces (the small hatches, requiring a degree of flexibility, could be tough to maneuver through) and using ladders and steps, so it not a good attraction for those needing accessibility as well as those who are extremely claustrophobic.

After Engine Room

Control Room

Maneuvering Room

You can rush through the tour in only a few minutes but, if you take the time, you can spend the time looking at all of the pipes wires and valves and really feel what it was like to live and work in the extremely tight quarters on this sub.

Captain’s Stateroom

Chief Petty Officer’s Stateroom

The Captain’s stateroom was tiny. We weren’t able to see the conning tower and periscopes as it’s only included in the highly recommended “Behind the Scenes” tour which we were too late for.

Junior Officer’s Stateroom

Senior Officers Quarters

Officers’ Wardroom

Here’s the timeline of the submarine’s operational history:

  • On April 10, 1942, the order to build submarine Becuna was issued.
  • On April 29, 1942, the keel of submarine is laid down
  • On January 30, 1944, she was launched by Electric Boat Company (Groton, Connecticut) and sponsored by Mrs. George C. Crawford, wife of Cmdr. George C. Crawford.
  • On May 27, 1944, The USS Becuna (SS-319) was commissioned with Lt.-Cmdr. H. D. Sturr in command.
  • On July 1, 1944, she departs New London, Connecticut
  • On July 7, 1944, the USS Becuna detects a hostile submarine in the Atlantic Ocean and fires four torpedoes at the target; all torpedoes missed and contact with the enemy submarine was lost.
  • On July 27, 1944, she arrives at Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii
  • On August 23, 1944, the USS Becuna departs Pearl Harbor for her first war patrol
  • On September 1, 1944, she comes across a Japanese soldier in a small boat. After taking the soldier prisoner, she sinks the boat with machine gun fire.
  • On September 24, 1944, she fires three torpedoes at a Japanese transport in the Luzon Strait south of Taiwan but all torpedoes miss.
  • On September 25, 1944, the USS Becuna fires three torpedoes at a Japanese destroyer in the Luzon Strait south of Taiwan but all torpedoes miss.
  • On October 8, 1944, she damages the Japanese tanker Kimikawa Maru in the South China Sea with two of four torpedoes fired.
  • On October 9, 1944, the USS Becuna attacks a Japanese convoy in the South China Sea, claiming two sunk and two damaged; ten torpedoes were expended, seven of them made contact.
  • On November 16, 1944, she departs Fremantle, Australia for her second war patrol.
  • On November 17, 1944, the USS Becuna damages four Japanese ships – the tanker San Luis Maru, tanker Tokuwa Maru, a transport and cargo ship.
  • On January 2, 1945, she sinks two small vessels between Malaya and Borneo in two separate engagements with her deck gun.
  • On February 22, 1945, the USS Becuna fires ten torpedoes at a Japanese convoy in the South China Sea, with one torpedo making contact and sinking the Japanese tanker Nichiyoko Maru.
  • On May 22, 1945, she departs for her fourth war patrol, on lifeguard station for carrier air crews.
  • On June 21, 1945, USS Becuna departs for her fifth war patrol.
  • On July 15, 1945, she attacks a Japanese Otori-class torpedo boat without effect.
  • On July 27, 1945, the submarine arrives at Subic BayLuzon
  • On September 22, 1945, she arrives at San Diego, California and is assigned to the Submarine Force of the US Navy Pacific Fleet.
  • On May 6, 1947, the USS Becuna enters Mare Island Naval Shipyard, California, United States, for a scheduled overhaul.
  • On September 22, 1947, she completes her scheduled overhaul.
  • On April 1949, she is ordered to Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet, as a unit of Submarine Squadron 8.
  • Between May 1949 and May 1950, she conducts refresher training exercises and also assisted in training of student officers and men at New London, Connecticut.
  • In November 1950, she returned to Electric Boat Co. for a complete modernization overhaul, being refitted as a GUPPY-type submarine, with sophisticated radar and torpedo equipment including nuclear warheads.
  • On August 1951, the submarine’s overhaul is completed and the Becuna sails to the Caribbean for post-modernization shakedown.
  • On September 1951, she returns to New London. Becunaoperates with the Atlantic Fleet trailing Soviet submarines with eavesdropping equipment aboard, making two cruises with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean and one to Scotland. Other than these extended cruises, the majority of Becuna‘s service was at New London as a training submarine.
  • In 1969, she is reclassified as an Auxiliary Submarine, AGSS-319.
  • On November 7, 1969, the Becunais decommissioned and laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
  • In 1971, she reverts to SS-319
  • On August 15, 1973, she was struck from the Naval Register
  • On June 21, 1976, the Becuna was placed on permanent display adjacent to the cruiser USS Olympia (C-6) at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia.
  • On August 29, 1986, she was designated a National Historic Landmark for her service in World War II for which she received four battle stars.
  • On January 1, 1996, she becomes a museum ship at the Historic Ship Zone of the Independence Seaport Museum.
  • In 2001, Becuna receives the Historical Welded Structure Award of the American Welding Society.

Crew’s Mess

Crew’s Washroom

Main Galley

Here are some specifications of this ship:

  • Displacement: 1,500 long tons (1,500 t) surfaced, 2,080 long tons (2,110 t) submerged
  • Length: 95.02 m. (311 t., 9 in.)
  • Beam: 8.31 m. (27 ft., 3 in.)
  • Draft: 5.13 m. (16 ft., 10 in.) maximum
  • Propulsion: 4 × General MotorsModel 16-278A V16 diesel engines driving electrical generators, 2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries, 4 × high-speed General Electric electric motors with reduction gears, two propellers, 5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced, 2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged.
  • Speed: 38 kms./hour (20.25 knots) surfaced, 16 kms./hour (8.75 knots) submerged
  • Range: 20,000 kms. (11,000 nautical miles) surfaced at 19 kms./hour (10 knots)
  • Endurance: 48 hours at 3.7 kms./hour (2 knots) submerged, 75 days on patrol
  • Test depth: 120 m. (400 ft.)
  • Complement: 8 commissioned officers, 5 chief petty officers, 67 enlisted men
  • Armament: 24 torpedoes, 10 × 533 mm. (21 in.) torpedo tubes (6 forward, 4 aft), 1 × 127 mm. (5 in.)/ 25 caliber deck gun, Bofors 40 mm. and Oerlikon 20 mm. cannon.

Yeoman’s Shack

Pump Room

Radio Room

Independence Seaport Museum: 211 S. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106, U.S.A.  Tel: +1 215-413-8655. Website:  Open daily, 10 AM – 5 PM. Closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day but open on New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day (January 15) and President’s Day (February 19). Admission: US$16 (adults), US$12 (seniors, 65 & over), US$12 (children, 3–12 years old), free for college students, military (active & retired) and children 2 years old & under. Seafarin’ Saturday and Citizen Science Lab programming are included with regular admission. Group visits are available at reduced rates for a minimum of ten people. Reservations must be made in advance.

Independence Seaport Museum – USS Olympia (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

USS Olympia

After exploring the USS Becuna, Jandy and I now went out and boarded the USS Olympia (C-6/CA-15/CL-15/IX-40), a protected cruiser famous, during the Spanish–American War, as the flagship of Commodore George Dewey at the May 1, 1898 Battle of Manila Bay.  There was a semi-permanent exhibit opened last June 16, 2017, featuring the Olympia, entitled “World War I USS Olympia.” to commemorate the World War I centennial. The World War I USS Olympia exhibit highlights the Ship’s humanitarian and peace-keeping role in World War I Europe. The exhibit also explores the everyday life of sailors aboard the ship, as well as, the Olympia’s final mission of transporting the remains of the Unknown Soldier from France to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.

The author at the upper deck

Turret of two 8 in. (203 mm.) 35 cal. Mark 4 guns

The design of the interior of the USS Olympia was not that far off from the old sailing ships of the line, with an enormous amount of deeply polished wood at the sumptuous officer’s quarters (called the “Officers’ Country).  The beautifully paneled staterooms of the officers contrasts with the tiny hammocks of the enlisted men.

Beautifully paneled Officers Berth Deck (Officer’s Country)

Hammocks of the enlisted men

Before the USS Olympia retired in 1922, most of its original guns were removed in refits but, amazingly, one of the original guns survives today, a 6-pounder forward on the port side.The captain’s cabin also mounted a gun. 

Stateroom and cabin of Commodore George Dewey. At left can be seen the muzzle of a 5-inch gun

The Commodore’s bathroom

Voice pipes lead from the bridge to various stations, including the emergency steering – a triple-wheel made of wood, out on deck towards the stern.

Jandy manning the ship’s emergency steering

Ammunition hoists, sitting close by coal chutes and ash hoists, look like china cabinets. It’s an amazing step back into history.  All throughout, great signs describe life on the ship and its history. We weren’t able to see the engine room (to see the big old steam engines, the giant crankshaft and connecting rods and the cramped boiler room) as it’s only included in the highly recommended “Behind the Scenes” tour which the we were too late for.

Officer’s Quarters

Junior Officers’ Mess

Here are some interesting trivia regarding this ship:

  • She saw service in the United States Navy from her commissioning in 1895 until 1922.
  • She was twice decommissioned and recommissioned.
  • For several months after her commissioning, she was the largest ship ever built on the western coast of the US, until surpassed by the battleship Oregon.
  • Admiral George Dewey and Olympia became famous as the first victors of the Spanish-American War.
  • She is the sole floating survivor of the US Navy’s Spanish–American War fleet.
  • Olympiais the oldest steel US warship still afloat in the world.
  • She is the sole survivor of the U.S naval shipbuilding program from the 1880s and 1890s and the only surviving pre-dreadnaught protected cruiser in the world.
  • It is one of only four warships representative of the time period that exist worldwide.

Officers Dining Room

Here is the timeline of the ship’s history:

  • In 1889, the newly formed Board on the Design of Ships began the design process for Cruiser Number 6
  • On April 8, 1890, the navy solicited bids but found only one bidder, the Union Iron Worksin San Francisco, California.
  • On July 10, 1890, the contract was signed
  • On June 17, 1891, the ship’s keel was laid
  • On November 5, 1892, the ship was launched.
  • On November 3, 1893, Union Iron Works conducted the first round of trials.
  • On December 1893, she was dispatched from San Francisco to Santa Barbara
  • On December 15, 1893, Olympia sailed into the Santa Barbara Channel and began an official four-hour speed trial time.
  • On February 5, 1895, the new cruiser was ultimately commissioned.
  • Upon commissioning, Olympia departed the Union Iron Works yard in San Francisco and steamed inland to the U.S. Navy’s Mare Island Naval Shipyard at Vallejo, where outfitting was completed and Captain John J. Read was placed in command.
  • In April 1895, the ship steamed south, to Santa Barbara, to participate in a festival. That same month, the ship’s crew also conducted landing drills in Sausalito and Santa Cruz.
  • On April 20, 1895, the ship conducted its first gunnery practice, during which one of the ship’s gunners, Coxswain John Johnson, was killed in an accident with one of the 5-inch guns
  • On July 27, 1895, the ship starts its last shakedown cruise
  • On August 25, 1895, the ship departed the United States for Chinese waters.
  • A week later, the ship arrived in Hawaii, where she remained until October 23 due to an outbreak of cholera. The ship then sailed for Yokohama, Japan
  • On November 9, 1895, the ship arrives in Yokohama.
  • On November 15, 1895, the Baltimore arrives in Yokohama, from Shanghai, China, to transfer command of the Asiatic Squadron to Olympia.  She was designated as the flagship.
  • On December 18, 1895, Rear Admiral F.V. McNair arrives to take command of the squadron.
  • The following two years, the ship joined training exercises with the other members of the Asiatic Squadron as well as goodwill visits to various ports in Asia, notably Hongkong and Kobe and Nagasaki in Japan.
  • On January 3, 1898, Commodore George Dewey raised his flag on Olympia and assumed command of the squadron.
  • On April 25, 1898, the Spanish-American War began and Dewey moved his ships to Mirs Bay, China.
  • On April 27, 1898, the Navy Department ordered the Squadron to Manila in the Philippines, where a significant Spanish naval force protected the harbor. Dewey was ordered to sink or capture the Spanish warships, opening the way for a subsequent conquest by US forces.
  • On the morning of May 1, 1898, Commodore Dewey, with his flag aboard Olympia, steamed his ships into Manila Bay to confront the Spanish flotilla commanded by Rear Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasarón.  At approximately 05:40, Dewey instructed Olympia‘s captain, “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” Newly assigned Capt. Charles Vernon Gridley ordered the forward 8-inch gun turret, commanded by Gunners Mate Adolph Nilsson, to open fire, which opened the battle and prompted the other American warships to begin firing. By early afternoon, Dewey had completed the destruction of Montojo’s squadron and the shore batteries, while his own ships were largely undamaged. Dewey anchored his ships off Manila and accepted the surrender of the city. Olympia remained in the area and supported the American expeditionary force by shelling Spanish forces on land.
  • On May 20, 1898, the ship returned to the Chinese coast, remaining there until the following month, when she departed for the US, via the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • On October 10, 1898, the ship arrived in Boston. Following Olympia‘s return to the US, her officers and crew were feted and she was herself repainted and adorned with a gilded bow ornament.
  • On November 9, 1898, Olympia was decommissioned and placed in reserve.
  • On January 2, 1902, the Olympia was recommissioned into the fleet and assigned to the North Atlantic Squadron. Her first duty was to serve as the flagship of the Caribbean Division.
  • Over the following four years, the ship patrolled the Atlantic and Mediterranean, her voyages including a visit to Turkey.
  • In March through April 1903, she and four other U.S. Navy warships were involved in an intervention in Honduras.
  • Starting on April 2, 1906, she became a training ship for midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy. In this role, she conducted three summer training cruises – May 15 – August 26, 1907, June 1 – September 1, 1908 and May 14 – August 28, 1909. Between the cruises, the ship was placed in reserve, first in Norfolk, Virginia and later at Annapolis, Maryland.
  • On March 6, 1912, Olympia arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, serving as a barracks ship until 1916.
  • In late 1916, when it became increasingly clear that the US would eventually enter World War I, the ship was recommissioned into the fleet.
  • After the U.S. entered the First World War by declaring war on Germany in April 1917, Olympia was mobilized as the flagship of the U.S. Patrol Force. She was tasked with patrolling the eastern seaboard of the US for German warships. She also escorted transport ships in the North Atlantic.
  • On June 15, 1917, she ran aground in Long Island Sound, and put in for repairs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which, along with the replacement of her 8-inch and 5″/40-caliber guns with 5″/51-caliber guns, took eight months.
  • On April 28, 1918, Olympiadeparted Charleston, carrying an expeditionary force bound for Russia which had previously been a member of the Allied Powers but was in the midst of civil war and had signed a separate peace with Germany.
  • On June 9, 1918, Olympia arrived in Murmansk, Russia, and deployed the peace-keeping force. She subsequently assisted in the occupation of Archangel.
  • After World War I, participated in the 1919 Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War and conducted cruises in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas to promote peace in the unstable Balkan countries.
  • After the end of the war, Olympia sailed to the Mediterranean via Portsmouth, England.
  • On December 1918, the ship became the flagship for American naval forces stationed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. While on this assignment, she continued in her old role of showing the flag and conducting goodwill visits in various Mediterranean ports. This included a period of policing duty in the Adriatic Sea from January 21 to October 25, 1919 (the Dalmatian coast was in a state of turmoil following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the war).
  • On August 18, 1918, she steamed to the Black Sea to aid the return of refugees from the Balkans who had fled during the war.
  • By September 19, 1918, she was back in the Adriatic and four days later had to deploy a landing party to prevent an incident between Italian and Yugoslav forces.
  • On November 24, 1919, Olympia briefly returned to Charleston.
  • In 1920, she was reclassified as CA-15.
  • On February 14, 1920, she departed New York for another tour of duty in the Adriatic,
  • On May 25, 1921, the ship returned to Charleston.
  • On June 1921, she was made the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet’s training unit.
  • In July, 1921, she then participated in joint Army-Navy experiments, during which the ex-German warships Ostfriesland and Frankfurt were sunk off the Virginia Capes. She was again reclassified as CL-15 that year.
  • On October 3, 1921, Olympia departed Philadelphia for Le Havre, France, to bring the remains of the Unknown Soldier home for interment in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C..
  • On October 25, 1921, the cruiser departed France, escorted by a group of French destroyers for part of the voyage.
  • On November 9, 1921, at the mouth of the Potomac River, the battleship North Dakotaand the destroyer Bernadou joined Olympia as she sailed to the Washington Navy Yard. After transferring the remains ashore, the cruiser fired her guns in salute.
  • In the summer of 1922, she conducted a last training cruise for midshipmen.
  • On December 9, 1922, she was decommissioned for the last time in Philadelphia and placed in reserve.
  • On June 30, 1931, the ship was reclassified IX-40 to be preserved as a relic.
  • On September 11, 1957, she was released to the Cruiser Olympia Association, restored to her 1898 configuration and became a museum ship under their auspices. The main 8-inch guns and turrets, scrapped before World War I, were replaced with sheet metal fabrications.
  • In 1966, Olympia was designated a National Historic Landmark.
  • In January 1996, when faced with mounting debt and tremendous deferred maintenance, the Cruiser Olympia Society merged with the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. 

Battle Memorial

Today, Olympia is a museum ship at the Independence Seaport Museum in Penn’s Landing in PhiladelphiaNaval Reserve Officer Training Corps Midshipmen from Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania regularly work on Olympia, functioning as maintenance crew. Olympia’s stern plate and bow ornaments are on display at Dahlgren Hall at the United States Naval Academy.

National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark plaque

National Historic Maritime Landmark plaque

Here are some specifications of this ship:

5 inch gun

Driggs-Schroeder 6-pounder gun

Independence Seaport Museum: 211 S. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106, U.S.A.  Tel: +1 215-413-8655. Website:  Open daily, 10 AM – 5 PM. Closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day but open on New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day (January 15) and President’s Day (February 19). Admission: US$16 (adults), US$12 (seniors, 65 & over), US$12 (children, 3–12 years old), free for college students, military (active & retired) and children 2 years old & under. Seafarin’ Saturday and Citizen Science Lab programming are included with regular admission. Group visits are available at reduced rates for a minimum of ten people. Reservations must be made in advance. Visitors can also walk aboard, tour, and watch historical reenactments conducted by the Cruiser Olympia Living History Crew.

Independence Seaport Museum (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

Independence Seaport Museum

The Independence Seaport Museum, formerly the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, is located in the Penn’s Landing complex along the Delaware River.  Founded in 1961 by maritime collector J. Welles Henderson, the collections at the Independence Seaport Museum document maritime history and culture along the Delaware River. Along the waterfront of the museum are two National Historic Landmark ships – the cruiser USS Olympia (C-6), a Spanish-American warship that played a vital role in the Battle of Manila Bay, and the World War II and Cold War era submarine USS Becuna.

Check out “Independence Seaport Museum – USS Olympia” and “Independence Seaport Museum – USS Becuna

Cruiser USS Olympia and submarine USS Becuna

The J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library, at the second floor of the museum, has a collection that focuses on maritime history and culture along the Delaware River and in the Port of Philadelphia, from early America to the present. The Archive includes personal and business records, rare books, reference materials, mechanical drawings, ship models, maps, art, architectural drawings, charts, recordings, photographs, cultural artifacts, and ephemera.

Petroleum Barge

Notable items in the collection include the John Barry-Hayes collection, Reed & Ford business papers, Captain John Greene Collection, the Philadelphia Maritime Exchange records, and the collection of 16th–18th century geographical maps and charts. The Archive also maintains the cruiser Olympia and submarine Becuna collections. In August 2016 the Archive launched its first online catalog, which lists inventories of its archival collections.

Workshop on the Water

The museum’s current exhibits are:

  • The unique Patriots & Pirates, a exhibition developed by Chief Curator Craig Bruns and opened in April 2016, focuses on Philadelphia and the founding of the United States Navy.  The permanent exhibition, highlighting the little-told story of America’s conflict with pirates features curated objects never, or rarely, seen by the public. It features a full-size, a stationary 102-ft. waterline model of the schooner Diligence of 1797 at the center.  A vessel with masts soaring above a 62-ft. deck, it was constructed by staff and volunteers from Workshop on the Water, a traditional boat shop located inside the museum.  Some notable artifacts in the exhibit include a rare letter written by American citizens held hostage in Algiers to the American Congress requesting for their return home (December 29, 1793), tools from the excavation of I-95 at Old City (Philadelphia) in 1974, Captain John Barry‘s octant, a painting of Philadelphia merchant ship Pigou being pursued by the French privateer L’Adventure and a model of the Federal St. Navy Yard, recreating Joshua Humphreys‘ shipyard in the 1790s where he built the frigate United States.

Schooner Diligence

  • Tides of Freedom: African Presence on the Delaware River, an exhibit curated by Tukufu Zuberi, (University of Pennsylvania professor of Sociology and Africana Studies) and opened in May 2013, explores African-American history along the Delaware River and focuses on the slave trade, emancipation and the abolitionist movement in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia’s connection to the underground railroad. The exhibit continues into the modern era, focusing on Jim Crow and Civil Rights in Philadelphia. On display at the exhibit are recently uncovered artifacts from the museum’s collection – slave shackles and an 18th-century account book that documents the sale of slaves in Philadelphia. Gripping first-person accounts and interactive elements provide visitors with opportunities for discovery and communication. Using four key moments in Philadelphia’s history, representing the themes of Enslavement, Emancipation, Jim Crow, and Civil Rights, urges visitors both to bear witness to a story central to Philadelphia and American history, and to think about the meaning of “freedom” both historically and in today’s world.

Tides of Freedom

  • Rescues on the River tells the story of maritime disasters along the Delaware River, exploring how tragedy shaped modern maritime safety regulations and led to the formation of the Coast Guard. The exhibit begins with a late 18th-century Revolutionary War-era explosion of a British ship and ends with the 1975 oil tanker collision and resulting fire. Explore the disasters that unfolded as the Delaware developed into a watery highway for trade and commerce while experiencing the misfortunes, the miracles and the lessons learned.  It will also introduce historical prints and newspaper headlines that were used to broadcast and memorize these terrible marine catastrophes. Visitors to the exhibition can also take home a free 20-page tabloid keepsake, produced in partnership with the Philadelphia Weekly, which includes illustrations and more details about some of the events featured in the exhibition.

The Guppy, a two-person submersible

  • Bound for Philadelphia, signaled by boat horns and whistles, makes visitors chart a course for Penn’s Landing. Learn the hazards of navigation as you travel beneath a three-story replica of the Ben Franklin Bridge and make your way along a carpeted Delaware River. View the charts and navigational instruments that helped guide early Delaware River travelers.
  • The Navigation Exhibit, spotlighting navigation science, documents the critical role of navigation technology to maritime history. On display are collection of navigational tools from the early American colonial period to the present – sextants, compasses, maps, etc.. See how these objects made it easier to traverse the often difficult Delaware River.

Joshua Humphreys’ 18th century shipyard

Other past exhibits include:

  • Titanic Philadelphiansopened in 2012, commemorated the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The exhibit focused on the approximately 40 Philadelphian passengers of the Titanic, their first-hand accounts, and how their lives were forever altered by the tragedy. On display is a rare first class passenger list which was salvaged by Marian Longstreth Thayer who unknowingly had the list in her pocket as she boarded a lifeboat and whose husband died in the disaster.
  • Coming to America spotlighted the experiences of immigrants who left their homeland for the United States and passed through Philadelphia’s Washington Avenue Immigration Station. On display are artifacts and oral histories of both wealthy first-class passengers and economically disadvantaged passengers traveling in steerage.
  • Philadelphia and the China Trade chronicles the history of trade between the two nations (in the 18th century Philadelphia became one of the first American cities to begin trading with China) and explores the lasting impact it had on Philadelphia’s culture and economy.

The bark James A. Wright

Independence Seaport Museum: 211 S. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106, U.S.A.  Tel: +1 215-413-8655. Website:  Open daily, 10 AM – 5 PM. Closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day but open on New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day (January 15) and President’s Day (February 19). Admission: US$16 (adults), US$12 (seniors, 65 & over), US$12 (children, 3–12 years old), free for college students, military (active & retired) and children 2 years old & under. Seafarin’ Saturday and Citizen Science Lab programming are included with regular admission. Group visits are available at reduced rates for a minimum of ten people. Reservations must be made in advance.

Philadelphia Museum of Art (Pennsylvania, USA)

Philadelphia Museum of Art

This art museum, originally chartered in 1876 for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, has impressive collections containing over 240,000 objects in over 200 galleries spanning 2,000 years. It includes major holdings of European, American and Asian origin, showing the creative achievements of the Western world since the first century BC and those of Asia since the third millennium AD.

The various classes of artwork include sculpture; paintings; prints; drawings; photographs;, arms and armor; and decorative arts.

The author

Standouts include a great Rogier van der Weyden altarpiece, the large The Bathers by Paul Cezanne, a room devoted to Philadelphia’s own realist painter Thomas Eakins, and the notorious mixed-media Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors (most often called The Large Glass), exactly as the Dada master Marcel Duchamp installed it.

Prometheus Strangling the Vulture (Bronze, Jacques Lipchitz, cast 1952-53)

Upstairs are over 80 period rooms, from a Medieval cloister to an Indian temple.  In recent years, the museum has helped to organize shows,  from Paul Cezanne and Edgar Degas to Constantin Brancusi and Barnett Newman.

Jandy in front of a choir screen from the chapel of the chateau of Pagny

The main museum building, on Fairmount, a rocky hill topped by the city’s main reservoir located at the northwest end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (formerly Fairmount Parkway) at Eakins Oval, was completed in 1928.

Entrance Lobby

The museum administers several annexes including the Rodin Museum, also located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building (opened in 2007), which is located across the street just north of the main building.

Botanist Take a Core Sample of a 350 year old Redwood Tree, Redwood National Park, California (2008)

Bright Angel Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (2008)

The main museum building and its annexes, owned by the City of Philadelphia, are administered by a registered nonprofit corporation.

Allegory of the Schuykill River – Water Nymph and Bittern (William Rush)

La Premiere Pose (Howard Roberts)

The Philadelphia Museum of Art also administers the historic colonial-era houses of Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove, both located in Fairmount Park.

Dying Centaur (Bronze, William Rimmer, 1967)

Mother and Child II (Bronze, Jacques Lipchitz, 1941)

Every year, several special exhibitions are held in the museum including touring exhibitions arranged with other museums in the United States and abroad.

The Birth of Venus (Nicolas Poussin)

Head of a Woman and Flowers (Oil on canvas, Gustave Courbet, 1871)

The final design of the main building, in the form of three linked Greek temples, is mostly credited to two architects in the architectural firms of Horace Trumbauer and Zantzinger, Borie and Medary – Howell Lewis Shay for the building’s plan and massing, and chief designer Julian Abele for the detail work and perspective drawings.

Virgin and Child in a Landscape (Oil on panel, 1500)

Still Life with a Tortoise (Oil on canvas, possibly by Thomas Black, 1743)

Abele, the first African-American student to graduate (in 1902) from the University of Pennsylvania‘s Department of Architecture (now known as Penn’s School of Designadapted Classical Greek temple columns for the design of the museum entrances, and was responsible for the colors of both the building stone and the figures added to one of the pediments.

Western Civilization (1933, Paul Jennewein, colored by Leon V. Solon)

In 1919, construction of the main building began when Mayor Thomas B. Smith laid the cornerstone in a Masonic ceremony. The building was constructed with dolomite quarried in Minnesota. Because of shortages caused by World War I and other delays, the new building was not completed until 1928.

Interior.  At the top of the stairs is a statue of Diana (Gilded copper sheets, Augustus Saint Gaudens, 1892-93)

To help assure the continued funding for the completion of the design, the wings were intentionally built first and, once the building’s exterior was completed, 20 second-floor galleries containing English and American art opened to the public on March 26, 1928, though a large amount of interior work was incomplete. The building is also adorned by a collection of bronze griffins, which were adopted as the symbol of the museum in the 1970s.

Apollo (Terra cotta model cast in bronze after 1715, Francois Girardon)

Statue of Summer as Ceres (Jacques-Augustin Pajou)

Here are some interesting trivia regarding this museum:

  • In 2016, 775,043 people visited the museum, ranking it among the top one hundred most-visited art museums in the world.
  • Based on gallery space, the museum is also one of the largest art museums in the world.
  • It is the third-largest art museum in the country.
  • The building’s eight pediments were intended to be adorned with sculpture groups but one, “Western Civilization” (1933) by  Paul Jennewein, and colored by Leon V. Solon, has been completed. This sculpture group, awarded the Medal of Honor of the Architectural League of New York, features polychrome sculptures of painted terra-cotta figures, depicting Greek deities and mythological figures.
  • Due to a partnership, enacted early in the museum’s history, between the museum and the University of Pennsylvania,  the museum does not have any galleries devoted to EgyptianRoman, or Pre-Columbian art. The university loaned the museum its collection of Chinese porcelain, and the museum loaned a majority of its Roman, Pre-Columbian, and Egyptian pieces to the university. However, the museum still retains a few important pieces for special exhibitions.
  • In recent decades, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has become known due to the role it played in the Rocky films—Rocky (1976) and five of its six sequels, IIIIIVRocky Balboa and Creed. Rocky Balboa‘s (portrayed by Sylvester Stallone) famous run up the 72 steps of the east entrance stairs (informally nicknamed the Rocky Steps) is often mimicked by  visitors to the museum.  The museum’s stairs has been named by Screen Junkies as the second most famous movie location behind only Grand Central Station in New York.
  • For the filming of Rocky III, a 2.6 m. (8.5 ft.) tall bronze statue of the Rocky Balboa character, created in 1980, was placed at the top of the museum’s front stairs in 1982 (and again for the film Rocky V). After filming was complete, Stallone donated the statue to the city of Philadelphia. In 2006, the statue was relocated, from the now-defunct Spectrum sports arena, to a new display area on the north side of the base of the stairs.

Jandy and the author in front of the bronze statue of the Rock Balboa character

Here’s a historical timeline of the museum’s collections:

  • Its permanent collection began with objects from the 1876 Centennial Exposition (America’s first World’s Fair) and gifts from the public impressed with the exhibition’s ideals of good design and craftsmanship.
  • After the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art was opened on May 10, 1877, European and Japanese fine and decorative art objects and books for the museum’s library were among the first donations.
  • Starting in 1882, Clara Jessup Moore donated a remarkable collection of antique furniture, enamels, carved ivory, jewelry, metalwork, glass, ceramics, books, textiles and paintings.
  • In 1893 Anna H. Wilstach bequeathed a large painting collection, including many American paintings, and an endowment of US$500 million for additional purchases.
  • Within a few years, works by James Abbott McNeill Whistler and George Inness were purchased
  • In 1894, the Countess de Brazza’s lace collection was acquired, forming the nucleus of the lace collection.
  • In 1899,Henry Ossawa Tanner‘s The Annunciation was bought.
  • In 1942, E. Gallatin accepted an offer from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to provide a home for his collection. Within a few months 175 works from his collection were moved to Philadelphia.
  • In 1945, the estate of George Grey Barnard sold his second collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • On December 27, 1950, after protracted discussions and many visits from Director Fiske Kimball and his wife Marie, Louise and Walter Arensberg presented their collection of over 1000 objects to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • Shortly after her 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, Philadelphian Grace Kelly donated her wedding dress to the museum.
  • Extensive renovation of the building lasted from the 1960s through 1976. Major acquisitions included the Carroll S. Tyson, Jr. and Samuel S. White III and Vera White collections, 71 objects from designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and Marcel Duchamp‘s Étant donnés.
  • In 1980, the museum acquired After the Bath by Edgar Degas.
  • In 1986, the art collection of John D. McIlhenny was bequeathed to museum. It includes masterpieces such as Ingres’s ”Comtesse de Tournon,” Delacroix’s 1844 version of ”The Death of Sardanapalus,” Degas’s ”Interior” of 1888-89,” Mary Cassatt at the Louvre” and ”Woman Drying Herself,” Cezanne’s portrait of his wife, van Gogh’s ”Rain,” Seurat’s ”Trombone Player: Study for ‘La Parade,” Toulouse-Lautrec’s ”At the Moulin Rouge” and Matisse’s ”Still Life on Table – The Pineapple” (1925)
  • In 1989, the museum acquired Fifty Days at Iliam by Cy Twombly.

Death of Sardanapalus (Oil on canvas, Eugene Delacroix, 1844)

Making a Train (Oil on canvas, Seymour Joseph Guy, 1867)

The Asian collection is highlighted by paintings and sculpture from China, Japan and India; furniture and decorative arts (including major collections of Chinese, Japanese and Korean ceramics); a large and distinguished group of Persian and Turkish carpets; and rare and authentic architectural assemblages such as a Chinese palace hall, a Japanese teahouse, and a 16th-century Indian temple hall.

The Bride of Lammermoor (Oil on panel, Sir Edwin Landseer, 1830)

Basket of Fruit (Oil on canvas, Edouard Manet, 1864)

Dating from the medieval era to the present, the European collection encompasses Italian and Flemish early-Renaissance masterworks; strong representations of later European paintings (including French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism); sculpture (with a special concentration in the works of Auguste Rodin); decorative arts; tapestries; furniture; and period rooms and architectural settings ranging from the facade of a medieval church in Burgundy to a superbly decorated English drawing room by Robert Adam.

Arms and Armor.  At center is the Portrait of a Nobleman with Duelling Gauntlet (1562)

The comprehensive arms and armor collection, the second-largest collection in the United States, was acquired from celebrated collector Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch in 1976, the Bicentennial Anniversary of the American Revolution.  Spanning several centuries, it includes European and Southwest Asian arms and armor.

The Angel of Purity – Maria Mitchell Memorial (Marble, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1902)

Diana (marble, 1826, Joseph Gott)

The American collection, among the finest in the United States, surveys more than three centuries of painting, sculpture, and decorative arts, with outstanding strengths in 18th- and 19th-century Philadelphia furniture and silver, Pennsylvania German art, rural Pennsylvania furniture and ceramics, and the paintings of Thomas Eakins (the museum houses the most important Eakins collection in the world).

Sketches of Thomas Eakins

Portrait of Hayes Agnew – Agnew Clinic (Oil on canvas, Thomas Eakins, 1889)

Modern artwork includes works by American Modernists as well as those of Pablo PicassoJean MetzingerAntonio RottaAlbert GleizesMarcel DuchampSalvador Dalí and Constantin Brâncuși. The expanding collection of contemporary art includes major works by Cy TwomblyJasper Johns, and Sol LeWitt, among many others.

The Seesaw (Oil on canvas, Francisco Goya, 1791-92)

Venus and Adonis (Oil on canvas, Charles-Joseph Natoire, 1740)

The museum also houses an encyclopedic holding of costume and textiles, as well as prints, drawings, and photographs. For reasons of preservation, they are displayed in rotation.

Equestrian statue of George Washington on Eakins Oval

In the square in front of the museum is an equestrian statue of George Washington erected by the German sculptor Rudolf Siemering.

The Lion Fighter (1858, Carl Conrad Albert Wolff)

The grandiose flight of steps behind him are flanked on the left The Lion Fighter, by Carl Conrad Albert Wolff, and on the right is The Amazon Attacked by a Panther by August Kiss, both casts from the Rauch School.

Mounted Amazon Attacked by a Panther (August Kiss, 1839, cast 1929)

The one-acre, terraced Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden, dedicated to the museum’s late director Anne d’Harnoncourt (1943–2008) and designed by OLIN landscape architects working with Atkin Olshin Schade Architects, extends the Museum’s vast galleries to the outdoors while strengthening its connections to the city of Philadelphia and Fairmount Park.

Social Consciousness (Jacob Epstein)

The garden is divided into five sections: the Upper Terrace, the Lower Terrace, two graveled galleries and a paved plaza. Works here include the iconic Giant Three-Way Plug (Cube Tap) of Claes Oldenburg which was presented to the museum by Geraldine and David N. Pincus; Flukes, the large-scale sculpture of a whale’s tail by Gordon Gund; Steps (Philadelphia) and Pyramid (Philadelphia), two concrete block sculptures by Sol LeWitt; a granite bench and table as well as a marble chair by Scott Burton; Steel Woman II by Thomas Schütte; and Curve I, a remarkable work, from 1973, made of weathering steel by Ellsworth Kelly.

Giant 3-Way Plug – Cube Tap (Claes Oldenburg)

Philadelphia Museum of Art: 2600 Benjamin Franklin ParkwayPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania 19130, USA. Tel: (215) 763-8100 Website: Open Tuesdays- Sundays, 10 AM – 5 PM. Admission: US$20/adult, children below 12 years old is free.