The City of Brotherly Love has had its statue squabbles over the years. Whether you’re thinking of Frank Rizzo’s removal, the Christopher Columbus statue’s wooden box covering – or the newest controversy surrounding the William Penn statue in Welcome Park – there’s a lot of debate over whether or not to tear down or leave up Philadelphia’s historic sculptures.
Wanting a more positive outlook toward the city’s statuary, City & State took the liberty of coming up with several fitting alternatives. These famous Philadelphians range from athletes and entertainers to philanthropists and urban planners. We like to think almost everyone can unite around these Philly favorite people.
If the Father of Modern Philadelphia can help build the city, surely he can get a monument built after him. Edmund Bacon, the father of actor Kevin Bacon, was an urban planner and architect who served as the executive director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission from 1949 to 1970. During his tenure, the city developed designs that shaped how it looks today, including areas such as Market East, Penn’s Landing and Independence Mall.
Honoring a singer would be a nice twist for Philadelphia. Born Ernest Evans, Chubby Checker attended South Philadelphia High School before going on to his Hall of Fame rock-and-roll career. The “Let’s Twist Again” singer would be a great addition to the city’s list of statues, but his career might not have been the same without our next pick.
The man synonymous with New Year’s Eve got his start as a disc jockey in Drexel Hill. Dick Clark, the radio and television personality, took off thanks to his show “American Bandstand” which was picked up by what is now WPVI, better known as 6abc. Clark is among the most well-known hosts in television history and his New Year’s Rockin Eve show is a staple that still carries his name.
Jazz legend John Coltrane got his first saxophone briefly after moving to Philadelphia in 1943. Following a stint in the Navy, Coltrane came back to Philly in 1946 to start his career. Coltrane was a pioneer of free jazz and his former home in the city has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. But in our minds, his brass saxophone deserves to be immortalized in bronze.
Philadelphia has its fair share of sports stars, but none made waves in their field like Mo’ne Davis. The now-22-year-old was one of two girls who played on the 2014 Taney Dragons, the Philadelphia team that represented the Mid-Atlantic Region in the Little League World Series. Davis became a national phenomenon overnight after being the first girl to pitch a winning game and to pitch a shutout in tournament history. After playing two seasons of softball at Hampton University, Davis is now showing her girl power by studying at Columbia University.
If you want someone who personifies the spirit of Philadelphia, look no further than Gritty, the 7-foot-tall, furry, orange Flyers mascot who took the world by storm when he debuted in 2018. The googly-eyed creature has been described as large and unsettling, which is fitting for both the state of the city and its sports teams. While the Phillie Phanatic is arguably the most iconic mascot in all of sports, Gritty has captured the hearts of Philadelphians and fans of the absurd since his first appearance.
“Lady Day” was a jazz and swing music singer born in Philadelphia. Holiday, whose performance of “Strange Fruit” brought her and the song to the spotlight, became a blues icon during the 1940s and 50s before her death in 1959. She went on to win four posthumous Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Jazz and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She has a monument in Baltimore, Maryland, but it’s about time her hometown honored her, too.
You can’t spell “Philadelphia” without “A.I.” The longtime 76er was the first overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft and lived up to high expectations early on, winning MVP in 2001 and carrying the Sixers to an NBA Finals appearance. He may not have spent his entire career in the city, but Iverson will always be a Sixer. If you’re wondering who would be the most popular statue choice on this roster, he’s “The Answer.”
Many actresses get to play the role of a princess, but not many actually become one. Philadelphia native Grace Kelly was an actress who became the Princess of Monaco after marrying Prince Rainier III in 1956. Kelly’s rise to fame peaked during the “Golden Age” of television and the growth of Hollywood, starring in works such as “High Noon” and "High Society" - the musical adaption of the famous “The Philadelphia Story.” As a princess, Kelly was known for her charitable and philanthropic work supporting needy children and local art institutions.
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