The neo-classical Philadelphia Commercial Museum was one of several large structures built for the 1899 National Export Exposition. The other expo buildings were razed within a few years of the expo.
The Commercial museum opened in June of 1897
The scale of these Corinthian capitals were huge, they were approximately 38" tall and composed of multiple sections of terra cotta.
The volute shown below laying on it's back is 75#, and going by that figure, the whole capital weighed in the neighborhood of 1,500#
I have some fragments of these capitals and I am restoring them to re-create the various pieces so I can replicate the entire design.
I will be working on finishing this in the fall, so it will be a nice project for those long dark cold evenings. I hope by next spring to be casting one full capital for myself, and then figure out my pricing for these, and shipping strategy/costs. By that point I should be able to offer concrete casts of these for sale.
They will be approximately 21 pieces like the originals, and will need to be assembled on the customer's site preferably on a flat level concrete slab by a mason, or customer who has worked with mortar, concrete and brick laying.
Assembly would not be difficult and could be considered a "do it yourself" project, but will require
proper mixing of mortar and planning ahead.
When I assemble mine I will take detailed photos of the process. I only see issues with the four volutes as the hollow original is slightly topheavy, a solid cast may not be however.
Most of the individual pieces will probably be around 75 pounds each, but since these capitals are composed of 21 pieces they will be much easier to manage for shipping and locating in your garden than dealing with one large fragile sculpture weighing 1500 pounds!
Below are three photos of some of the original 8 capitals/columns before the building was demolished.
These three photos are courtesy of Dianne at Olde Good Things from whom I purchased the fragments from. Their web site is located at
Another view of the museum
A pair of capitals up close on their 25 foot high by 24" diameter columns
The museum and the adjacent Art Deco Convention Hall were demolished rapidly amidst scandal and protests, court action and lies. The land was cleared to make way for an expansion of the nearby childrens' hospital which was constructed a number of years ago roughly where this great expanse of lawn in this 1912 postcard is seen, followed by a recent satellite view
The overhead view shows the museum in red outline, the yellow "X" is approximately the location from where the postcard image was taken. It clearly shows how the area urbanized rapidly after the 1912 photo. This included adding a loup of Convention Avenue right in front of the museum's portico and building on what was the front lawn of the museum.
The greenish square to the left of the museum was the Convention Hall's copper roof.
There were two identical buildings to the museum, one which stood where the hall is shown and one to the left of that in the bare land. Some time shortly after the 1897 expo was concluded two of the three buildings were demolished,
leaving only the museum building still standing as the last remaining expo structure. The hall was built circa 1931.
A couple of the saved fragments of the capitals include these which I purchased- one volute scroll and part of one of the upper acanthus leaves;
The volute scroll now moulded and cast in Plaster of Paris in this photo below;
And the acanthus leaf, restored to it's original appearance with the missing sections skillfully sculpted back in this plaster master pattern which incorporates the original terra cotta leaf fragment;
An assembly of parts, upside down on the floor to check fit;
Silver plated commemorative medal honoring the opening of this museum. Author's collection.
The seal history and meaning is as follows;
The seal of the City of Philadelphia was adopted by City Council on February 14, 1874. As is customary in heraldry, each of the elements of the seal has a special significance. The plow and ship on the shield represent agriculture (very important in Philadelphia's early history) and commerce, respectively. The female figure on the left wears an olive garland, representing peace, and holds a scroll inscribed with an anchor (William Penn's chosen symbol for the County of Philadelphia), signifying hope.
The woman on the right holds a cornucopia, symbolizing abundance. Above the shield, a bent arm holds the scales of justice and mercy. Below the shield is the City's motto, Philadelphia Maneto-"Let Brotherly Love Continue." The phrase is from the New Testament (Hebrews 13:1) and is said to have been spoken by the last of William Penn's descendants visiting Philadelphia in the 1800s. In considering the challenges that face us in the next century, it is appropriate to once again consider the words spoken by William Penn's last descendant to gaze upon our city-to renew our wish that our City of Brotherly Love continue.
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Photos of the original capitals and museum were kindly furnished by Olde Good Things. Layout and additional photos taken by the site author and are (C)2014 Randall's Urban Sculptures Collectionm