Historic Preservation

Posted March 2, 2020
  • Pennsylvania Hospital

    PennPraxis and The Center for Architectural Conservation (CAC) will develop a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the Pennsylvania Hospital.

Historic Preservation Team to Develop Conservation Management Plan for Pennsylvania Hospital

The University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design’s PennPraxis and The Center for Architectural Conservation (CAC) will develop a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the Pennsylvania Hospital, part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. The CMP will consolidate information on the significance of the site and its historical assets and will be a tool for prioritizing future hospital-preservation efforts.

With project efforts directed by Frank Matero, professor of architecture, chair of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation (GPHP), and director of the CAC, the CMP will provide a clear and comprehensive history of the hospital’s preservation history, outline recommendations to help ensure consistency in management policies, and provide guidance for how to holistically approach the conservation and use of the nation’s first chartered hospital. Project managers include Kecia Fong (MSHP’99), an alum of the master’s program in historic preservation and a historic preservation lecturer, and Starr Herr-Cardillo (MSHP’17), a CAC research fellow.

“Conservation Management Plans are a method and a tool for handing on places we collectively value to future generations,” says Matero. “This does not mean freezing places in time but rather managing necessary change carefully so as not to damage what is special. It is based on a very simple process which starts with describing what is there, why it matters, what is happening to it, and the principles by which you will manage it. It then sets out more detailed recommendations for remedial work, maintenance, use, access, and management—the entire ecosystem of a healthy sustainable place with an eye towards protecting and celebrating its historical legacy."

Faculty and students from the Historic Preservation program working on the CMP will provide a comprehensive, digitized inventory of all relevant documentation as well as detailed policies, priorities, and recommendations for preservation. The work will rely on the expertise of Penn faculty from the renowned program while also providing an opportunity for students to conduct on-site research towards understanding the needs of the historic buildings, grounds, and collections.

Founded in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond, Pennsylvania Hospital is one of Philadelphia’s most important historic sites, including the Pine Building, a National Historic Landmark; numerous outbuildings; the grounds and gardens; and an extensive collection of historical artifacts, including art and medical tools.

The hospital has been continuously used for more than 260 years. With its blend of historic and modern, the campus represents a continuum of medical history where historic and modern facilities are integrated in one place. As one example, patients are cared for in state-of-the-art facilities while new medical residents tour the oldest-existing surgical amphitheater.

The project will commence with an information-gathering phase starting in the spring of 2020. Graduate students and faculty will meet with hospital officials and stakeholders to better understand the values, goals, and visions they hold for the hospital and its grounds into the future. Research into historic documents, photographs, and accounts also provides insight and a foundational understanding of the site. Field work and physical assessment of the buildings and historic landscape will be conducted in the summer and information will be analyzed and synthesized to provide guidance for future conservation efforts.

Part of the CMP will also include evaluating previous conservation efforts and plans for the outdoor spaces. Because the grounds and gardens were originally conceived using a holistic approach to health, which envisioned the landscape as a place for healing and recovery, the CMP will also identify significant garden elements and provide recommendations on how the hospital can consider the surrounding landscape, which remains free and open to the community.