Posted March 29, 2018
  • Dolly Ottey Park, concept rendered perspective

  • Dolly Ottey, photographed outside her Elfreth's Alley tea shop in the 1930s

  • Dolly Ottey Park, conceptual rendered site plan with the footprint of 136 Elfreth's Alley incorporated into the site design at right

Dolly Ottey Park: Conceptual Design for Pocket Park

Dolly Ottey Park is a new conceptual park located within the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia at the crossroads of the historic Elfreth’s Alley and North 2nd Street. PennPraxis’ Research Associate, Molly Lester, recently served as architectural historian on the pro bono team of design professionals that created a vision for the future pocket park, which was targeted for renewal due in part to the construction of the National building immediately adjacent to the site. In addition to PennPraxis, other firms represented included David Rubin Land Collective, Landscape Forms, Stantec, and Dharam Consulting. The team worked on behalf of the Community Design Collaborative to address a complex set of physical constraints, community input, and requests from the Old City District/Old City Community Fund, which will see the project forward into future phases.

The team’s problem-solving efforts resulted in a conceptual park design that responds to the following requests by both the Old City Community Fund and neighboring community: to function as a flexible space to suit the need for programmed events; to act as a passive space for the local community; and to weave together the adjacent site histories. The design accomplishes these goals through its interpreted spaces, design features, and site materiality.

The team’s landscape designers and architects, in partnership with the civil engineers, designed several other features on the site to link its significant 18th, 19th, and 20th century history with its contemporary setting. For example, Molly found a series of measured drawings created by the Historic American Buildings Survey that indicate where the houses at 136-138 Elfreth’s Alley (now demolished) once stood. The footprint of 136 Elfreth’s Alley and its long history of working-class residents have been incorporated into the conceptual design using thoughtful materials and interpretive panels. Moreover, in response to feedback from neighbors who wanted to see the park named after a locally-significant woman, Molly researched the life of Dolly Ottey, who was instrumental in preserving Elfreth’s Alley in the 20th century.

With this conceptual design in hand, the Old City Community Fund can now move forward with fundraising for the creation of the park as construction on the National concludes later this year. It is with great hope that the design team’s vision can provide the support to push this park project from concept to built-reality, for all to enjoy.