Penn Hospital Heritage Preservation

PennPraxis and the Center for Architectural Conservation have developed a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the Pennsylvania Hospital, located in Philadelphia’s Center City. Founded in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond, the Hospital was a direct expression of American Enlightenment ideals that gave rise to many of Philadelphia’s most significant and enduring civic institutions. It is the nation’s oldest public hospital and was envisioned as a facility that would benefit the growing population of Philadelphia while caring for the poor and mentally ill. In continuous use for more than 260 years, the Pine Building portion of the Hospital is a designated National Historic Landmark. Notable features of the site include a fine art collection, a medical library, the Physic garden showcasing medicinal plants of the 18th century, and a surgical amphitheater that was used for teaching until the mid 1800s, all of which require thoughtful conservation planning that is sensitive to their contemporary use and historical significance.

Through archival research, stakeholder interviews, and field surveys, the project team visualized the Hospital’s evolution and contextual significance over time. Changes to the architecture and landscape have been interpreted in relation to the site’s urban context, developments in infrastructure and technology, and advancements in the medical profession. The CMP provides a clear and comprehensive conservation history, identifies stakeholder values, outlines recommendations to help ensure consistency in management policies, and provides guidance for how to holistically approach the conservation and use of the nation’s first chartered hospital. The story of the Hospital’s multi-faceted history and its transformation over time are demonstrated through engaging graphics and innovative digital platforms. See a brief overview of the Pennsylvania Hospital CMP.