• Gray’s Ferry Chemical Works, Volume 23, Plates 2195-2196 by Ernest Hexamer, Philadelphia, PA,1888. Hexamer General Surveys, Free Library of Philadelphia.

  • Conceptual rendering of aerial view. Photo from Penn Facilities & Real Estate Services

  • Paint Color Card, Harrison Brothers and Company, Inc., 1871, (accessed 6/2016, at

Pennovation Historical Research and Interpretation Strategy

Pennovation Works Historical Research + Interpretive Strategy

PennPraxis is engaged with the University of Pennsylvania Facilities and Real Estate Services to deliver a historical research and interpretation strategy for the Pennovation Works campus. Pennovation Works is Penn’s new hub for research and innovation, located in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Grays Ferry. The 23-acre campus operated as a paint manufacturing and a chemical research facility for more than a century. Today its numerous buildings are occupied as offices and production spaces for entrepreneurs and researchers. This year, the signature Pennovation Center will open, providing a business incubator and laboratory space in a collaborative working environment. The PennPraxis project will help enhance FRES’ development of the site, relating its present role in innovation to its industrial legacy.

The Pennovation Works campus has been a hub of industry since the mid-19th century. Harrison Brothers & Co. was a large manufacturer of ready-mixed paints, solvents and varnishes. The factory expanded as industry thrived in Philadelphia, benefiting from its placement on the Schuylkill waterfront and its access to the railroad. From the early 1900’s, the facilities were run by the DuPont company as a paint manufacturer, and from the 1950’s as a research facility. This historical research and interpretation project traces the themes of educational and industrial innovation that have occupied the site and its surroundings. Expanding upon these themes, the project aims to invoke an appreciation of the historical value of the Pennovation Works site and its setting within Philadelphia. 


Julie Donofrio, Managing Director
Molly Lester, Associate Director - Urban Heritage Project