Sesquicentennial Exposition

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The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition of 1926 was a world's fair hosted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence, and the 50th anniversary of the 1876 Centennial Exposition

The honor of hosting this celebration was awarded to Philadelphia in 1921. Initial grand plans were scaled down tremendously by the time the fair opened. The original director of the exposition, Colonel David C. Collier, resigned in protest over these budget cuts.[1] His replacement, Captain Asher C. Baker, retired due to illness days before the festival opened, leaving things in the hands of E. L. Austin.[2] Baker died less than two weeks later.[3]

The senior draftsman for the design of the exposition buildings was a young Louis Kahn, later a world-renowned architect, then working under City Architect John Molitor.[4]

The fair opened on May 31st, 1926, and ran through November on grounds bounded by 10th Street, Packer Avenue, 23rd Street, and the U.S. Navy Yard (Terminal Avenue) in South Philadelphia. Originally known as League Island Park, these grounds are now occupied by FDR Park, Marconi Plaza, Packer Park Residential Neighborhood, the four facilities of Philadelphia's massive South Philadelphia Sports Complex (Wachovia Spectrum. Wachovia Center, Lincoln Financial Field, and Citizens Bank Park), and the Philadelphia Eagles training complex which now occupy that portion of the grounds which from 1933 to 1993 were the site of Philadelphia Naval Hospital (demolished 2001).

Organizers constructed an 80 foot replica of the Exposition's symbol, the Liberty Bell, covered in 26,000 light bulbs, at the gateway to the festival. Sesqui-Centennial Stadium (later known as Philadelphia Municipal Stadium, and after 1964, John F. Kennedy Stadium) was built in conjunction with the fair. Also on display at the exposition was the Curtis Organ, still one of the largest pipe organs in the world. In 1926 the first bridge (later renamed Benjamin Franklin Bridge) spanning the Delaware River between center city Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, was built in anticipation of the attending crowds.

Key speakers at the opening ceremonies were Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg, Secretary of Commerce and future President Herbert Hoover, and Philadelphia Mayor W. Freeland Kendrick.[5]

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