Love Park is the brainchild of former Philadelphia City Planner Edmund Bacon and architect Vincent G. Kling. The park is across from City Hall and was designed as a terminus for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The park was built in 1965 and covers an underground parking garage. The main features of the plaza are curved granite steps and a single spout fountain which was added in 1969. What was once the city visitor center (built in 1960, before LOVE Park) was closed down for five years, but opened up in May 2006 as The Fairmount Park Welcome Center. The park was dedicated in 1967 as John F. Kennedy Plaza after President John F. Kennedy.
A "Love" sculpture, designed by Robert Indiana, was first placed in the plaza in 1976 as part of the United States' Bicentennial celebration. It was removed in 1978, but the sculpture was missed and the chairman of Philadelphia Art Commission, F. Eugene Dixon, Jr., bought the sculpture and permanently placed it in the plaza, in 1978.
The Christmas Village in Philadelphia
The Christmas Village in Philadelphia was formerly held at Dilworth Plaza, on the west flank of City Hall. During the construction on that site of Dilworth Park, the Christmas Village has been relocated to LOVE Park. It is modeled after 16th-century German Christmas Markets, the most famous one being in Nuremberg. Running from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve, the village attracts thousands in Center City and is one of the most popular holiday events in Philadelphia. In 2010, the event was criticized for its name and many called for it to be marketed as a holiday village. Shortly after, Mayor Michael Nutter intervened and the name was restored.
Skateboarding in LOVE Park
The skateboarding culture that LOVE Park's unique design spawned has been a focal point of Philadelphia's international reputation for over a decade however, despite its international fame and ability to attract youthful energy and interest in the City, it has been illegal to skateboard in LOVE Park since 1995. In 2001, amendments were added to increase fines and scope of the existing ban; enforcement of the skateboarding ban was stepped up significantly thereafter. Finally, in the summer of 2002, an attempt was made to render LOVE "unskateable": a facelift that blocked access to the most popular skateboarding areas within the plaza was executed and a uniformed police officer was placed on a nearly 24-hour guard.
LOVE's international reputation as an ideal skateboarding locale has been strengthened by the successes of some its most famous users. Internationally known professional skateboarders like (Philadelphia native) Ricky Oyola, Josh Kalis, Stevie Williams, and Anthony Pappalardo made their names in the multibillion-dollar skateboarding industry by being identified with their frequent use of LOVE's famous ledges and stair sets. Additionally, the status of LOVE Park in international skateboarding culture led to Philadelphia being chosen to host the 2001 and 2002 X-games, viewed by 150 million people in over 18 countries and attracting nearly a half million spectators during the two year stay.
But LOVE has been more than the proving ground for professionals or a source of international media interest in Philadelphia, according to Rick Valenzuela, author of City Paper article, "A Eulogy for a Fallen Landmark":
"...LOVE hosted dozens who were content merely to skate there. These were the [skaters] who composed LOVE's core of regulars—kids who rode the El (the Market-Frankford subway) from the Northeast and Frankford, skated downhill on Market Street from West Philly, through the neighborhoods of South Philly, Center City residents who moved specifically to skate nearby LOVE. It's these folks whose daylong sessions generated the murmur that would eventually spread throughout the East Coast and to the [skateboarding] industry."
Before LOVE was officially closed in late April 2002 for the redesign, skateboarders and others organized a protest on April 22, 2002. Dozens of skaters and supporters flooded the park for one last session together before police came and dispersed the skaters and the session. However, before the protest was over, skateboarders and their advocates made numerous statements to the media. Some noted the sad loss of this great skate spot, others pointed out that the loss of skateboarding at LOVE is a scar on the attractiveness and accessibility of Philadelphia to a younger generation.
Many people still feel that the redesign of LOVE reflects a general inability of this City to attract or retain young people, largely due to a municipal inability to embrace the youth and energy that was once identified with LOVE Park. There is no doubt that, as the 2003 Philadelphia mayoral election looms, LOVE could be the key to an otherwise unreachable demographic.
The Love Fountain
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The Love Park fountain is often dyed colors throughout the year to commemorate or celebrate events. Regular colors have included:
- Pink - kickoff for breast cancer awareness month (annually in October)
- Blue - commemoration of police officer fatalities
- Green - in honor of the Philadelphia Phillies winning the World Series, Phanatic Green (October 29, 2008) Also to support the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011.
- Red - marketing event for Showtime's Dexter television series
- Purple - Lupus Awareness
- Video Documentary about the rise and fall of skateboarding in LOVE Park
- LOVE Park from ushistory.org in Philadelphia.
- Love Park videos and photos from SkateSpotter
- Press Release: DC Shoes Gifts $1 Million
- The Christmas Village in Philadelphia