Philadelphia History Museum

The Philadelphia History Museum was a public history museum located in Center City, Philadelphia from 1938 until 2018. The museum occupied architect John Haviland's landmark Greek Revival structure built in 1824–1826 for the Franklin Institute.[2] The Museum operated as a city agency as part of Philadelphia's Department of Recreation. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 1, 1979.[1]

Philadelphia History Museum
Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent from south.jpg
Philadelphia History Museum is located in Philadelphia
Philadelphia History Museum
Philadelphia History Museum is located in Pennsylvania
Philadelphia History Museum
Philadelphia History Museum is located in the United States
Philadelphia History Museum
Location15 S. 7th St.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Coordinates39°57′1″N 75°9′9″W / 39.95028°N 75.15250°W / 39.95028; -75.15250Coordinates: 39°57′1″N 75°9′9″W / 39.95028°N 75.15250°W / 39.95028; -75.15250
ArchitectJohn Haviland
Architectural styleGreek Revival
NRHP reference No.79002319[1]
Added to NRHPAugust 1, 1979


The museum was established through the efforts of Philadelphia Mayor S. Davis Wilson, Frances Wistar, president of the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks, and A. Atwater Kent, radio pioneer and inventor. In 1938 Kent purchased the former Franklin Institute building, which the Institute had vacated in 1933,[3] and gifted the building to the city for use as a public history museum. Following renovations carried out by the Works Progress Administration, the Museum opened in 1941.[2]

After years of declining attendance and financial shortfalls, the museum closed its doors in 2018.[4] In September 2019, the city approved a plan to transfer the museum's collections to Drexel University who would preserve the collections and offer them out for loan. The case remains with the courts as of the Spring of 2022.[5][6]


The Museum's collections included more than 80,000 objects related to Philadelphia and regional history, including an estimated 10,000 17th- to 20th-century artifacts transferred from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania art and artifact collection in 2009, 1700 Quaker-related items from Friends Historical Association Collection, and collections reflecting Philadelphia manufacturing, the 1876 Centennial Exposition, toys and miniatures, and radio broadcasting.[2]

Highlights from the permanent exhibitions included the boxing gloves of Joe Frazier,[7] the desk of George Washington,[8] a drinking glass owned by Benjamin Franklin,[7] and a wampum belt allegedly given to William Penn by the Lenape.[8]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c "Museum History — Philadelphia History Museum". Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  3. ^ Gallery, John Andrew, ed. (2004), Philadelphia Architecture: A Guide to the City (2nd ed.), Philadelphia: Foundation for Architecture, ISBN 0962290815, p.36
  4. ^ "Philadelphia History Museum Shuts its Doors Indefinitely". Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  5. ^ "Drexel is Prepared to Take Charge of Philadelphia History Museum holdings". Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  6. ^ "Historical Society Pushes Back on Plan to Transfer Philly History Museum to Drexel University". Retrieved 2022-06-11.
  7. ^ a b "Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent". Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  8. ^ a b "Special Collections — Philadelphia History Museum". Retrieved 2017-07-15.


  • Weigley, et al. Philadelphia: A 300 Year History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1982.

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