The focus of the Art Museum Area/Fairmount neighborhood is self-evident: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum, the Barnes Foundation, the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Please Touch Museum — let’s see, have we forgotten any? — are all located in this vibrant, beautifully planned part of the city.
Bordered on the west by Fairmount Park, the largest landscaped city park (4,100 acres) in the U.S. and itself home to much public art, the area’s main thorofare is the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a boulevard designed in 1917 to connect City Hall to the Fairmount Park area. The Parkway is crowned on one end by the majestic Philadelphia Museum of Art, a golden, temple-like building on the hill with commanding views of Center City (and those “Rocky” steps!) A new part of the streetscape in this area is a Mormon Temple, just completed by the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and a Robert A.M. Stern-designed, 32-story apartment and condo tower next door. The residential building also is owned by the Mormons. A visitor could spend days exploring the museums that line the Parkway, to say the least.
Two iconic, not-to-be-missed places that happen to be part of Fairmount Park are Boathouse Row, so scenic and a big reason why Philadelphia is one of the rowing capitals of the U.S., and the Fairmount Water Works building, the first municipal water works in the U.S., now beautifully restored with a fascinating story to tell.
For those lucky enough to call this area home, there is a mix of high-rise condominium buildings very close to the museums and also, in typical Philadelphia fashion, historic side streets lined with brick Federal, Italianate and Victorian townhouses, a few blocks of robber-baron-style mansions and some newer infill brick townhouses (with parking!) Tucked in here and there are some more modern masterpieces, though they are the exceptions, to be sure. Prices in this neighborhood have tended to trail those in Rittenhouse Square and other Center City areas, though the area has seen a resurgence in popularity in the past few years. Along with some younger families and singles have come more amenities, including a Whole Foods, highly regarded restaurants, pubs and corner shops.
Because this area is close to the museums and the blocks near City Hall, it is an obvious choice to consider for those working in those areas. However, it is also extremely convenient to major commuter roadways, so for anyone considering a reverse commute out of the city, it can be a good option as well.