June 30, 1987 |
From his much-talked-about hat to his toes, Billy Penn is finally getting a bath. The restoration of William Penn's statue atop City Hall went into full swing this morning as workers, using jets of water, sprayed thick green corrosion off Penn's head and back. The workers on the scaffolding around the statue, 547 feet up, had a breathtaking view of Philadelphia. They were higher than everyone else in the city - except, of course, the workers atop nearby One Liberty Place. With the help of money raised from $1 "Free William Penn" buttons, the William Penn Restoration Committee has raised about $550,000 of the $785,000 needed for the project, according to Herbert Olivieri, who founded the citizens' group.
November 30, 1986
For close to two years now Billy Penn has been in that scaffolding cage atop City Hall - a metaphor for a Philadelphia trapped by its own neglect. You can't tell time by the magnificent clock up there either. And maybe that's a good thing because time has been wasting. The statue points an accusing finger at a City Council that has scrimped on restoring the tower - Philadelphia's symbolic masterpiece - while spending scarce funds on new offices, a Councilmobile, charter-change consultants, and so on. But to be honest, Council isn't the only stumbling block.
June 1, 1987
Billy Penn's getting something of a shoe shine. Most people probably haven't noticed them behind the acres of scaffolding atop City Hall, but the tips of the proprietor's shoes have been lowered gently to terra firma where they have been water-blasted, tinted and waxed (to keep out acid rain). That's good news. It shows that those "Billy Buttons" being hawked at $1 a pop all over town are starting to work. So far, close to half the $1 million to refurbish Philadelphia's crowning landmark is in hand or pledged, and that's before the major foundations have been hit up. But this isn't a solicitation, folks, just a report (an encouraging report, for a change)
April 10, 1987 |
People sent money. People wrote passionate letters. One woman was so angry she could barely sign her name. Billy Penn needs a wash, she wrote. The FBI got in on the case. (A woman employed at the bureau said she'd sell 200 buttons to free Billy Penn.) A man bought 70 buttons for his mother. And Billy buttons were showing all over town. For the Free William Penn movement, this was the week that was. Songwriters Henry and Bobbie Shaffner rewrote the lyrics of their song "Philadelphia, Philly I Love You": Looking up at the city to Billy's hat, William Penn really needs to be seen.
November 2, 2006
RE WILLIAM Kashatus' "Vote for Fast Eddie" op-ed (Oct. 23): For all of the good things that you (or Billy Penn) point out about Gov. Rendell, there are valid counterpoints that say he has had his chance and his ship has sailed. The funding for full-day kindergarten is great, but the dropout rate for the Philadelphia public schools is 40 percent and the district is again in financial trouble. Extended health-care coverage for children is great, but we can do better. Illinois has free health care for every child in the state.
September 11, 1986 |
Billy Penn gave way to Billy Rouse yesterday as Rouse & Associates' One Liberty Place office tower - now under construction on Market Street - became the tallest building in Philadelphia. Just before noon, crane operator Charles McCue lifted into place the first of a series of 25-foot-long steel columns that will frame the skyscraper's 44th floor. With the erection of that 10-ton hunk of steel, One Liberty Place rose above the top of the William Penn statue on City Hall tower, and a cherished Philadelphia tradition was broken.
October 21, 1994 |
Not to be smug, but anyone who writes for the Daily News is just naturally close to William Penn - because the paper is located at Broad and Callowhill streets. Callowhill Street is named for Hannah Callowhill Penn, William's second wife. (Broad Street wasn't named in honor of Penn's legendary broad- mindedness, but it should have been.) And when you step out of the front door of the Daily News and look south on Broad Street, you can't miss seeing City Hall. And who stands proudly atop City Hall?
January 14, 1987 |
One day, Herb Olivieri - graduate of Friends Select, the Wharton School and Penn Law - is happily grilling steaks at Olivieri's Prince of Steaks in the Reading Terminal Market. The next day, with the steaks sizzling on the grill, Olivieri sets out to do for the statue of Billy Penn what Lee Iacocca did for the Statue of Liberty. Unlike Iacocca, Olivieri's influence doesn't reach into the boardrooms of Corporate America. Like Iacocca, he is a man in love with a symbol and what that symbol represents.
October 3, 2007
Somewhere, William Penn is looking down on the Phillies' National League East pennant and smiling. OK, actually, we can tell you exactly where that somewhere is - on a steel beam some 975 feet atop Center City, where the soaring Comcast Tower was topped off back in June as the tallest building in Philadelphia. It is there that two union workers placed a small statue of Billy Penn in the hopes of breaking the most notorious hex in Philadelphia history, the Curse of Billy Penn. The alleged curse dates back to the mid-1980s and the controversial decision to allow skyscrapers to be built taller than the brim on the hat of the Billy Penn statue on top of City Hall, beginning with the opening of One Liberty Place in 1987.
June 19, 2007 |
Keeping alive a centuries-old tradition - with a Philadelphia twist - a beam was hoisted to the highest point of Comcast Center yesterday, topping off Philadelphia's new tallest skyscraper. There was a small tree at one end of the beam, which had been signed by workers and those gathered for the ceremony, and an American flag at the other. Between them was a statue of William Penn, the city's founder. There is a myth that Philadelphia's sports teams will not win a championship as long as a building "rises above Billy Penn" on City Hall, said Bill Hankowsky, chief executive officer of Liberty Property Trust, the Malvern company that is building Comcast Center.