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Billy Penn

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NEWS
June 30, 1987 | By SCOTT FLANDER, Daily News Staff Writer
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.
NEWS
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.
NEWS
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)
NEWS
April 10, 1987 | By Michael Capuzzo, Inquirer Staff Writer
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.
NEWS
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.
NEWS
September 11, 1986 | By Roger Cohn, Inquirer Staff Writer
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.
NEWS
October 21, 1994 | by Rose DeWolf, Daily News Staff Writer
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?
ENTERTAINMENT
January 14, 1987 | By STUART D. BYKOFSKY, Daily News Staff Writer
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.
NEWS
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.
NEWS
June 19, 2007 | By Henry J. Holcomb INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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.
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NEWS
April 10, 2015 | BY WENDY RUDERMAN, Daily News Staff Writer rudermw@phillynews.com, 215-854-5924
THE LITTLE GIRL is a frequent visitor to the second floor of City Hall. She slips - unseen - past the police officers outside Mayor Nutter's office. She secrets herself within a majestic room called Conversation Hall. She is not supposed to be there, unsupervised, at all hours of the night. Officer George Feinstein, part of the mayor's security detail, acknowledges that he's never actually seen the girl. But twice he's heard her giggle while making his second-floor rounds. He's also heard her sigh, breezily, as he chitchatted with some City Hall visitors.
NEWS
October 18, 2014 | By Virginia A. Smith, Inquirer Staff Writer
She loves Philadelphia. "Come on, this city is gorgeous!" She'd even like to buy some real estate here. "Anyone have some ideas?" But she wanted to know who that guy was standing atop City Hall. "Billy Penn?" she asked incredulously. "What'd he do? Was he like poet laureate, or something, of Philadelphia?" That was Diane Keaton, 68, one of a star-studded handful of keynote speakers Thursday at the 11th annual Pennsylvania Conference for Women, where more than 7,000 women and a few men attended the one-day lollapalooza-scale event.
NEWS
January 17, 2014 | By Annette John-Hall, For The Inquirer
History felt palpable when I first arrived in Philadelphia in 1995. The past welcomed me warmly as I visited the Liberty Bell. Ushered me through Elfreth's Alley. And hung reverently as I made my pilgrimage to Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, holy ground for this lifelong A.M.E. worshipper and Richard Allen disciple. But let's face it: The history of early Philadelphia, while full and fascinating, still dominates the cityscape. "We're a very 1776 place," sighs filmmaker Sam Katz.
SPORTS
December 23, 2013 | By Frank Fitzpatrick, Inquirer Columnist
The drive from Waco to Houston is so long and unremarkable that last week, when I passed a redwood-size statue of Sam Houston, I feared I'd fallen into a hallucinatory haze. But, no, the white, 67-foot-high likeness of the 19th-century Texas hero, which hovers like a mutant ghost above Interstate 45 in Huntsville, was as real as Billy Penn atop City Hall. Supersize Sam has been standing there like a Skull Island totem, frightening unsuspecting motorists, since 1994, which has to make him one of the more recent non-sports entries in the field of heroic statuary.
NEWS
September 16, 2013 | BY DANA DIFILIPPO, Daily News Staff Writer difilid@phillynews.com, 215-854-5934
THE SECOND time was the charm for William Penn's steps. Neighbors of the Wood Street Steps - a worn stone staircase between rowhouses that connects Water and Front streets in Old City - have lobbied the state to post a marker to alert passersby to their historic importance. The steps are the last remaining of about a dozen such staircases that William Penn ordered built in 1684 to ensure public access to the increasingly congested Delaware River waterfront. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission's five-member panel of historians, who judge whether such sites are marker-worthy, rejected the Wood Street Steps in 2011, saying the site lacked statewide historical significance.
NEWS
July 28, 2013
Billy Penn's Motor City blues While Philadelphia's situation is not yet as dire, it clearly is on the same path as Detroit. Despite modest gains for the city, our systemic and long-standing problems overshadow and imperil our future. Once known as the world's workshop, the city is surrounded by businesses that exist right over the border to escape ridiculously high and ever-increasing taxes. Every year, the public schools sound the general alarm, warning of doomsday unless provided millions.
NEWS
April 21, 2013 | By Clark DeLeon
To hear John Connors tell the story, he just sort of got involved with saving Penn Treaty Park when he wore a younger man's clothes. He doesn't even know if the legend - William Penn made nice here with the original Philadelphians - actually happened in 1682 under a big elm tree on a bendy curve along the Delaware River. The famous treaty was more of a handshake, a pledge of goodwill and peaceful intentions between the recently arrived Englishman and the native Lenni Lenape whose ancestors had dwelled in these parts since 2500 B.C. Almost a century later, Voltaire described this unique understanding as "the only treaty never sworn to and never broken.
NEWS
November 16, 2012 | BY DANA DiFILIPPO, Daily News Staff Writer difilid@phillynews.com, 215-854-5934
THE STONE staircase, sandwiched between rowhouses and connecting Water Street and Front Street on an Old City block, seems like any ordinary set of old steps. Residents store their trash cans on them, and fallen leaves line the treads, which dip a bit in the middle from the masses that have climbed up and down them. But neighbors of the Wood Street Steps in Old City say they are a historic treasure, the last remaining steps of about a dozen such staircases William Penn in 1684 ordered be built to ensure public access to the increasingly congested Delaware River waterfront.
NEWS
September 24, 2012
Beneath a clear, blue 9/11 sky - almost too blue, as it was that Tuesday 11 years earlier - I climbed to the top of Philadelphia's tallest office tower in search of an urban legend. I wanted to see with my own eyes what I had been telling people for years. Not that I ever doubted the story. As we all know, William Penn works in mysterious ways. The story I tell is familiar to Philadelphians and delightful to visitors hearing it for the first time. For almost 100 years, the tallest man-made object in Philadelphia was the bronze Quaker hat, atop the 37-foot-tall statue of Pennsylvania's founder, that crowns the City Hall Tower.
NEWS
March 30, 2012 | By Annette John-Hall, Inquirer Columnist
The suggestion by Philadelphia Councilman Darrell Clarke to sell outdoor advertisements on city buildings made the silly part of me think of William Penn atop City Hall draped in an ad for Boyds. Could be effective. Because if anybody is in need of a 21st-century makeover, it's the venerable Billy. I'm just kidding. Defacing a historic statue with an ad is clearly not what Clarke has in mind. But in all seriousness, it's exactly what members of Scenic Philadelphia - which has for years worked to defend public spaces from illegal outdoor advertising - fears.
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