Philadelphia History Museum

  • Master Plan, Restoration & Renovation
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 2006 - 2010


John Haviland’s 1821 gem built as the Franklin Institute (a block from Independence Hall) was imposing at the time, but is a modest structure packed with history.  In 2006, a facility masterplan developed with museum leadership laid the direction for reuse as the city history museum of Philadelphia.  Gently testing the building’s capacity to host exhibits (while maintaining specific environmental conditions), public programs and collections study rooms, the programmatic goals had to work within the historic fabric yet still function as a modern museum.


Museum leadership set ambitious goals that were carefully studied within the context of the historic structure.  Compromises were of course necessary, balanced with the goals of revitalizing a building that might otherwise not remain a public venue as it had been for 190 years.  The master plan made the case for funding based on past and future history, motivating funders and resulting in working with a construction manager to work through options based on limited funding and difficult construction logistics.


The master plan was informed by the Historic Structures Report and development of a simple plan that made the most of pathways in the keyways  to route modern systems (elevators, ADA ramps, fire stairs and building systems), in a sense, working outside the original footprint to minimize their impact.  Interrupted by the recession, construction proceeded in 2010 within the budget to transform the building, with exhibit installation following in 2011.  The new museum is hosting far more visitors to exhibits and programs, and has given new leadership the opportunity to reach new audiences.

Led by Walt Crimm while Director of EwingCole Cultural Practice