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John F. Collins Park

Posted on Tuesday, December 25, 2018

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About the Park  

In the 1970s, Philadelphia philanthropist Dorothy Haas proposed the park, and the William Penn Foundation funded its construction. Designed principally by John F. Collins (1936-2011) of The Delta Group, the original park was dedicated on June 5, 1979.

For 20 years, the park was owned and maintained by the PenJerDel Regional Foundation until January 2010, when the park was transferred to the Center City District Foundation.

John F. Collins Park

About John F. Collins

John F. Collins

John F. Collins (1936 - 2011) was a landscape architect, urban planner, and educator. Growing up locally in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, he showed an early interest in horticulture, starting a commercial nursery at age 15. Following degrees in landscape architecture from Penn State and the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, Collins co-founded the landscape design firm of Adleman Collins and DuTot in Philadelphia. The firm later merged with others to form The Delta group, incorporating urban planning engineering, and architecture into the firm's mission.

During the period of renewal in the 1950s and 1960s, Collins was directly involved in designing many parks, including the Delancey Park (which is now known as Three Bears Park), Society Hill Walkways, Chestnut Park, Interstate 95 Expressway Cover Park and Schuylkill River Park, which was completed in 2006. Throughout the course of his career, Collins served frequently as a lecturer and visiting professor. At Temple University, where he worked for 10 years, he pioneered the Landscape Architecture program, becoming the department's 1st chair in 1988.

Beyond the university, he helped establish community and teaching gardens in Philadelphia for elementary school students as well as for prison inmates. Chestnut Park, at 17th and Chestnut streets is a unique “pocket park” that was inspired by Dorothy Haas, wife of F. Otto Haas, the former chairman of Rohm & Haas Corporation.

History of John F. Collins Park, Formerly Chestnut Park

In 1978, the William Penn foundation purchased the site, which was once a parking lot, and sponsored a design competition to build a park. The Delta Group won the design competition with the theme “Nature and Philadelphia” to celebrate the region's indigenous landscape and native people. Delta Group employees and the Collins family were really integrally involved in the park's construction and ongoing maintenance. The 3 totems decorating the fountain, representing the 3 tribes of the Lenni Lenape Indians, were sculpted by Christopher and John R. Collins, John’s sons, and Ted Knighton, his nephew.

Chestnut Park includes many natural elements among them native plants mica gneiss schist embedded in concrete, a fountain, highly expressive wrought iron gates with representations of local wildlife designed by sculptor Christopher Ray (1937 to 2000).

John F. Collins Park Wrought Iron Gate

The park was dedicated on June 5, 1979 to celebrate the legacy of William Penn's “Greene Country Town.” The Delta Group received an ASLA honor award for its park design in 1983. In 1999, the park was awarded and ASLA Centennial Medallion. In 2011, the park's entrances where renovated by KieranTimberlake Architects. Chestnut Park, now rededicated as John F. Collins Park, is owned and maintained by the Center City District Foundation. The development and restoration of the park was underwritten by the William Penn foundation.

Hours of Operation (subject to change)

Monday-Friday    8:30AM-5PM
Saturday              10:45AM-5PM 
Sunday                12PM-5PM

How To Get There

John F. Collins Park is conveniently located on Chestnut Street between 17th and 18th Streets. For guests of The Constitutional Walking Tour, John F. Collins Park is just a short 1.3 mile walk from the National Constitution Center. From the Constitution Center, head North on 6th Street and make a right on Chestnut Street heading West. John F. Collins Park will be on your right.

Additional Information

John F. Collins Park
1707 Chestnut Street (Between Chestnut and Ranstead Streets)
Philadelphia, PA 19102

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