Closed for 44 years, 'unforgettable' entrance to art museum reopens to public

Mike DeNardo
September 18, 2019 - 1:50 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — After serving as a loading dock for decades, an iconic entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art is finally open to the public again.

The entrance has been closed since 1975, but the doorway, accessible from Kelly Drive, is back to its initial purpose, as part of the first phase in the museum's $200 million face-lift.

Mayor Jim Kenney attended the reopening ceremony Wednesday, along with other city dignitaries.

"Today, we are reopening not just an entrance. We are reclaiming part of Philadelphia's history and one of Philadelphia's most unforgettable interiors," he said.

Renowned architect Frank Gehry is spearheading the museum's renovation. He said the building has "elegant bones" that just need to be "reawakened."

The street-level North Entrance was initially designed for public use when the museum opened in 1928. However, the spaces to which it led diminished over several decades, until officials closed it off altogether.

Now, it leads to a restored lobby, a new museum store, an espresso bar, and the refurbished Vaulted Walkway, a space that has not been open to the public since the 1960s. The walkway was built into the original structure to span the entire width of the building, from north to south, according to the museum. Nearly a third of it is now open again.

The renovation also includes a classroom for young students, which will serve as a starting point for field trips.

Museum member Anne Cook walked through the entrance in awe.

"We only knew this entrance as where the dumpsters stood outside here," she said. But now inside, "it's just breathtaking. ... And then when you go in this discovery, it's almost like being in ancient ruins or something."

The project will also expand the museum, adding up to 23,000 square feet of new gallery space. It is expected to wrap up a year from now.