042 Lydia Hunn


This art deco building, the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, is now gone.  I was born there in 1946. Though I never visited the place of my birth, I saw it many times while looking north from I-95 near the Navy Yard. With the Philadelphia skyline as a distant backdrop, it was iconic, isolated and elegant. It loomed above an expanse of green space dotted with lakes and trees that we now call Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park.  Once an estuarial swamp deemed useless, the tidal waters of League Island Park were tamed by the landscape architectural firm of Olmsted Brothers from 1912-21. The Sesquicentennial International Exhibition of 1926 brought further changes with the infilling of wetlands using dirt excavated from construction of the North Broad Street subway system. The Olmsted buildings and pavilions remain today but are in need of repair. The lakes and waterways are being rebuilt to a more natural state in keeping with tidal ecosystems. Part of Fairmount Park, this southern most tip of Philadelphia is an example of Atlantic Coastal Plain that is deemed an important bird area by the Pennsylvania Audubon Society. In 2,000 it was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. It is a treasure, as was the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, which became a parking lot in 2001.