A century ago, most of the 1,300 or so buildings standing in the way of Philadelphia's grand boulevard-to-be had been demolished, their workers and residents scattered, and construction of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway had begun in earnest.
Since that great Parkway Diaspora, a lot of earnest thought has been devoted to seeking ways to bring workers and residents back to the area in an effort to repopulate and reanimate the district with anything other than fast-moving cars.
Such are the ironies of history.
That said, there are going to be many exceptional reasons to visit the Parkway over the next year, as Parkway 100, the centennial celebration of Philadelphia's boulevard, gets underway.
It will all kick off at 4 p.m. Sept. 8 with the "Parkway 100 We are Connected Festival" and the unveiling of a mural at Park Towne Place.
The parkway's cultural institutions will offer extended hours, free or pay-what-you-wish admissions, and more than 100 family-friendly activities. Indoor and outdoor entertainment, a Dino Dance Party at the Academy of Natural Sciences, a Ceremonial Centennial Science Demonstration at the Franklin Institute, and "100 Years in Philly Music" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will mark the occasion.
Numerous musical performances will take place at spots up and down the Parkway. Friends Select School will unveil a photograph and archival exhibition, "Parkway as Civic Space."
At 5 p.m. that day, the Free Library of Philadelphia will open a special centennial exhibit, "Corridor of Culture: 100 Years of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway." The exhibition will run until Nov. 16, 2018.
The Association for Public Art is shepherding two projects for the centennial.
First, from Sept. 15 through Oct. 8, a fleet of 27 pedicabs outfitted with fanciful lanterns will transport riders up and down the parkway in Cai Guo-Qiang's participatory performance-celebration "Fireflies." Rides will be free, by reservation, Thursdays through Sunday from 6 to 10 p.m. each evening
Then, from December through March, the Parkway will feature Jennifer Steinkamp's Winter Fountains for the Parkway, five large fountains installed by the artist along the Parkway. When night falls, the fountains will illuminate with animated video projections that relate to the collections at the Parkway museums and educational institutions.
In addition to the Free Library and Friends Select, other Parkway institutions will present centennial-related exhibitions throughout the year.
There will also be concerts at the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul throughout this year and next, and many, many other events, exhibits, talks, and performances. For the conclusion, more than a year from now, the museums, institutions, and attractions on the Parkway will open their doors on Friday night, Nov. 16, 2018, for the "Parkway 100 Finale," offering installations, performances and concerts, premieres, tours, talks, and educational programs.