Updated: Oct 23, 2021
For Valentine’s Day, bundle up and take a tour of the Philadelphia region’s most romantic sculptures. Perfect for long-time couples or twosomes that are newly-bubbled. It’s safe, it’s free and it’s romantic! Visit one. Or two. Or visit them all.
Tip: Snap a picture in front of each sculpture you visit. Then, memorialize your day by making a photo book for your valentine.
The obvious place to start is with Philadelphia’s iconic Love Statue. But, if you’d like to avoid the line, skip the Love statue at JFK Plaza (aka Love Park) and head to the University of Pennsylvania or the Ursinus College campus. Penn has had one of Robert Indiana’s Love statues since 1966 and Ursinus since the mid-1970s, but not many people seem to know.
If you do go to Love Park, take a slight detour to Sister Cities Park, at 18th & the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, to visit Robert Indiana’s Amor statute. The Association for Public Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art purchased this version when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia in 2015. Amor means love in Spanish, the Pope’s native language, and in traditional Latin.
At first glance, the Clothespin on 15th & Market streets across from City Hall seems rather utilitarian. But, if you look from an angle you’ll see that Claes Oldenburg’s clothespin looks like a profile of two people kissing. Do the same.
'Til Death Do Us Part
In 1914, Violet Ridgway got engaged to Theodore Jaeckel. She died just 12 years later and was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery. A few weeks after her burial, her husband had her remains removed, cremated and encased in a large stone vase. Nine years later when he died, he had his ashes intermingled with Violet’s for eternity. The vase is embraced by a stone tombstone. Violet's epitaph reads “Lovely Loving and Beloved, life to her was a wondrous adventure which her tenderness, purity, courage, sweet courtesy, unselfish devotion glorified to her companion after the night apart dawn.” The gates at Laurel Hill Cemetery are open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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Heart Pod/Love Temple
Morris Arboretum is home to the Heart Pod, a bronze and lead sculpture by Jim Lloyd. Outer swells enfold a burgeoning core, which balances on one small point. You can view its changing curves by rotating it 360 degrees with your hand or walking around it.
While you’re there, don’t miss the Greek-inspired Love Temple, one of Morris Arboretum’s showpieces. It was designed by John Morris for his summer home in Chestnut Hill and carved out of white marble by Italian Sculptor Ermete Gazzeri. Lydia Morris, John's sister, bequested the structure to the arboretum and it now sits beside Swan Lake. (Note: Morris Arboretum charges admission. Click here for information about free admission and discounts.)
Low-Poly Open Heart/Steadfast & Loyal
Head to South Jersey to see the Low-Poly Open Heart on Kings Highway in the “heart” of Haddonfield. The three-dimensional welded diamond laser-cut aluminum sculpture by M.L. Duffy is a popular spot for engagements and wedding photos. Real romantics can up the ante by walking half a block southwest to the sculpture called Steadfast & Loyal. This painted bronze sculpture by Ken Ross depicts an older couple sitting together. It's the perfect way to declare that you want to grow old together. Both are stops on the charming Haddonfield Sculpture Tour.
This literally translates to “the cockroach” but it usually refers to a Mexican dance that was popular in the 1930s. And no one can deny the magnetism between the dancers in Stella Elkins Tyler’s bronze sculpture by that name. It’s part of the sculpture walk on Bucks County Community College’s Newtown campus. More than 50 years ago, Tyler willed the property and sculptures to Temple and the land later became part of the community college.
If sitting on the grass reading the newspaper together seems like a glorious way to spend your morning, don’t miss Sunday Morning, John Seward Johnson’s lifelike statue of a couple reading on the grass at Cherry Hill Public Library. Another sculpture by Johnson, Symbiosis, depicts a couple amicably sitting back-to-back at the Hamilton Township Library in Trenton. And if you’re in Hamilton, swing by the train station to see three of Johnson's cast aluminum statues of romantically-inclined couples dancing -- called A Turn of the Century, Whispering Close and Time for Fun. And at that point, you’re not far from even more of Johnson’s happy couples at New Jersey's Grounds for Sculpture. (Note: Grounds for Sculpture charges admission but gift tickets are available.)
If you’re going to make a day of it, pack a thermos of hot chocolate or hot apple cider.
by Irene Levy Baker, author, 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia and Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia. Both books are full of tips. For even more tips, visit www.100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia.com. Planning a staycation? Go to the website for signed copies of books. For free shipping, use promo code TheCityPulse.
Click here for more blog postings by Irene Levy Baker including where to warm up with a bowl of soup, two posts with tips for how to help restaurants survive and a look at Philly-style masks.