Octavius Catto’s Quest For Parity

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Philadelphia unveiled its first public monument to an African-American in September 2017.  “A Quest For Parity” is located on the south apron of Philadelphia City Hall.

Who was Octavius Catto?  He was an athlete: He established the first successful African-American baseball club in Philadelphia.  He was an activist and a key figure in the protests that led to the desegregation of streetcars in Philadelphia.   He was an educator, teaching at the Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth.  He was a soldier: when the Confederates invaded Pennsylvania in 1863, he raised a company of Black soldiers, one of the first volunteer regiments of volunteers in the Commonwealth.   He served as a  Major and raised a total of eleven regiments during the war.  

 

I ‘ve always thought of Octavius Catto as a Philadelphian even though he was born in South Carolina.  He settled in Philadelphia and met his fiance Sarah Le Count here.   The building that housed the Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth still stands on Bainbridge  Street a few blocks from my home, as does the spot on South Street where Catto was gunned down in an election day riot in October 1871.  He was 32 years old. Too soon for his work to be done.

The statue of Catto is beautifully rendered by sculptor Branly Cadet who designed and executed the monument.  The picture at the top of this post shows the gleaming metal ball that sits in front of the statute and reflects Catto, Philadelphia, and the passers-by. 

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The twelve-foot bronze statue is imposing and lifelike; Catto seems about to tip off the pedestal.   Is he running?  Is he making an impassioned speech?  Cadet aptly portrays   Catto as a man of action, an activist, passionate and relentless.

 

If you find yourself in Philadelphia, go see the monument.    To read more about the monument and the artist, press here.  To see a documentary film about Octavius Catto, press here.

 

 

A Visit to the Masonic Temple

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I’ve wanted to tour the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia for quite some time.  Even though there have been Masons in my and my husband’s family and  I used to work in City Hall which is right across the street, I never made the trip.

Then I joined the Cityscape Tours Philadelphia Meetup group that Steve Rosenbach organized a year ago.  When an email popped up in my account announcing an “Almost Free” tour of the Temple I signed up and I’m glad I did.

I arrived at the Temple a few minutes early and Steve was there with a list of names and a hearty welcome.  He was very well organized.  As more people arrived, it became evident that some had attended prior tours Steve had organized and that others were newbies like me.  But everyone was very friendly and the fact that we all had cameras seemed to unite us somehow.  I always feel self conscious when I take pictures in public (you’d never know this I suppose because I take pictures constantly wherever I go if it is legal and does not violate privacy,  propriety or rules of etiquette.)

By way of background, the Masonic Temple was constructed between 1868 and 1873 in the Romanesque style of architecture developed by the Normans in the Middle Ages. The interior took another 15 years to complete and included  It is on the list of National Landmarks.

There are seven lodge halls in the Temple and our group got to see four of them: Ionic Hall, Norman Hall, Egyptian Hall and Gothic Hall.  We also saw the Grand Staircase,  some fascinating artifacts in the attached museum, and some very old portraits of prominent Masons including George Washington. I took a lot of pictures but most of them did not turn out so well.  No matter; it was a fun and interesting time and good company.  To learn more about Freemasonry, press here.

Here are some pictures

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Grand Staircase

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Entrance leading to Grand Staircase
 

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Outside Entrance
 

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Ionic Hall
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Ionic Hall
 

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Gothic Hall
 

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Dedication Cornerstone
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Grand Staircase

I just found this interesting image cica 1840 of the site where the Masonic Temple now stands. Part of the Arch Street Church, which was later enlarged and is still standing, is visible.