As the competition begins for choosing a developer to build a new hotel in the Family Court building at 1801 Vine St., there is another idea for how to reuse this elegant and important public building.

A group of museums and related organizations, including the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia, have been working to create a consortium of organizations that would become the resident institutions in a restored Family Court building. This WPA-era building was designed with high- ceilinged and classically proportioned waiting and court rooms to inspire the citizens who came seeking justice. These spaces, restored to their original beauty, would be ideal galleries for the collections of the Civil War Museum and the other institutions in the consortium. This kind of center would expand the story that Philadelphia tells about itself; establish Philadelphia as a tourist destination for Civil War history; and expand amenities at the Logan Square end of the Parkway.

Under discussion are innovative ways to use virtual galleries and other new technology to link this historical/cultural center to museums and history organizations across the region, and to explore how this consortium could generate opportunities for synergy, offering savings in operational costs that would gladden the hearts of hard-pressed boards and the funders of their organizations. This kind of creative reuse of the Family Court building honors its past while creating an exciting future attraction.

Oliver St. Clair Franklin

Chairman, Board of Governors

Civil War Museum of Philadelphia