Saturday, October 15, 2005

Edmund Bacon 1910 - 2005 

The famous (sometimes infamous) Philadelphia city planner Edmund Bacon died yesterday of natural causes at his Center City home. He was 95.

Here are the obits from today's Philadelphia Inquirer and the Phila. Daily News . The entire cover of the DN is a photo of Bacon.

I want to share my Ed Bacon story.

I invited him to be a guest on the radio show "LIVE" at the Writers House on April of 2002, which I produced at the time. The show was an all letters reading.

First, how did I get Bacon on the show?

I looked him up in the phonebook and called him. He answered and we briefly talked. At first he said NO right off the bat. But we kept talking and I asked another way if he would do it. I explained the concept of the show again -- the theme of letters -- and he told me that he had one he could read. Yes, he said, he would do it.

Mr. Bacon asked: "Where are you located?"

I said: "We're up on Locust Walk on Penn's campus." And I continued: "Do you know where the foot bridge that goes over 38th street on Locust Walk is?"

Mr. Bacon fired back: "Do I know where it is? I designed that bridge son. Before me there was no walk; it was just a diagonal."

On the night of the show I remember Mr. Bacon also yelling at the host Michaela Majoun. She asked a question (during the practice run-through) that I can't remember now. I do remember that it was taken directly from a statement in his book Design and Cities, which was simply re-worded into a question. Mr. Bacon went on to apologize to Michaela for misunderstanding the question, which he precived as an attack.

Bacon was feisty from start to finish.

The letter he read that night was written and published in the local newspaper when he was 11 or 12 years old. He wanted to read it because it showed (he said) that he predicted cell phones back in the days of the Model T.

Another memory from the interview (and I am not sure how much I'm amplifying it, I don't think that much) is the following question that Michaela asked:

MM: Of all your projects in Philadelphia, which one are you the most proud?

EB: Philadelphia.

MM: Yes, Mr. Bacon, which part?


Here are the two audio links from the All Letters "LIVE" at the Writers House radio program:

The young 12 year-old Ed Bacon's letter to the Editor: Where he predicts cell phones.

Ed Bacon: "Thoughts on the design of Cities."

--Tom Devaney

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