“Ghost Cats” at Eastern State Pen

•April 13, 2008 • 8 Comments

I see that an explanation is needed for my page on the Eastern State Penitentiary “ghost cats”.  I had intentions to post written information about them long ago – and have been slow in doing so…  So I will post on them today, so as to clear up any confusion in what these pictures alone might suggest. 

The cats are part of an art installation by Linda Brenner in remembrance of the cat colony that took over the penitentiary after it was shut down and abandoned, as well as to the man who dedicated much of his time in taking care of them, Dan McCloud.  From what I’ve read (my source is listed below), these cats that you see in the pictures were molded from the actual cats that were there.  The art installation was approved by Eastern State Penitentiary to be placed beyond the boundaries of where on-lookers are allowed to access, so that we might see them as a part of the larger past existence of life and history of the building.  The installation “is a testimony to survival”. (1)

(1) http://www.easternstate.org/exhibits/brenner.php














Why many church doors are red:

•March 26, 2008 • 18 Comments


One of the first things I noticed about Philadelphia in particular was that an unusual amount of churches have painted their doors red.  Ever since I moved here I’ve been dying to investigate why this is – especially since they aren’t all the same denominations. 

I found quite a variety of explanations, though it seems that many of them are spin offs from a couple of root explanations, so to speak.  Most of the explanations stem from Episcopalian traditions, which is why I find it interesting that I found red doors on many churches that are not Episcopalian. 

I think I must have photographed 5 churches just on my way to school today.  You will find these pictures at the end of this text.

Here are the direct quotes of people who shared their understanding of the meanings of red church doors.  You can find the websites from which I have taken them at the end:

red-church-door-1-6.jpg A) Episcopalian church identification “…it was nothing more than a tradition, especially with Episcopal churches.  …if you go to a strange city, you can readily identify the Episcopal Church as the one with the red doors.”        –Mark Emory Graham (1)

red-church-door-1-7.jpg B) Symbol of the blood of Christ and martyrs: “The red doors symbolize the blood of Christ, which is our entry into salvation. They also remind us of the blood of the martyrs, the seeds of the church.” — St. David’s Episcopal Church in Laurinburg, NC (1) (2)

red-church-door-1-33.jpg C) Symbol of church entry:“These doors are symbolic of entering the Church and getting to our Heavenly Father through the blood of Christ” –Immanuel Lutheran Church (1)

red-church-door-1-29.jpg D) Symbol of passion: “Red is the color of the Passion. Red doors say that symbolically we enter the church the Passion, through death and resurrection in baptism (at an Orthodox baptism, the godparents present the candidate with red shoes as a symbol of walking the way of the cross) and by participating in the passion through the Eucharist. Red doors tend to be a continental reformed tradition.” –Paul Woodrum (1)  

red-church-door-1.jpg E) Paid mortgage signal (Episcopalian):  “I heard several years ago that the reason for the red doors on Episcopal churches was to indicate that the mortgage for the church was paid off.” –Bob Miller (1)

red-church-door-1-17.jpg F) Symbol of Sanctuary in the Middle Ages;”warning to pursuers”: “…the red door tradition originated during the Middle Ages in England when it was a sign of sanctuary. In those days, if one who was being pursued by the local populace, shire reeve (sheriff) or gentry could reach the church door he/she would be safe. Nobody would dare to do violence on hallowed ground and, in any case, the Church was not subject to civil law. The red door was fair warning to pursuers that they could proceed no further. One who claimed sanctuary in this way would then be able to present his/her case before the priest and ask that justice be served.” —RonMc (1)

red-church-door-1-8.jpg G) Reference to Passover: “You remember how the children of Israel were to mark “the lintel of the door” with blood, as a sign for the Angel of Death to pass over?  Before modern chemistry and the variety of paint formulae, red paint was made with animal blood (really — I’m not making this up!). “Barn red,” that color so familiar, especially in New England barns, was made with a combination of buttermilk and animal blood — the blood for pigment/color, and the buttermilk as the binder/thickener. (You remember, of course, from art history, about renaissance painters making their paints using egg yolk as a binder…). Anyhow, that’s how they made red paint: blood and buttermilk. It’s a pretty short step from there to red doors, if you are deeply steeped in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and know about marking the lintel of the door with blood to signify that you are among the saved….” –Linda Strohmier (1)

red-church-door-1-13.jpg H) Radical and controversial symbols (19th & early 20th century):  “… Obviously, there is no one definitive answer to this query.  The story as it was delivered to me is that church doors were painted red — as a sign of sanctuary, — as a reminder of the Passover, — as a sign of the Holy Spirit, — as a reminder of the Martyrs etc… all of the things mentioned. And yes this history is long and goes back indeed to the Middle Ages (or perhaps even to the time of the Torah in the Hebrew Scriptures). However, with all of this rich imagery abounding it still was the case in Great Britain and Canada in the 19th and early 20th century that only certain parishes painted their doors red. These were Anglo-Catholic parishes of the Oxford Movement (at least this was how it was reported to me by Urban Anglo-Catholic slum priests in Detroit and Toronto). In addition, a cross might appear on the parish steeple on these parishes. These were bold and controversial symbols at one time. Candles on the altar, liturgical vestments, Processional Crosses, Red Doors, Steeple Crosses, Weekly Eucharist, (not mention incense, bells, and lights that twinkle — ie votive candles) these were all considered radical. …The American Church experience has always been more eclectic. A few decades ago “High Church” or “Anglo-Catholic” parishes probably had red doors more commonly than “Liberal Protestant Parishes” (these were far more common in the American experience than the Evangelical parishes of Britain and Canada). …”   –Kenneth M. Near, Rector St. Paul’s Church, Englewood, NJ (1)

red-church-door-1-27.jpg I) Holy ground; physical and spiritual sanctuary; blood of Christ:  It’s because red doors traditionally mean “sanctuary” — the ground beyond the doors is holy, and anyone who goes through them is safe from physical (and spiritual) harm. In ancient times, no one could pursue an enemy past red doors into a church, and certainly no one could be harmed or captured inside of a church. Today, the red reminds us of the blood of Christ and that we are always safe in God’s care!” –St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church (3)

red-church-door-1-24.jpg J) A welcome sign to people of ALL races, creeds & sexual orientations (Present day interpretation – still debated among Episcopalian churches): ‘“It also represents a welcoming church, a church that opens its arms and doors to everyone regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation. …Painting the door bright red, he said, was a bow to tradition and the spirit of sanctuary, and also an acknowledgment of where St. Peter’s stood at this time of controversy and dissent in the Episcopal church — where St. Peter’s has stood for a long time. …”For me,” the new priest said, “it really comes down to the idea of being a house of prayer for all people.”’—Tom Dalton and Rev. Paul Bresnahan (4)  


(1)   http://www.secaucus.org/oursaviour/churchdoors.html

(2)   http://www.stdavidsepiscopal.org/outside.html

(3)   http://www.stthomas-wharton.org/About%20The%20Episcopal%20Church.htm

(4)   http://salemnews.com/punews/local_story_346004626.html  








“Stronger Together”

•March 21, 2008 • Leave a Comment






Take back Gotham City-Vote Harvey Dent

•March 21, 2008 • 2 Comments


I got off the bus today and heard the familiar rally cries of people encouraging the pubic to vote for a particular person running for political office.  This was no surprise to me, since Philadelphians currently find themselves in the thick of activities related to the Pennsylvania primaries (seems like every day either Obama, Hillary, or someone related to them is in town).  Then I heard: “I believe in Harvey Dent!” – “Say it again!” – “I believe in Harvey Dent!”  I thought to myself, Harvey Dent?  I know I’ve heard of him, but why is it that I can’t think of who he is?  The answer is because I was searching the relatively small political part of my brain, in which his name was not to be found.  I should instead have been looking into the (sadly, some might say) much larger part of my brain which is dedicated to movies. I found myself surrounded by this awesome marketing strategy for the Batman movie that’s coming out: “The Dark Knight”.  I knew they were going to play this game (of advertising as if it were real) on the Internet, but it was a nice surprise to see them actually go out in public.  I’m a little disappointed that the pictures I took don’t accurately convey how big the crowds were that stopped to see all of this.  It was such a nice mix of people who were either just confused or were excited for the movie.  Me? Well, I was a combination of both – confused, then excited. 




Philly Annual Flower Show 08

•March 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I had a fantastic day today at the Philadelphia Flower Show!  It was my first time, but they’ve been doing it for over 170 years.  This year’s theme was centered on New Orleans, jazz, and the Roaring 20s.  I have to say that I had hoped to see a little more from the Roaring 20’s side of the theme, as that is one of my FAVORITE times in history – but, I had a blast! I certainly could never get enough of New Orleans, and I’ll never get tired of being surrounded by outdoor southern beauty (the Spanish moss is what I miss so much about living in the south).  Thank you, Dr. D, for putting together this outing.  It was truly a beautiful adventure, and I’ll certainly plan on going every year. 

I must apologize, because the pictures didn’t turn out as I hoped they would.  It wasn’t one of my better days with the camera.  (The lighting in the convention center presented a challenge – and as a result of coping with that, some of the pics came out a little fuzzy.) But, I thought it was worth putting them up just to show another awesome side of Philadelphia. 































Latest mural I found (Feb. 08)

•February 17, 2008 • 4 Comments

I still need to find out the name of this one, what it is meant to represent, and who painted it…





Holiday Light Show (Wanamaker Building)

•February 9, 2008 • 2 Comments


OK, so…I realize that this is ridiculously late in the year for posting something holiday related, but this doesn’t deserve to be completely forgotten.  Here are some pictures from the holiday light show at the end of 2007 in the Wanamaker building. Ever since 1956, this light show has been displayed each year – every hour, on the hour – from the day after Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve.  *Note the breath-taking pipe organ (the largest playable pipe organ in the world).: