Initial conception of the park began in Spring 2003 as a collaborative partnership between the Hawthorne Empowerment Coalition, Residents of Hawthorne Square, Universal Companies, The University of the Arts Industrial Design Department, and the Philadelphia Housing Authority. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society joined the group in spring 2004, serving as chief liaison and shepherd to bring the project to fruition. From winter 2004 to winter 2005 the project went through a series of charrettes culminating with project goals and a final design concept. An estimate of probable cost was established in winter 2007. Funding was secured from several sources including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, a grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development through the Pennsylvania legislature from State Representative Babette Josephs, the City of Philadelphia through Councilman Frank DiCicco, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the William Penn Foundation. Lager Raabe Skafte Landscape Architects, Inc. was retained for design services and began work fall 2008. Over the following year, working closely with Fairmount Park, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Philadelphia Water Department, and the Hawthorne community, the team explored a series of design options to fulfill the goals established over the prior years.
The design evolved and grew to embrace the ideals of the community goals. Elevated with walls along 12th Street and Catharine Street, a visually dynamic edge is created to define the park from the active urban pace. An open edge along Fawn Street and Clymer Street to a flat lawn provides a shared front yard for the adjacent residents. Through the integration of circulation and space, versatile paved areas support activities from reading to community markets to providing an elevated performance space, while minimizing paved surfaces. Green space has been maximized, providing lawn for active use or serving a place for the eye to rest. A ‘green belt’ of plant beds curves along the mid-section of the park providing visual access to all areas. Trees and space are organized attempting to make the park feel larger than it is while framing surrounding urban context and the city skyline. The identity of the park strives for a unique character while maintaining an enduring aesthetic using classic forms and materials with contemporary lines and proportion.
Previously a vacant gravel lot, existing urban fill was replaced with healthy soil to sustain approximately 50 trees, 4,000 square feet of plant beds and 19,000 square feet of lawn. A high efficiency irrigation system was installed to nurture the plants while minimizing water use. Total green space accounts for approximately 60 percent of the site, including roughly 12 percent for the plant beds, filled with tough, low maintenance plants. The remaining area utilizes approximately 6,000 square feet of permeable unit paving, disconnecting the majority of stormwater from the City’s stormwater system. Durable, high quality materials and furnishings along with a manageable and maintainable planting help foster a long-lived and long-loved community park. After almost 10 years of work by many dedicated members of the community and considerable support from outside partners, Hawthorne Park was completed and officially dedicated in the spring of 2012.