Girard Fountain Park 325 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 546-7550

In 2003, the city of Philadelphia commissioned local sculptor James Peniston to replace the much-loved but deterioratedPenny Franklin, an acrylic sculpture covered with 80,000 pennies donated by schoolchildren, located outside the firehouse in historic Old City.

Peniston responded with Keys To Community, a nine-foot bronze bust that portrays Franklin turning to greet a visitor. The sculptor visited two dozen nearby elementary schools to talk about Franklin's role as a community-builder -- and to ask each
child to bring in a key to be worked into the sculpture's surface. Over two years, Peniston collected more than 1,000 keys.

Firefighters mounted a penny drive in 500 local schools, collecting 1.8 million pennies to help fund the casting. When the molten bronze was poured for the work, firefighters laid in brass nameplates representing fallen colleagues across four centuries of service.

  • keys peniston
    Photo: Courtesy Bradley Peniston