The Roxborough Pocket Park gets its finishing touch this week: a gateway into the colorful community space that has become the heart of the Ridge Avenue commercial corridor.
Over the next few days, Roxborough can watch as Joseph Campbell and his team of metalworkers add a long-anticipated gateway to the Roxborough Pocket Park. The gateway will welcome residents, shoppers, and other Ridge Avenue visitors into the park with a generous arch emblazoned with our neighborhood’s name and ornamental ironwork inspired by the trumpet vine native to the Wissahickon.
The gateway is the final step in implementing the vision for the Roxborough Pocket Park introduced in Roxborough 2020, the five-year strategic plan for the District. “When you look at photos of the park from 2015 and now, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come,” said Linda Dottor, Operations Manager for the Roxborough Development Corporation (RDC). “Each of the improvements to the park – the murals, rain garden, planting beds, lighting, and now the gateway – add up to something bigger.”
The RDC and a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) provided funding for the gateway. The DCED grant also supported other recent improvements to the park: LED lighting for the Leverington Parking Lot and second mural by artist Paul Santoleri commissioned through Mural Arts Philadelphia.
“Each of the improvements to the park – the murals, rain garden, planting beds, lighting, and now the gateway – add up to something bigger.”
Joseph Campbell opened his Kensington-based workshop, Metal Inc., five years ago with business partner Vincent Gasper. With a background in engineering and industrial design, Campbell had tried his hand at woodworking, but there really was nothing like working with metals as a medium.
“I enjoy it. I really found that fabricating in metal is the best because of the versatility of it,” Campbell said. “The things you can do with it, you can’t do with other materials.”
Campbell’s studio is a melting pot of activity, literally, from blacksmithing to fabricating to woodworking. His work can be seen throughout the city, from metal panels at The Porch at 30th Street Station to bike racks in Fishtown. His work has an organic feel to it, incorporating sculptural leaves and vines.
Campbell also designed and installed a gazebo installed in December 2020 atDilworth Park for the Holiday Market. “The stature of the artists working on the pocket park has been remarkable,” Dottor said. “For us to have an artist like Joe working here is really exciting. The natural environment of Roxborough is featured in our murals. He has expanded on that theme with his design.”
Campbell began designing the gateway for the park in February 2020, meeting with a committee comprised of residents and RDC leaders to get feedback. The archway and fence have been assembled at Campbell’s Metal Inc. workshop in Kensington. Hand-forged ornamental ironwork, inspired by the trumpet vine, will be woven into the archway and fencing on-site.
“The vines start at the base and grow off the pillars at either side. The vine is organic, like something you would see in nature,” Campbell said. “The fence will look like something that’s been there for 100 years, like it’s always been there.”
“The fence will look like something that’s been there for 100 years, like it’s always been there.”
The project included a blacksmith from Virginia and a West Philadelphia fabricator called in to help at Campbell’s studio. The ornamental ironwork will be fabricated from Corten steel. It weathers over time, starting out gray and then flashing rust before settling into a deep brown.
“It’s designed to be welcoming,” Campbell said. “If someone walks by and says, ‘That looks nice’ and goes into the park, that is my goal.”