A beloved South Philadelphia playground is set to undergo a transformation that pays tribute to the historical significance of the land beneath it. Singers from Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church marked the unveiling of the Bethel Burying Ground Public Art Memorial redesign at Weccacoe Playground in South Philadelphia.
Over a decade ago, activists revealed that the playground, located at 400 Catherine Street, was constructed on the former burial grounds of the church. The church board was compelled to sell the burial site to the city in 1889 due to financial constraints.
Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, Mother Bethel’s pastor, highlighted the wage disparity between Black and white workers in Philadelphia at the time, shedding light on the church’s decision.
Mayor Jim Kenney, who was a City Councilmember when the cemetery was discovered, expressed astonishment at how a recreation center was built atop this sacred site. The redesign plan, led by designer Karen Olivier, will showcase the historical significance of the location by featuring granite white pavers with inscriptions and biographies of those buried there.
The revamped playground will serve as a space for the community to connect with its history and African American heritage. The memorial construction is scheduled to commence next spring, pending permit approvals.