The city’s Mural Arts Program has included the five-story mural on the back of The Beasley Building in the city’s “Mural Mile” tour. The tour highlights 17 of the city’s “most iconic murals” along a two-mile walking route in Center City.
The mural, “Building The City,” was commissioned in 1997 by Jim Beasley Sr. and painted by artist Michael Webb. The artist painted foundry workers casting outdoor sculptures on display in Philadelphia. The sculptures represented include the head and feet of the Billy Penn statue atop City Hall. Webb also painted a seated woman and child — “Wisdom Instructing Youth” — taken from a 1908 sculpture on the south side of City Hall.
“Beasley hired me to do something historical about Philadelphia,” Webb explained in Courtroom Cowboy, a biography of Beasley published by Lawrence Teacher Books in December 2008. “It just sort of evolved into a family mural with all his kids in it and his grandkids,” Webb said. The artist also added a couple of pet dogs and some pigeons to the mural, along with historical figures and people who worked at The Beasley Firm.
Beasley’s file clerk, Charles Lee, was painted carrying a shovel. The mural also includes images of Jim Beasley Jr., then working at the firm as a young lawyer, as well as Beasley himself, seen on a balcony looking at architectural plans with his daughter, Pamela.
“He never wanted to be in the mural,” Webb said. But the artist was looking for a distinguished older man to add to the mural. Maybe that’s why Beasley appears to be glowering.
Travelers along the route can dial 215-525-1577, punch in the number 5 followed by the # sign, and then hear a recorded discussion of the mural, featuring an interview with artist Michael Webb. Beasley is described on the tape as “visionary man who rescued and restored this once dilapidated building” at 12th and Walnut Streets.
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