Throughout the century following the United States Civil War, Philadelphia was known as the “Workshop of the World.” The city was a manufacturing powerhouse, with thousands of small- and large -scale facilities populating a wide range of industry—a reflection of Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial spirit. During this heyday, a complex and self-sustaining ecosystem emerged, supported by a vast network of working relationships within and across trades. This depth and diversity of production sustained the health and longevity of Philadelphia’s industrial base, far surpassing many other North American cities.
Regardless of its early strength, Philadelphia’s manufacturing economy experienced an inexorable decline during the second half of the 20th century. Left behind were the enormous and often magnificent physical remnants of that disappearing city. As the city has redefined itself in recent decades, many of these historic structures, including mills and factories, have been repurposed for adaptive and imaginative reuse. A few have survived outright, having successfully adjusted with the times. Many others stand underutilized or forgotten, subject to scrappers, squatters, and nature’s decay.
Industrious Light honors the city’s proud industrial history and prompts discourse around its present-day impact. The mural was created largely in charcoal, a throwback to “black and white” perceptions of the past and a reference to the primary materials of the industrial era. This is the third work in the Industrious Light series. The mural is located at the former Leviathan Main Belting Co. but the current home of the studios at 1241 Carpenter St. The mural wraps around the corner of the building, showcasing the stages of the historical uses of the building.