The Whispering Bench

Just in front of Memorial Hall in West Fairmount Park is the impressive Smith Memorial Arch honoring Pennsylvania's Civil War military and naval heroes. One interesting aspect of this colossal work is the inclusion of a statue of Richard Smith, who paid $500,000 to create the work in the late 1890s. Smith, whose wealth came from making printers type, was not a Civil War hero. The arch contains five full statues and nine busts of great Pennsylvania military men. About a dozen artists worked on the piece, which explains why it took 15 years to complete. But the most unique - and certainly the most fun - aspect of the piece are stone benches at the base of the arch. A person sitting at one end of the bench can turn and whisper into the wall behind him. A second person sitting at the opposite end can clearly hear what is being said.