Six Degrees of Edmund Bacon

Edmund Bacon, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Planning Commission from 1949 to 1970, is often called the father of modern Philadelphia.  His hand guided virtually every major postwar project in the city.  He was also the father of actor Kevin Bacon, whose six degrees of separation from every actor known to man is the stuff of dorm room and cocktail party legend.  Like father like son, what better way to meander the byways of Philadelphia (and world) history than via The Six Degrees of Edmund Bacon?

The Game: Name a famous Philadelphian.  Connect him or her to Edmund Bacon in six steps, using common sites, buildings, events, or relationships.

The Challenge: Chubby Checker.

View one solution after the jump (click “read rest of this page” below).  Are there any others?

#1) Chubby Checker grew up in South Philly and got his first big break when Dick Clark sent one of his songs to the local Cameo-Parker label, which quickly gave Checker a recording contract.  Checker would soon record “The Twist,” generally considered one of the most popular songs of all time. Cameo-Parker Records was located at 309 South Broad Street at the time.

#2) Ten years later, the same building became home to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records.  Gamble and Huff produced some of the most popular soul and R&B acts of the 1970s, including The Jacksons, whose first record on Philadelphia International was a bicentennial year hit.

#3) The Jacksons, of course, were a slightly reworked incarnation of the wildly popular Jackson 5 (with Randy replacing Jermaine), who debuted on Detroit’s Motown Records in 1969.  At the time, Motown was headquartered in Detroit’s Donovan Building, a 1922 ten-story skyscraper that was demolished in 2005 to accommodate overflow parking for Detroit’s Super Bowl XL (the lot was reportedly used by only three buses).

#4) The Donovan Building was designed by Albert Kahn, famous for his early Modernist factory buildings for the Ford Motor Company.  Besides Henry Ford, another of Kahn’s major patrons was newspaper mogul George Gough Booth, who commissioned Kahn to build both his Detroit News Building and the Cranbrook House, his sprawling country manor.

#5) George Booth and his wife Ellen soon began filling the estate with philanthropic boarding schools.  In the late 1920s, the couple hired noted Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen to design a campus for the Cranbrook School for Boys and the Kingswood School for girls.  The Booths retained Saarinen in 1932 to both design and lead their new Cranbrook Academy of Art, which would become one of the leading art and architecture schools in the country.

#6) In 1936, Saarinen and the Cranbrook Academy granted a scholarship to a globetrotting young architect named Ed Bacon.  Bacon would later cite Saarinen as one of his most important mentors.

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3 responses

  1. Allita

    Ha! This is great! 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon may be eaasier to actually play though…

    September 3, 2010 at 12:02 pm

  2. Herbert Fairthorne

    Sorry – couldn’t squeeze it into 6 steps, but…

    1. Chubby Checker performed on American Bandstand, in the WFIL building
    2. Abraham Levy designed WFIL
    3. Abraham Levy’s brother was Dr. Leon Levy
    4. Leon Levy was married to Blanche Paley Levy
    5. Her brother was William Paley, founder of CBS.
    6.The CBS building was designed by Eero Saarinen
    7. Eero’s father was Eliel Saarinen, who taught Edmund Bacon at Cranbrook.

    September 3, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    • btleech

      Impressive, Mr. Fairthorne. Impressive.

      September 3, 2010 at 11:01 pm

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