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Love is in the chair

Friends of Port Richmond creates custom chair for Campbell Square.

A chair for all: Port Richmond youth gather on the recently installed Love Chair at Campbell Square at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. PHOTO: MICHELLE F. SMITH

If you’ve recently taken a stroll through Campbell Square, you may have noticed a shiny, red oversized lawn chair.

The custom, wooden Adirondack-style furniture is courtesy of the Friends of Port Richmond, a 

group of business owners that donates to the park, according to member Ray Dimmick.

“[The chair] was inspired by the rough times most have been going through this year to help lift the spirits of the community,” Dimmick said. “We usually donate to the park and park fundraisers, but COVID-19 has eliminated those this year.”

With its bright red hue and white, stencil-like letters, it may draw to mind other city furniture and structures, and it’s no coincidence.

The chair was designed after the Visit Philly Chair at [Spruce Street] Harbor Park and influenced by The Love Statue and Love Park as well as our Heart Mural ️painted by our little ones during our bench painting,” Dimmick said. 

The white paw prints painted on the chair represent the park being a space for everyone, including residents’ four-legged friends.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the chair was held on Sept. 27, with state Rep Joe Hohenstein in attendance.

“I literally feel like I’m sitting in the middle of a physical heart. This is a chair that represents the heart of Campbell Square, which represents the heart of Port Richmond,” said Hohenstein during the ceremony.

Hohenstein also read poems about “keeping an open heart.”

“The idea of creating a space like this for everyone, regardless of who you are, this is the essence of a neighborhood and a community,” he said. “In times like these when we can’t give hugs, we can still take care of each other.”

The chair’s impact extends beyond the park.

Case in point, Port Richmond resident Amber D’Arcangelo, who grew up visiting Campbell Square.

D’Arcangelo is creating small batches of a scaled-down version of the chair as Christmas tree ornaments.

The chair ornaments cost $10 and are available on D’Arcangelo’s Facebook page and The Shop of Pettiness Marketplace, and will be available at the Holiday Market at Open Space on Nov. 14.

Love in all sizes: Port Richmond resident Amber D’Arcangelo is creating scaled-down Love Chair Christmas tree ornaments for residents to purchase. PHOTO: AMBER D’ARCANGELO

“I plan to donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Love Chair ornaments at the upcoming Port Richmond Holiday Market to the Friends of Campbell Square,” D’Arcangelo said.

While D’Arcangelo has a career in the tourism industry, she’s been making crafts for years and the new Love Chair seemed a perfect ornament to capture the sense of community of the neighborhood.

“I think they are a great way to foster neighborhood pride around the holidays, which is a time many of us spend with our family and neighbors right here in Port Richmond.” she said. “ … It has become somewhat of a community symbol as well.”

The sense of community created by the chair is one volunteers at the park have worked hard to cultivate for decades.

Friends of Campbell Square co-founders Susan Ongirski and her mother, Mary Ongirski, were recognized for their 20-plus years of service to the Port Richmond park at the intersection of Belgrade Street and Allegheny Avenue.

It feels fantastic to have our efforts recognized, but that is not the only reason we do it. Just knowing that the neighbors can come together in a safe, satisfying environment, where the pride of Port Richmond shines, makes us feel wonderful,” Susan Ongirski said.

Celebrating service: Friends of Campbell Square co-founders Susan Ongirski and her mother, Mary, cut the ribbon for the new Love Chair at Campbell Square. PHOTO: MICHELLE F. SMITH

Ongirski also acknowledged the impact the recent bench painting and Love Chair installation has had on the space.

“The impact of recent improvements has helped to make Campbell Square more beautiful and welcoming to everyone to come to and walk through,” she said. “With the newest addition ‘the Love Chair,’ it has created an increase in the use of the park and helped the neighbors want to be more involved and proud of where they live.”

Located at the center of the park near the war veterans memorial, love is the central theme not only in the design, but the purpose.

“The space was designed to attract friends and families to Campbell Square, and mostly to spread kindness and love,” Dimmick said.

And, while the chair was originally placed as a freestanding bench, after getting approval from Philly Parks and Rec, the chair “was secure for future safety,” according to Dimmick.

Which means you still have plenty of time for a photo opp, which has been happening around the clock.

“I’m more excited to see its transformation at Christmastime this year. It will be an attraction at every one of our festivals and Parks on Tap,” Dimmick said.

Ongirski is excited for the future of the chair, too, and is refusing to let the coronavirus dim the park’s new spot of light.

Once this pandemic is over, we will continue to schedule the fun-loving events that everybody loves, that makes Campbell Square a place to create positive memories for a long time to come,” she said.

Follow the Love Chair at Campbell Square on Facebook to keep up with the park’s new fixture.

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