A job at a busy historical site requires custom fabrication, laborious installation and ongoing support.
When the Cescaphe Event Group of Philadelphia, Pa., took over as the caterer and planner for the city’s event venue at the Fairmount Water Works, it turned to L & A Tent Rentals of Hamilton, N.J., for an extended project of tent rental installation and services.
Located in Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway Museum District—steps away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s famous “Rocky Steps”—the Water Works is a National Historic Landmark, a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark. And as with virtually every historic venue, tenting here comes with a number of restrictions and challenges.
The site is owned by the city of Philadelphia, so tenting required cutting through some red tape, although that step wasn’t too arduous, says Brian Richardson of L & A. Nothing could be attached to columns or buildings, structures needed to be ballasted rather than staked, and access to the site is limited and often crowded with people, he says. In addition, the event planner desired structures that complemented the architecture of the permanent buildings, requiring custom fabrication.
L & A collaborated with Fred’s Tents & Canopies Inc., Waterford, N.Y., to fabricate custom pavilions and marquees in an eggshell color to match the facade of the buildings and uprights that matched the columns of the buildings.
The second part of the project involved installing tents for weddings and corporate events along the river. For this, L & A used a Eureka! E!Span and an E!Span X4. In addition, support tents such as catering and restroom tents were installed as needed. Both the custom pavilions and the E!Span tents featured taffeta liners from Rainier Industries.
“What is unique about it is that it has a fabricated weight system like planters, not the standard concrete blocks,” Richardson says. “The main tent is staying up for eight weeks, and as each event is different, we’ll come in and put up another tent next to it, depending on the guest count.”
Access to the site is limited to a single, “tiny” walkway, he says, and installers have to be cognizant of the general public walking around the area.
“Because the area is tight to work in, and it’s on top of a roof system, we were only able to bring in lightweight forklifts, and we had to haul everything by hand as opposed to a telehandler like we usually would use on a project like this,” he says. “And just the sheer amount of ballast—getting that in there in a tight space was challenging. We built a temporary roadway over the pavers and got a smaller forklift that would fit in the tight space. It just meant a number of trips back and forth.”
Adding to the challenge is the packed events calendar in the museum district. For example, an L & A crew installed the E!Span X4 while the 2017 NFL Draft occurred on the other side of the art museum. With the NFL Draft Experience shutting down area streets, it took crews two to three extra hours just to get in and out of the site.
Then, because Philadelphia is where it all began, the city’s large fireworks display for the July 4 Independence Day celebration required L & A to remove the pavilions on July 3 and reinstall them on July 5 for fire safety reasons.
“So we are there every week with additions or subtractions,” Richardson says. “It’s an active venue for us.”