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Most travelers to the Centennial Exhibition approached the fairgrounds from the east, either by railroad or horse-drawn trolley across the new Girard Avenue Bridge. At the Schuylkill River crossing the first hint of the vast Exhibition grounds was the glass and steel dome of Memorial Hall and the flag-studded towers of the Main Exhibition Building as these came into view above the wooded slope of Fairmount Park. The sheer size of these structures in their natural setting must have been breathtaking.

Visitors were well advised to arrive at the main entrance across from the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot on Elm (now Parkside) Avenue promptly for the 9:00 AM opening. Entrance to the grounds was 50 cents, payable only in paper scrip, which caused endless hardship to those without the proper note. What struck the visitor upon entry was the enormous Bartholdi Fountain midway between Machinery Hall and the Main Exhibition Hall. From this vantage point the first-time visitor had usually one of three objectives: hurry to the center of Machinery Hall to witness the start-up of the Corliss Centennial Steam Engine, board the West-End Narrow Gauge Railway for five cents to view the entire fairgrounds, or cross the square to the right and visit the Department of Public Comfort.

Roll your mouse over the interactive map below for details about the buildings and spaces of the Centennial Exhibition. Or, begin your tour by choosing a location from the pull-down menus below.

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2001 Free Library of Philadelphia