Dedicated in 1929 and situated on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway along the Schuylkill River, the museum houses one of the largest collections of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture in the world. In the late 1920s movie theater magnate Jules Mastbaum hired architect Paul Cret and landscape architect Jacques-Henri-Auguste Gréber to design the neoclassical building and formal gardens for his extensive collection of Rodin sculpture.
Gréber’s plan for the grounds included an approach from the Parkway through a garden sequence with symmetrical paths and planting beds. The entrance is through a grove of sycamore trees that leads to a free-standing stone gate, with Rodin’s iconic The Thinker in front of the entrance passage. The gate leads into a central courtyard on axis with the building. The courtyard’s focal point is a symmetrical, rectangular reflecting pool and wall fountain with pathways that wrap the edge of the pool and planting beds along the perimeter. These paths lead to the museum building, which is raised on a plinth and accessed by stone stairs that are perpendicular to the building face. A multi-year renovation of the garden—led by Susan Weiler of OLIN—was completed in 2011, which repaired damaged pavement and stairs and added discrete ramps to enhance accessibility. In keeping with Gréber’s original plans, the renovation also accommodated new native plantings, including lavender, thyme, and yarrow, and allowed for the return of Rodin’s sculptures to the garden after years inside the museum.