Two blocks north of City Hall stands the country's first art museum, which also happens to be the country’s first fine arts school. Known by its acronym, PAFA occupies a beautifully restored, circa-1876 High Victorian Gothic building designed by architects Frank Furness and George W. Hewitt. Note in particular Furness' splendid red, gold, and blue staircase, and the elegant rotunda where Walt Whitman attended concerts.
Presidential portraitist Charles Willson Peale and early American sculptor William Rush founded the Academy in 1805. American realist Thomas Eakins (1844–1916) studied and taught here. All three artists were Philadelphians, and all are well represented among the gallery's thousands of all-American works. Of special note: Peale's paintings of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington (and his 1822 self-portrait, the artist lifting a velvet curtain to show the museum beyond), and Benjamin West's "Penn's Treaty with the Indians."
There are also rare works by Rush, and pieces by more modern American artists such as Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, and Robert Rauschenberg.
Visitors can join a free tour of the collections daily at 1pm and 2pm.