For those who might not be familiar, Philadelphia has an extensive history of Black cowboys, which was recently captured in the movie Concrete Cowboy. Perhaps you heard about Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin riding horses through Strawberry Mansion rowhouses last year as they captured the story of the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club? While filming the movie, the producers teamed up with the Fletcher Street folks to create the Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy (PURA), an organization meant to preserve “the life, legacy, and culture of Black urban cowboys in the city of Philadelphia and the riders of Fletcher Street Stable.” And this group has some plans afoot at 298 N. Daggett St., a nook deep in West Philly at the border of the Haddington Woods. You’re probably unfamiliar with the nondescript shed on site, so let’s cruise over and check out the area.
PURA seems to be making some moves forward, as a submission to the Art Commission shows they have big plans for the site. The shed-like structure on site is currently being used for two indoor bocce ball courts, but not for much longer. Designs from O Z Collaborative show a new approach for the building, which is currently managed by the Parks & Rec Department. While one bocce court will remain, the other court will be converted to stables for eight horses, with new doors added to provide easy access to the proposed fenced riding area immediately adjacent to the building. Signage, restroom and other interior improvements will also take place, reactivating the building for its new equine function.
While we aren’t bocce diehards (unlike the folks who actively use it), we have to think that this is a definite step up for the property. There’s not much space for farm life in Philly, so having dedicated stables for our four-legged friends while offering more city dwellers access to animals is a huge win from where we stand. Programming will target students, though the facility will be open to the public and offer a host of other programs. We don’t speak neigh, but we’d imagine the horses would probably be OK with their new digs as well. As for the bocce folks, it’ll definitely be a different experience here in the future, with all sorts of new sights and sounds and smells. So, better in some ways, not so much in other ways. Alas.
This project was reviewed by the Art Commission this week and was given final approval to move forward. We aren’t sure if financing has been secured, but we really hope that this comes to fruition given all the opportunities that this new facility could provide. Plus, like everyone else, we do enjoy a good paddock.