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Inga Saffron is the Architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Ever since Pearl Properties quietly scooped up the doomed Boyd Theatre on Chestnut Street in October, Philadelphia has been left to guess its intentions. Would Pearl install a modern movie house behind the facade, as the city was promised during a financial-hardship hearing at the Historical Commission? Would the company replace the theater with a retro, 1920s-style apartment tower? Even as backhoes were gnawing all spring at the historic art deco auditorium, Pearl remained mum.
The Wagner Free Institute of Science is famed for its collection of animal and fossil specimens housed in rows of 19th-century glass cabinets. But one of the museum's greatest scientific works is neither animal nor vegetable. It's mineral: the patented iron-and-wood truss that holds up the roof.