Where did the 'LOVE' go? Not far

Philadelphia's famed LOVE statue is on the move from its original site in LOVE Park to its temporary location at Dilworth Park in front of City Hall.

The LOVE is gone.

At least, it's gone from what is officially known as John F. Kennedy Plaza.

Workers moved the plaza's iconic LOVE statue Tuesday morning across the street to the northwest corner of Dilworth Park, where it will stay for the next year while what everyone knows as LOVE Park undergoes a $16.5 million face-lift.

LOVE was in the air for a few hours, with workers first hoisting artist Robert Indiana's statue onto a forklift around 8 a.m. It sat there, blocking most of the sidewalk, until close to 10 a.m., as most passersby bustled by unaware, heads down or buried beneath umbrellas to dodge the steady cold rain.

Then, a small army of cops and construction workers blocked John F. Kennedy Boulevard as the LOVE-laden forklift, with driver Pay Healy at the wheel, lumbered slowly off the sidewalk and across the street to Dilworth Park. There were a few tense moments when the wooden boards protecting the plaza's pavers cracked loudly under the weight of all that LOVE. But the statue was soon resting safely in its new home, crisis averted.

Jimmy Jordan never worried about it for a second.

"I just put swimming pools 28 stories up, so I don't get worried," said Jordan, gesturing at a nearby skyscraper.

Jordan is a project manager for George Young Co., the construction company hired to move the LOVE statue. While passersby nervously mused that the slim statue might teeter and topple or slip and skid on the wet roadway, Jordan patted the red forklift and pointed to the Liberty Bell painted on its side.

"This is the same forklift that moved the Liberty Bell" from Market Street to Chestnut Street, Jordan said.

"We installed Rocky (at the Art Museum). We put (Frank) Rizzo over there," he added, gesturing to the statue of Philadelphia's former mayor outside the Municipal Services Building. "We did all the Philly statues. I've been doing this for 38 years."

Owner George Young, who oversaw the move in a suit and a white hard hat, was especially intent on a smooth move.

"My wife is from Germany. We met at church and I proposed 10 days later to her on Valentine's Day in front of the Love statue. We renew our vows every year here," Young said. "So this sculpture has a little bit of a special meaning to me."

What does it take to move 1,500 pounds of love?

For starters: the aforementioned forklift - narrow enough at 60 inches to fit down the curb cut but strong enough to hoist 9,000 pounds onto its 8-foot forks. Next up: a lot of shock-absorbing foam and wood planks and straps to keep the statue from bouncing or sliding during the move. And finally: some fast-forming cement to lock the LOVE to its new location, something that'll harden before young lovers can carve hearts and initials - or worse, dashed hopes - into it.

Dilworth Park was an obvious temporary home for the sculpture, said Margot Berg, the city's public art director.

"We looked for a site with a visual connection to LOVE Park when people look for it, they're able to find it, because it is an enormous draw," Berg said, referring to the thousands of tourists who pose for photos in front of it every year. The statue will disappear for two months at the end of this year, because workers from Materials Conservation, an art and architecture conservator, will strip, restore and repaint the sculpture before it returns to the renovated LOVE Park early next year, Berg said.

This morning's move drew a crowd, many of whom waxed philosophical as they watched LOVE leave.

"It's part of life. Life is about change, and change is good," said Julian Risco, 38, of Mount Airy, who texted photos of the trussed-up statue to his girlfriend. "It's time for a new scene."

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