West Fairmount Park's "Playhouse in the Park" opened on July 30, 1952, as the nation's first municipally-owned and managed theater.
Famed Philadelphian John B. Kelly had given the impetus for its creation on the historic Belmont Mansion estate while he was President of the Fairmount Park Commission. The theater was initially a large tent offering seating capacity of 1,057.
It presented all manner of summer stock theater, with Broadway stars and playwrights contributing to its popularity. Margaret Truman (President Truman's daughter) and local star Grace Kelly (John Kelly's daughter) were among the luminaries who performed there.
A permanent wooden structure, a theater-in-the round with 1500 seats, replaced the tent in 1956. This was the first "theatre in the round" within a municipal park in the United States.