The George Duffield statue at the Old Pine Street Church

Helloooo, Old Pine Street Church!

On Monday, Billy Penn reader Eric Gibson emailed a photo of a wood-carved statue that stands prominently at the fence of the historic cemetery at the Revolutionary Era church at Fourth and Pine in Society Hill.

“Hilarious every time I pass it,” Gibson noted, attaching pics of both front and back.

We see his point. Because when you look at the statue from the back, which happens to be the side facing the street, well … what does it look like to you?

Not something you expect on church grounds, that’s for sure.

Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

“Uh, what exactly am I looking at here?” asked a Philly resident when shown the backside of the statue on a mobile phone. “I go out for coffee for an hour and we have dick pics in the inbox,” commented Billy Penn Editor Shannon Wink.

The statue’s resemblance to human anatomy is not intentional, according to Roger Wing, the world-traveled, Philadelphia-based artist who carved it. However, “I will say that’s not the first time I’ve heard it,” Wing said.

Commissioned in 2015 as a way to repurpose a trunk of a Norway maple tree whose roots had been forcing the cemetery fence outward and so needed to be removed, the artwork is a likeness of George Duffield. Duffield served as minister of the church during the Revolutionary War, and was outspoken in his fight against taxation without representation, eventually outraging King George III so greatly that the British monarch put a bounty on his head.

The leaning shape of the statue was determined by the tree’s natural growth, though a quaintly written poster on the fence in front of it suggests it could have been “a moment when British cannonballs whizzed overhead.”

Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Its phallic similarity is a coincidence that could be seen as unfortunate, since it distracts from a gorgeous piece of artwork that also happens to be a brilliant example of adaptive reuse. (The pastor of the Old Pine Church is not in the office on Mondays, but a representative said he was unlikely to comment on the situation anyway because of its “inappropriate” nature.)

But the similarity could also be seen as a bonus, since it’s drawing more attention to the project.

“I won’t shy away from controversy,” Wing said, “because I want people to become more aware of art.”

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation, including the membership program. She is a former food and...