Early Years and Education

Early Years and Education

Edmund Norwood Bacon was born on May 2, 1910 in West Philadelphia. His parents Ellis and Helen (Comly) Bacon came from deep-rooted Quaker families. His grandfather and father both worked for the Philadelphia publishing company of J.B. Lippincott. Bacon had two older brothers and a younger sister. While still young, his parents moved the family to the Philadelphia suburb of Wallingford. Bacon graduated from Swarthmore High School in 1928.

Bacon attended college at Cornell University, where he graduated in 1932 with a degree in architecture. His senior thesis was a design for a new civic center for Philadelphia. The formalized Beaux-Arts design included a park at the terminus of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, an idea that was later implemented in the 1960s when JFK Plaza, popularly known as LOVE Park, was constructed.

After graduating from Cornell, faced with a shortage of architecture jobs during the Great Depression, Bacon used a gift of $1,000 from his grandfather to travel overseas. He traveled by boat, train and bicycle through England, France, Egypt, Turkey, and Greece. Bacon heard there were architecture jobs in China, and on a whim, boarded a ship with very little money in his pocket, and no concept of what opportunities would await him.