Philadelphia , located in Southeastern Pennsylvania, in the Mid-Atlantic region, is the fifth most-populous city in the United States. Often referred to as “Philly,” the city is coterminous with Philadelphia County. Philadelphia sits adjacent to the New Jersey and Delaware borders, and as such, its metropolitan area encompasses counties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Philadelphia, once the capital of the United States, plays an exemplary role in the history and life of the nation. Its colonial legacy and architecture are almost unrivaled and its universities, museums, companies and laboratories are world class. The city has also become an increasingly important cultural and artistic center as well in the past few decades. As Philadelphia rebounds from its mid-20th century decline, the city is now seen as a model for sustainable urban growth and a surprisingly affordable haven for those seeking the best of urban American life without the expense or pretense of other neighboring East Coast cities.
Known for its role in the American Revolutionary War, Philadelphia saw the convening of the Continental Congress as well as the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Shortly after the nation’s inception took place in Philadelphia, the city was named the nation’s capital, a role it filled from 1790 until 1800, when Washington, D.C. took over.
Benjamin Franklin, probably the city’s most famous resident, was responsible for the city’s alternative title, the “new Athens.” While Franklin’s most famous experiment dealt with the conducting of electricity, he was also responsible for the country’s first insurance company, the city’s first public library and the first fire department; Franklin also played a great role in establishing the city’s postal system as well as inventing new conveniences such as bifocal lenses and the Franklin Stove.
Philadelphia has seen its skyline and its name in lights throughout the years in such famous films as the “Rocky” series (the statue from “Rocky III” still stands prominently outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art), as well as films like namesake “Philadelphia” and many of Philadelphia native M. Night Shyamalan’s thrillers.
The Liberty Bell is right in the center of Philadelphia inside of a pavilion near Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell is a major piece in Philly’s history. It was rung to announce the news of the passage of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 in Great Britain. John Sartain in his book, Reminiscences of a Very Old Man, claims the bell was cracked during this announcement: “The final passage of the Emancipation Act by the British Parliament is linked to a bit of Philadelphia history. On receipt of the news in Philadelphia the Liberty Bell in the tower of the State House was rung, and cracked in the ringing. When I was up in the tower in 1830, two years after, viewing the cracked bell for the first time, Downing, who was then the custodian of Independence Hall, told me of it and remarked that the bell refused to ring for a British Act, even when the Act was a good one.”
SUMMARY OF THE ECONOMY
Philadelphia’s economy is as diverse as the population that inhabits the city. In Old City, the ‘Third Street Corridor’, from 3rd and Chestnut Streets to Vine Street, is home to many locally owned businesses contributing to art, design and fashion industries. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange, the oldest one in America, has been in operation since 1790. In addition, the city is host to several Fortune 500 companies, including Comcast (the nation’s largest cable television provider), CIGNA insurance, Aramark, and Lincoln Financial Group. The University of Pennsylvania and Urban Outfitters are the largest employers. In the region there are approximately 50 higher educational institutions making Philadelphia a large ‘college town’.
Dating back to the city’s roots as the nation’s first capital, the federal’s government presence is also strong in Philadelphia. A U.S. Mint is located near Philadelphia’s historic district and the Philadelphia division of the Federal Reserve Bank is close to that. The city also plays host to a large number of prestigious law firms and is considered one of the nation’s centers of law.
The Pennsylvania Railroad, once the largest railroad company in the world, continues to influence Philadelphia’s economy under the Amtrak name. Amtrak’s second-busiest station, 30th Street Station, is on the west bank of the Schuylkill River and employs many Philadelphians in customer service, engineering, accounting, and IT jobs at the station.
Finally, many medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, and medical technology firms make their homes in and around Philadelphia, arguably making it the nation’s healthcare capital.
MUSEUMS, HISTORIC SITES, PARKS,
Center City West is home to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Barnes Foundation, Academy of Natural Sciences, Franklin Institute Science Museum, Mutter Museum, Rosenbach Museum & Library and Rodin Museum. Center City East is home to the African American Museum, and Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia History. Old City is home to the National Museum of American Jewish History and Independence Seaport Museum. West Philly is home to the Please Touch Museum North Philly is home to the Wagner Free Institute of Science.
The Palestra. Philadelphia is known for its rich college basketball history, and the Palestra, located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, is a museum of the Philadelphia Big 5 programs (La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova). The arena serves as the home court for the Penn Quakers basketball team and is the court for many basketball games between the city’s colleges.
Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia. If you’re into rare books at all, take the free tour, offered at 11AM M-F, of the Philadelphia Free Library’s amazing rare book collection. Besides the Gutenberg Bible, highlights include medieval manuscripts, children’s book illustrations, and the stuffed body of Charles Dickens’s pet raven Grip, the raven who indirectly inspired Poe’s “The Raven.”
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, On South Street between 32nd and 33rd Sts, . This museum houses an impressive collection of Egyptian and Greco-Roman artifacts.
The Wagner Free Institute of Science, at 1700 West Montgomery Avenue, . Tuesday through Friday 9-4 and on certain weeknights and weekends throughout the year. The Wagner Free Institute of Science, a National Historic Landmark, is a natural history museum and educational institute dedicated to providing free science education. Largely untouched since the 1890s, it is often called a “museum of a museum” with over 100,000 natural history specimens on display.
Eastern State Penitentiary, 22nd St and Fairmount Ave, . “America’s Most Historic Prison.” It is also the site of an annual Bastille Day recreation. In October, the notoriously haunted penitentiary is home to one of the city’s most popular Halloween attraction: the “Terror Behind the Walls” haunted house. This site is accessible by subway (Fairmount stop) as well as the 33 or 48 bus from Center City.
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, . The former home of the famous American author of mystery and the macabre.
Fairmount Water Works, . Features information on local watersheds as well as interpretive art.
Independence National Historic Park, . Philadelphia’s signature historic site in Old City features the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Constitution Hall (home of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution). It also features historic buildings from the city’s revolutionary past, approximately 20 of which are open to the public.
Fairmount Park, . Technically, Fairmount Park covers all of the city parks in Philadelphia such as Pennypack Park in the northeast and Wissahickon Valley Park in the northwest, but the name also refers more specifically to the large park on both sides of the Schuykill River northwest of Center City. East Fairmount Park is home to the Smith Memorial Playground, Dell East Concerts, and a driving range. West Fairmount Park, much of which has been renamed The Centennial District, includes the Mann Music Center (where The Philadelphia Orchestra plays in summer), the Japanese TeaHouse, Please Touch Museum for kids in a restored Memorial Hall (from the nation’s Centennial celebration). Wisshickon Valley is just that, with many hiking trails, the Valley Green Inn (a picturesque place to eat), and a walking/biking, horeseback riding trail know as the Forbidden Drive.
Clark Park, 43rd & Chester, . Clark Park is an outdoor music and arts festival area in West Philadelphia.
LOVE Park. A square near City Hall, known for its Robert Indiana “LOVE” sculpture and for attracting skateboarders from around the world (despite a ban on skating in the park). Since 2002, this ban has been rigorously enforced. Free wireless access is now available in the park.
Rittenhouse Square. One (southwest) of William Penn’s original “five squares” of public, open space in the city, Rittenhouse Square sits among classic and classy Rittenhouse hotels and residences and attracts people from around the world. It is named after David Rittenhouse, a clockmaker and astronomer. Today, you can find Rittenhouse Row, where there are tons of places nearby to eat, stay and take in the arts and culture of Philadelphia. Some places to eat are are: gelato and sorbetti shop Capogiro, Starr restaurant Continental and the Marathon Grill. Lodging includes the Four Seasons Hotel, AKA Rittenhouse Square, Rittenhouse Hotel, and the Ritz-Carlton. Cultural hot spots are the Kimmel Center, Wilma Theater, Prince Music Theater and the Philadelphia Horticultural Society. Another activity that one can take part in when in Rittenhouse is shopping. Some places include Barnes & Noble Booksellers (with a Starbucks Cafe inside on the 3rd floor), Armani Exchange, Philadelphia Runner, Guess, and just a few blocks away is the Liberty Place.
Washington Square (southeast), Franklin Square (northeast), Logan Square (northwest), and City Hall (center) make up the other four original “squares” created by William Penn. Four of the five squares (Logan Square is better known as Logan Circle) are somewhat symmetrically located at the four corners of an imaginary square surrounding the very center of Center City, now occupied by City Hall. The center of City Hall’s Square is a large compass in the ground. There are four archways leading into it. Logan Circle, named after William Penn’s secretary James Logan, is considered the gateway to Fairmount Park and the Art Museum area. Up until 1823, Logan Circle was an execution site as well as burial ground. Located in Logan Circle is the Swann Memorial Fountain. Washington Square is near Independence Hall. It was also used as a burial ground and in addition, as a potter’s field. Franklin Square is located on the outskirts of Chinatown at 6th and Race Streets. It is home to the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel, has a Philadelphia-themed miniature golf course, two playgrounds, and a gift shop. Like Logan Circle, Franklin Square also has a fountain. New technology causes the water to shoot lower on rainy or windy days so by standers do not become wet.
Spruce Street Harbor Park, a fantastic pop-up park in the spring and summer on the Delaware river waterfront. It features a hammock garden with colorful LED lighting strung from trees, lawn games, three floating barges on the water with a bar serving local beer, and a row of street food vendors from popular local restaurants including Federal Donuts and Franklin Fountain ice cream.
FDR Park, known as “The Lakes” to the locals, is in South Philadelphia near the stadium district. It offers many activities such as fishing, bird watching, tennis, baseball and rugby. There is also a skate park underneath the bridge that runs throughout the park. Located within FDR is Bellaire Manor.
Pennypack Park Large city park ranging throughout Northeast Philadelphia. This park includes creeks, waterfalls, biking trails, dog walking trails, and home to the Pennypack Park Music Festival. The music festival originally began in the 1970’s, but ceased to exist in the 90s, due to insufficient funds. The music festival came back to life in 2000 with funding from local organizations. Pennypack is a thriving park that is utilized by the Northeast residents daily.
Penn Treaty Park, located at Delaware and Columbia Aves. in a neighborhood known as Fishtown. Legend has it that it was here in 1682 William Penn and Lenape Indians made a treaty known as Penn’s Treaty. Just North of Center City along the edge of the Delaware River Penn Treaty Park is a community pride with many events throughout the year, as well as attracting many visitors for its wonderful view of the river. Park has walking paths, picnic tables, benches, a playground for children as well as open field for other activities. In May, 2012 the Park has been recognized by Philadelphia Historical Commission and placed on the Registrar of Philadelphia Historic Places. Penn Treaty Park is a home to: an Obelisk of the Treaty Ground erected in 1827; William Penn Statue unveiled 1982; Bob Haozous Penn Treaty sculpture placed in 1991.
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