Philadelphia – a city of many firsts. The first major industrial city in America, the first hospital in the country, the first modern skyscraper in the US…. the list is endless. This is also where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the American Constitution was drafted in the late 1700s.
I lived in Philly for about year. Many a weekend was spent walking around the Historic District, re-living the centuries gone by.
Here’s a glimpse into American history via some key Philadelphia landmarks:
The William Penn Statue
In the late 1600s, William Penn, an Englishman bought land from the native Indians. He envisioned a place where people of different religions would live together in harmony and established a city on those lines. He called it Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love (from the Greek ‘Philos’ meaning love and ‘adelphos’ meaning ‘brother’). This religious tolerance attracted colonists and immigrants alike and the city prospered.
Today, William Penn is visible atop the City Hall Tower where he stands over 36ft tall. The bronze statue was installed in 1894 and till recently (late 1980s) was the highest point in the city.
You may remember Independence Hall from the Nicholas Cage starrer, National Treasure.
July 4th, 1776. Representatives from the 13 American colonies gathered at Independence Hall and signed the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration heralded the colonies’ independence from the British Crown and the formation of a new nation, the United States of America. July 4th has since been celebrated as Independence Day.
About a decade later (in 1787), the Constitution of the United States was also adopted at the same place.
A must visit for any history buff.
The Betsy Ross House
This colonial house is believed to be the place where Betsy Ross, the seamstress made the first American Flag. The facts are highly debated among historians but the house remains a popular tourist destination.
Now for some fun-stuff! A couple of must do-s in the Historic District:
Eat at the City Tavern
Have a leisurely meal at the City Tavern and get transported back in time to colonial America. The proprietor/chef Walter Staib has recreated an authentic 18th century American culinary experience. Even the table settings and cutlery/glassware reflect colonial times.
Toss a penny on Benjamin Franklin’s grave
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of America, is buried in the Christ Church Burial Ground. The quote ‘A penny saved is a penny earned’ is attributed to him. Visitors toss pennies on Ben Franklin’s grave for good luck. I’m not sure how this practice started but a bit ironic, don’t you think?
This historic city holds a special place in my heart. Truly, a museum without walls.
In a future post, I explore the artistic side of Philadelphia.