Before Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and it was signed and celebrated on July 4, 1776, Philadelphia had been a thriving port and center of business for well over a century. At one time, Philadelphia was the largest city in the original thirteen colonies and briefly served as its capital, with well developed business, social, religious and civic organizations. Upon founding the state of Pennsylvania in 1671, William Penn declared the region to be a haven for those who were discriminated against and even persecuted for their religious beliefs. Pennsylvania was to be a place where people could freely practice their religion- any religion or no religion- far different from the strict guidelines in England. Due to its location along two major rivers- the Delaware and the Schuylkill- and its access to a wide bay where ships could deliver goods from around the world- Philadelphia became a thriving city of commerce.
When William Penn landed in 1682, he found a primitive village with colonist living in log huts and caves along the Delaware River. Warned to arm himself against the savage Lenape Indians, Penn chose instead another approach - "The Indians... have been killed and robbed by the settlers. Let us now try what Love will do." This new attitude led to Philadelphia's current motto - City of Brotherly Love and the famous Love statue in Love park.
In 1723, Ben Franklin arrived with only pennies in his pocket. By 1774, Franklin and his associates helped make Philadelphia the city of many American firsts - fire company, lending library, hospital, medical school, police force, paved streets and lighting and insurance company. Philadelphia was a manufacturing center for steamships, streetcars, locomotives, textiles, cigars and hats (famous Stetson hat made here). It was the nation's political capital until 1880 and the nerve center of colonial communications.
The signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia's Independence Hall on 1776 was not widely recognized at the time for the far-reaching implications it would have not only for the former thirteen colonies, but also for countries around the world where people wished to freely conduct their business and live their lives with only limited interference from a central government. The concept that a government derived its power from the people it governed was a truly novel idea which had only been discussed by philosophers and social critics- never in widespread practice and certainly not seriously considered by the reigning monarchs of the period. Yet democracy- the idea that a people could govern themselves, set their own rules, vote for their own representatives to enact their own laws for human behavior- became a blueprint for the foundation of modern capitalist society. The fundamental rules and laws set forth then are largely intact today- and they have allowed great cities to grow and flourish- and Philadelphia is one of them.
Philadelphia's architectural development was restrained until 1990 because new buildings could not be taller than William Penn's statue on City Hall. Now the city combines both historic sections with the new to create a vibrant and easily walkable downtown. More Philadelphia history...
Philadelphia has one of the most vibrant restaurant scenes of any city in the country. From the low-end Philly cheese steak at Pat's
and Jim's Steaks
downtown and the famous Philadelphia soft pretzel served at many roadside stands to the five-star establishments like the Fountain Room, La Famiglia
, the city caters to every culinary taste and preference.
The old City Tavern
on 2nd Street in Old City was where Thomas Jefferson and his cohorts met to discuss the principles to be included in the Declaration of Independence and this establishment offers both "period food" and an old Colonial atmosphere sure to please visitors and residents alike. More Philadelphia restaurants...
Philadelphia Clubs and Music
Whether you enjoy jazz, blues, rock, pop, classical or alternative music, you can find it in and around Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra
is widely renowned as one of the best in the country and they are showcased at places such as the Academy of Music
and the Kimmel Center
, along with a wide variety of musical acts. Ortlieb's Jazzhaus
and Chris's Cafe
also offer jazz daily. The world famous Philadelphia Folk Festival
has been going strong for over thirty years; the Mann Center for the Performing Arts
offers a huge variety of talent every year. More Philadelphia clubs and music...
and the Liberty Bell
are two of the most popular sites to visit in downtown Philadelphia due to their clear importance in the founding of our Republic. The room where the Continental Congress debated the Declaration of Independence can be viewed when entering Independence Hall at 4th and Walnut Streets downtown. The Liberty Bell nearby is one of the enduring symbols of our democracy, as it was rung on July 4, 1776 to announce the formation of a new Republic. The recently built Constitution Center
across the street is a wonderful place to take a walk through more than 200 years of American history, from the founding of the thirteen colonies, through the difficult periods of slavery and Reconstruction and the many wars America fought to defend the principles it stood for. You can see, hear, touch and participate actively with our former Presidents and come to better understand the challenges which have made America the great country it is today.
The Philadelphia Art Museum
, with its towering Greek Revival columns and the famous steps where Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) ran up to proclaim his strength and vitality is a great place to visit for anyone who loves painting, sculpture, pottery and a huge variety of artifacts from the Greeks and Romans, up through the Middle Ages and the present. The Atwater-Kent Museum
has a rich archive of Americana, including paintings by Norman Rockwell, along with many of his famous covers for the Saturday Evening Post. The Rodin Museum
down the street from the Philadelphia Art Museum has an huge display of sculptures by this famous Impressionist artist. On the Main Line, in the adjacent suburbs stands the Barnes Foundation
, home to one of the best collections of Impressionist art in North America. The Academy of Natural Sciences
holds a treasure trove of wildlife and natural science exhibits which will please children and adults.
The world famous Franklin Institute (with the walk-through human heart and the Spirit of St. Louis airplane) has a wide range of scientific exhibits which should thrill those interested in chemistry, geology, physics, electricity, weather, medicine and other topics. The lights illuminating Boathouse Row along West River Drive shine at night as a symbol of the rich intellectual tradition of the region, as these crew houses of famous schools such as the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Temple University and many others showcase the talent of young athletes ready to compete. Benjamin Franklin was a strong proponent of active intellectual debate and was the founder of the American Theosophical Society; this allowed a rich culture of intellectual pursuit to grow. On the lighterside, Philadelphia is also home to the Mummers Parade.
Fairmount Park- the largest city park in the United States- offers walking trails, park benches to relax and spots to picnic with family and friends. The Philadelphia Zoo is not only a great place for children- it has one of the largest varieties of animals of any zoo in the country. City Hall downtown is one of the most magnificent examples of Neoclassical architecture and design on the East Coast (tours are given daily). Atop the monstrous structure, with its numerous surrounding sculptures and monuments- is a statue of William Penn, the man who made it all possible. Liberty One and Liberty Two are the tallest buildings in downtown Philadelphia, both resembling the iconic Chrysler Building in New York. At the base of Liberty One is a huge shopping complex with restaurants and related establishments. More Philadelphia attractions...