Philadelphia Travel Guide


The Delaware (Lenape) Indian town of Shackamaxon was located where Philadelphia now stands. In 1669, Swedish colonists became the first Europeans to settle the area (see New Sweden), calling it Wicoca. A congregation was formed in 1646 on Tinicum Island by Swedish missionary Johannes Campanius. In 1700, the group built the Gloria Dei Church, also known as Old Swedes.

Philadelphia is a planned city founded and developed by William Penn, a Quaker. The city's name means "city of brotherly love" in Greek (F??ad??f?a). Penn hoped that the city, as the capital of his new colony founded on principles of freedom and religious tolerance, would be a model of this philosophy. During early immigration by Quakers and others, when immigrants purchased land in the city, they also received farm land outside of the city. This was intended to allow the city's population to leave the city easily. Penn also required lots of alleyways and open spaces in hopes of controlling fires and disease (which were then common problems in London).

Philadelphia was a major center of the independence movement during the American Revolutionary War. The Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were signed in the city's Independence Hall.

For a time in the 18th century, Philadelphia was the largest city in the Americas north of Mexico City, and was the fourth largest city under Crown rule (after London, Bristol, and Dublin).

In 1790, the seat of the United States Government was moved from Federal Hall in New York to Congress Hall in Philadelphia as the result of a compromise between a number of Southern congressmen and United States Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. In exchange for locating a permanent capital on the banks of the Potomac River, the congressmen agreed to support Hamilton's financial proposals. Philadelphia served as the temporary capital for a decade, until 1800, when the Capitol building in the new Federal city of Washington, DC was opened.

An early railroad center, Philadelphia was the original home of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, the world's largest builder of steam locomotives (which relocated to nearby Eddystone, Pennsylvania). The Pennsylvania Railroad, once America's largest railroad by revenue and traffic volume and at one time the largest public corporation in the world, was headquartered on Broad Street, as was its merger successor, the Penn Central.

In 1876 Philadelphia hosted the World's Fair known as the Centennial Exposition. Memorial Hall and the expansive mall in front of it are remnants of this fair.

In 1926, the city held the Sesquicentennial Exposition, but Philadelphia was not the central focus of the Bicentennial observances that took place nationwide in the United States in 1976 (New York City held this distinction, as thousands of "tall ships" gathered in New York Harbor on July 4, 1976, the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence).

The city's population continued to decline in the 1990s, but that didn't stop the urban renewal. Philadelphia has indeed become a model of just how much can be achieved, largely through the efforts of its two-term mayor, Ed Rendell. While preserving a good deal of its architectural heritage, and remaining a national centre of science, medicine and higher education, Philadelphia now boasts new theatres (including the impressive glass-enclosed Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts), a convention centre, new museums, hotels, restaurants and clubs.


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