PHLVCB Philadelphia’s Surprising Historical Past

 Friday, November 27, 2020 


Benjamin Franklin at Independence Hall. (Cr: Tim Hawk)

Recognised as the birthplace of American democracy, the first UNESCO World Heritage City in the U.S., Philadelphia is home to an abundance of historical gems and a playground for history lovers and inquisitive travellers alike. From walking along the Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously inhabited street in the USA, to discovering the powerful history of America’s most famous bell at The Liberty Bell Centre, Philadelphia offers a wealth of dramatically enriched stories and tales for any cultural enthusiast.  

The Philadelphia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau recently put together 10 fun facts about Philadelphia’s rich history to help future visitors to the city plan ahead for a trip filled with fun and fascinating attractions. Take a look at some of the interesting facts below and delve into the city’s past:

A city of firsts

Philadelphia is considered to be a city of firsts; playing host to America’s founding and also being home to the nation’s first University, The University of Pennsylvania. It is also the birthplace of America’s first daily newspaper – The Philadelphia Packet and Daily Advertiser, as well as America’s first post office, firefighting service, hospital, zoo and the first World Fair.

U.S.’s early capital

Unbeknownst to many to the day, Philadelphia was also one of the early capitals of the United States from 1790 to 1800 was Washington DC was being built.

The iconic Independence Hall

The remarkable Philadelphia Independence Hall which is now a World Heritage Site is the venue where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and signed. The infamous building now makes up the heart of Philadelphia’s historic mile and is one of the most visited monuments in America.

George Washington

George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States in Congress Hall, located in Independence National Historical Park, which visitors to the city can now tour.

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell was originally called the State House Bell and was located in the Pennsylvania State House, before being renamed Independence Hall.

Elfreth’s Alley

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Old City’s vibrant streets is the Elfreth’s Alley. The 32-house street is the oldest continuously inhabited street in the nation, with houses dating back to 1720–1830. It is continues to be home to Philadelphian families to the day.

Franklin Square

Franklin Square was one of five public squares laid out by William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia, in his original vision for the city. It is also rumoured to be the spot where Benjamin Franklin performed his famous kite-and-key experiment to show the connection between lightning and electricity. It is now the perfect place for families to play, enjoy the 180-year-old fountain and ride the Parx Liberty Carousel.

Betsy Ross

The famous patriot Betsy Ross is known to call Philadelphia ‘home’. Considered essential to the American Revolution, Betsy Ross is credited with sewing the first American Flag, making the Betsy Ross House on Arch Street a must-visit venue for tourists.

Walnut Street Theatre

Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre is the oldest continuously operating performance theatre in the entire English-speaking world, having opened in 1809. The first performance was attended by President Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette. Later the Theatre went on to be the first to offer air conditioning, gas footlights and electric chandeliers and is where the “curtain call” was born.

Christ Church on North American Street

It is often believed that throwing a penny into Benjamin Franklin’s grave in Christ Church on North American Street will bring good luck. The historical church, constructed between 1727 -1744, frequently welcomed Franklin in its pews, as well as George Washington and Betsy Ross.

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