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The City of Landscapes & Liberty

By Elise Cimino, Editorial Intern

Below: The city of our nation's birthplace, Philadelphia has become one of the most attractive cities to visit. With impressive landscapes, high-rise buildings, and a diverse culture, there is much to see and do in the "City of Brotherly Love." Here, Philadelphia is seen from the Penn's Landing Waterfront along the Delaware River.
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Although overlooked at times, the city of Philadelphia is one of the most architecturally aesthetic cities in the United States. Famed as the birthplace of our nation, Philadelphia is home to some of the most marvelous historical and scientific structures in the world. One of these structures, a large walk-in model of a heart, is housed in the Franklin Institute Science Museum. If this "open" heart is any indication of the hospitable atmosphere in the City of Brotherly Love, then you will surely be satisfied with the location of this year's annual ASLA show.

The American actor, George Dzundza, once said, "I love Philadelphia. I was shocked at what a great city this is. For me, it is the cat's pajamas. I love everything about it. I love where I live. I love the people. I have been met with such kindness and affection here."

This crowded street at night leads to one of Philadelphia's most prominent buildings, City Hall. Located in Centre Square, the midpoint to which all roads lead in the city, it is one of the nation's largest city hall and its Gothic tower offers a 30-mile panoramic view of the city.

Not only will you be greeted with love and kindness deep within this city, but Philadelphia has also evolved into one of the most prosperous commercial, educational, and cultural centers of the United States. It is the largest city in Pennsylvania, as well as the fifth largest metropolitan area by population in the United States. Philadelphia has a population of almost two million people, and is located near the convergence of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. The hot and humid summers welcome mild autumns, but you will find winters tough to bear, with blistering cold temperatures and snow-filled months. Aside from the burdening climate, Philadelphia rivals other east-coast metropolises with its riveting history, magnificent architecture, and ever-evolving culture.

Independence Hall, seen here at night, is the building where 56 men came together and adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Independence Hall, along with the Liberty Bell Hall and Franklin Court, are all located in Independence National Historic Park.

The Birthplace of Our Nation

One of the 13 English colonies settled by William Penn and his companions, Philadelphia was supposed to be modeled after an English rural town instead of a city, in which houses and businesses would be spread far apart by gardens and orchards. However, the city's inhabitants did not follow Penn's grid plan, and in 1701, it was established as an American city. During that time, Philadelphia was the social and geographical center of the 13 colonies. The site of American Independence, Philadelphia was the nation's first capital in 1774, exemplifying even more the truth behind its ethnocentric qualities.

Philadelphia is noted as one of the most historically significant cities in the United States, where millions of tourists flock each year to relive the birth of our nation. Independence National Historic Park is home to some of the most antique buildings and symbols of American freedom and liberty, including the renowned Independence Hall. This building is where 56 men , icluding Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, came together to compose the Declaration of Independence. It was here, 11 years later where representatives from 12 states wrote the United States Constitution. A few steps away from Independence Hall is the famous Liberty Bell Hall, which houses the iconic Liberty Bell. This significant symbol was cast in England and rung for the first time when the Declaration of Independence was first publicly read on July 8, 1776. The bell, previously in Independence Hall, was installed in its current home in 1976.

One of the most fascinating structures in Philadelphia, this large walk-in model of a heart is housed in the Franklin Institute Science Museum and open to the public. This exhibition was renovated in 2004 and features new and improved hands-on interactive devices used to explain various scientific concepts.

Another historical spot to visit is Christ Church, the first Protestant Episcopal Church in the country. The graves of Benjamin Franklin, who attended the church, and five signers of the Declaration of Independence are located here. A national historic landmark, the church was built during the reign of George II (1727-1754). The steeple is 196 feet high, and is one of the most visible landmarks in the city.

The Liberty Bell, previously housed in Independence Hall, now hangs in its own pavilion within eyesight of its previous home. The Bell was rung for the first time when the Declaration of Independence was first publicly read on July 8, 1776. The Bell has cracked several times, and there is much debate on what the real reasons are for the ruptures. However, the last crack has rendered the bell unringable.

A City Surrounded by Squares

William Penn's original grid plan for Philadelphia included four quadrants centered around one large plot of land. These five quadrants, or squares, are known as Centre Square, Rittenhouse Square, Franklin Square, Logan Square, and Washington Square. The lines of Center City, or the "downtown" of Philadelphia, are defined by these four squares.

Each square is an equal distance from the Centre Square, which is directly in the middle of Center City. The five squares are named after significant individuals in Philadelphia's history. For Philadelphia's inhabitants and visitors, these urban and open green spaces are places of relaxation and peace in the busy city.

LOVE Park, officially known as JFK Plaza, is the home of Robert Indiana's iconic LOVE sculpture. The park was built in the 1950s and is a defining symbol of the city.

Centre Square is the midpoint for which all roads lead in the city. Philadelphia's famed City Hall is located in the Centre Square. The City Hall can truly be viewed as a work of art. It is the nation's largest city hall and its Gothic tower offers a 30-mile panoramic view of the city. Construction began in 1871 and was completed 30 years later in 1901. The architectural style of City Hall originated in the French Second Empire. Another prominent structure, the Comcast Center located in Center City, is the tallest skyscraper in Philadelphia and an essential place to visit.

Just south of City Hall is the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Located on the Avenue of the Arts, the Academy of Music is the oldest grand opera house in the United States still used for its original purpose. After its opening in 1857, the Academy quickly became America's most prestigious opera house. The Academy was modeled after the La Scala opera house in Milan, and is a U.S. national historic landmark in its own right. Other places to visit on the Avenue of Arts include Philadelphia's most prestigious concert halls and theatres, including the $265 million Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Merriam Theatre, and Wilma Theatre. Also, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) is located here. Founded in 1805, it is America's oldest art school and museum, showcasing an impressive collection of American Art.

The Franklin Institute of Science has several areas to explore, each with interesting scientific and technological exhibits. Among the most fascinating sections are those that include the Wright Brothers Aeronautical Engineering Collection, an Observatory, and a Planetarium.

Philadelphia's "Brotherly Love" spelled out (L-O-V-E) in the famous LOVE Park is also in Centre Square. This park was conceived by Edmund Bacon in 1932, and built in the 1950's by architect Vincent Kling as one of the final pieces of Penn Center.

The centerpiece of this park, the LOVE sculpture, was fashioned during the Pop Art movement by artist Robert Indiana. The park's curving stairs and fountain were designed to create an impressive setting for City Hall, which was completed on the grounds in 1891. In the mid-1980's, young people discovered that the curving steps and ledges of LOVE Park were ideal for skateboarding. The combination of the different levels and curves, in addition to the continuous granite surfaces and large space attracted young Philadelphian skaters.

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is a soaring, glass-enclosed facility located on the Avenue of the Arts in Center City. The $265 million center houses the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and other cultural entities.

LOVE Park is in close proximity to major subway and regional rail lines, which makes it easily accessible to everyone. LOVE Park became known officially as JFK Plaza during the 1960s.

In conjunction with the five original squares planned out by Penn, there are several neighborhoods that compose Center City, which include (but are not limited to) Penn's Landing, Old City, and Society Hill. In 1682, William Penn sailed into the area that is today called Penn's Landing aboard his ship Welcome. This area stretches along the Delaware River for about 10 blocks from Vine Street to South Street, and encompasses the spot where Philadelphia's founder first touched ground in his "greene country towne." After Penn settled, this area quickly became the center of Philly's naval soul and the city's dominant commercial district. Starting in 1967, the city began to redevelop the area's decaying docks into a recreation park along the river. The city built walkways, an amphitheater was established, a World Sculpture Garden was installed, and trees were planted along the river. Today, several historic ships are still stationed at Penn's Landing including the USS Becuna and the USS Olympia (C-6), which are open to the public as a part of the Independence Seaport Museum.

The next neighborhood that you will come upon is Old City, which occupies several blocks between Front and Sixth Streets, and is bounded by Vine Street to the north and Walnut Street to the south.

After arriving at Penn's Landing, William Penn and the Quakers first settled in this area. Old City is famous for several visitor stops, including Elfreth's Alley, the Betsy Ross House, and many of Philadelphia's other historic sites. Elfreth's Alley is a National Historic Landmark, and the oldest inhabited street in the United States. This alley is composed of 33 houses built in 1701, prior to the nation's birth. The Betsy Ross House is also located in Old City, and is said to be the site where Ross sewed the nation's first colonial flag. The neighborhood of Old City has been labeled "bohemian," because of its fashionable bars, restaurants and several art galleries. Moreover, the "Hipstoric" Old City District (OCD) is a place of exciting significant history, charming shops and loads of entertainment. Old City is the specific spot in Center City where the Independence National Historic Park and all of its related buildings are located.

A majestic architectural landmark in Philadelphia, the Academy of Music was modeled after Milan's La Scala opera house. The Academy is located on the Avenue of the Arts (Broad Street) alongside several other cultural institutions. The Academy of Music is home to the Opera Company of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Ballet.

In close proximity to the Independence National Historic Park is Franklin Square, home to the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel, Philly Miniature Golf, new playgrounds and a restored 19th-century fountain. Franklin Square is also one of the 63 regional neighborhoods in Fairmont Park.

Fairmont Park is a true jewel in the city of Philadelphia. With over 9,200 acres, it claims 10 percent of the land in Philadelphia (city and county). Fairmount Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country, and is bordered by the Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek. Of the abovementioned 63 regional and neighborhood parks, the largest of these parks are the East and West Parks, Franklin D. Roosevelt Park, Pennypack Park, Poquessing Park, Tacony Creek Park and Wissahickon Valley Park. There are also several museums located within the park, and they can easily be located on "Museum Mile." Moreover, the Philadelphia Zoo is surrounded by Fairmont Park. A landmark in its own right, the Philadelphia Zoo is America's first zoo, built on July 1, 1874. There is much to discover in and around Fairmont Park, and it is a necessary stop during your trip.

The grand Philadelphia Museum of Art is made of Minnesota Dolomite and covers 10 acres of Fairmont Park. The museum houses more than 300,000 works of art spanning 2,000 years.

Also located in Fairmont Park is the world-renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art. This establishment, built in 1876, houses over 300,000 works of art, and is known as one of the greatest art institutions in the world. Whether embarking on a journey through the main building or a stroll in the Perelman building, you are sure to be amazed by the pieces of art that come from six different continents and two millennia including American art (including the most important collection in the world of works by Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins); costume and textiles (including a celebrated collection of Oriental carpets); East Asian and Middle Eastern art; European decorative arts and sculpture (including arms and armor, and a suit of 18th-century French interiors); European paintings before 1900; Indian and Himalayan art; prints, drawings and photographs; 20th-century art (including works by Picasso, Braque, Matisse, and Duchamp). In addition to the extensive collection of artwork at this museum, you can also run up the famous stairs like Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). The "Rocky Steps" appear in the film Rocky, and four of its sequels, where Rocky Balboa runs up the steps to the song "Gonna Fly Now."

The spot where William Penn first settled along the Delaware River, Penn's Landing is the center of Philadelphia's naval soul and the city's dominant commercial district. Several historic ships are still stationed at Penn's Landing, where people are allowed to tour the USS Becuna, a naval submarine, and the USS Olympia, a cruiser widely recognized as the oldest steel warship afloat in the world.

Society Hill is another area of Center City, which has the largest area of original 18th and early 19th century architecture in the nation. Today Society Hill includes the land from the Delaware River to Washington Square and from Walnut Street to Lombard Street. The charm of Society Hill is its historic homes are not museums, but domiciles for Philadelphians who delight in 18th and 19th century houses. This vital part of the city was built with cobblestone streets that make way for brick row houses in the Federal and Georgian style. The row house originated in Philadelphia in the 19th century. The fist set of row houses was Carstairs Row in Philadelphia, designed by builder and architect Thomas Carstairs around 1799. These centuries-old homes, churches, and landmarks emanate the historical vibe still alive in this modern city.

Near Society Hill is one of the main retail hubs of Center City since the 1800s – Market East. This area is also home to the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The Reading Terminal Market offers fresh produce, meat, poultry and baked goods. This 1892 establishment purports to be nation's oldest continuously open farmers' market, and is steps from the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Rittenhouse Square is a lovely spot for those visiting Philadelphia. The tree-filled area is home to stylish shops and excellent restaurants. The lush green grass, quaint benches, and animal statues are all popular spots among the citizens of Philadelphia, but also attractive opportunities for photographs. The picturesque qualities of this place are all thanks to the work of the Friends of Rittenhouse Square. The landscaping, lighting, restoration of fountains and fencing are all projects of the public-private partnership with the Fairmount Park Commission. The blocks to the south of the Rittenhouse Square, contain some of the most expensive residential real estate in Philadelphia.

Valley Green is part of Philadelphia's 4,400-acre Fairmount Park, located along the Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek. Visitors to the park enjoy fishing, biking and hiking.

Logan Square is the area that lies north Market Street, south of Spring Garden Street, west of Broad Street, and east of the Schuylkill River. This square contains the Franklintown neighborhood, as well as Penn Center and much of Philadelphia's Central Business District.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is the nation's fifth-largest transit system and one of the most comprehensive bus/subway/commuter-rail system in the United States. You can purchase a One-Day Convenience Pass for $6, which is valid for eight rides on buses, subways and trolleys. It is not valid for travel on regional rail. For more information, visit

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Franklin's City

Philadelphia is coined with many nicknames, but one that people may be surprised to hear is "Franklin's City." The successes and innovations of Benjamin Franklin are omnipresent in this modern city, Franklin is honored in many ways throughout the city: in the societies and public institutions that he helped found, to the institutions and neighborhoods that bear his name, to the businesses that today use his likeness, to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. In many ways, Philadelphia is still very much a city that exudes his presence.

The Philadelphia Zoo, founded in 1874, is widely recognized as America's first zoo. The zoo houses more than 1,300 animals, including this giraffe. Many of the animals at the zoo are rare or endangered species, such as tree kangaroos and blue-eyed lemurs.

The Franklin Institute Science Museum, aptly named after Benjamin Franklin, is a truly interesting point of attraction. It is located on the west side of Logan Square and is surrounded by Fairmont Park. For those who have an interest in all fields of science, you will find much to do in the Science center devoted to computers, information technology, electricity, space travel, and oceanography. The Franklin Institute of Science is home to a large walk-in model of the heart.

Thousands of rare and lovely woody plants, including some of Philadelphia's oldest, rarest, and largest trees are found at the Morris Arboretum at the University of Pennsylvania. Winding paths, streams, flowers, and special garden areas comprise this magnificent landscape garden.

Moreover, visitors are allowed to participate in their own experiments, as well as take part in exhibits on sports, wellness, weather, and astronomy. Demonstrations on both natural and biological sciences are fascinating for visitors to see and take a part in. A 30-ton statue of Benjamin Franklin, as well as exhibits on of his inventions and successes are on display to greet you in the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial.

Pat's King of Steaks, established in the 1930's, is the birthplace of the Philly cheesesteak sandwich. It is seen as a cultural institution for Philadelphians, many avowing the best Philly cheesesteaks are made here. You cannot visit Philadelphia without having a Philly Cheesesteak, and that will be easy to do since Pat's is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As you can see, there is much to see and experience in this great city of Philadelphia. Russel H. Conwell, American lawyer, author and clergyman, once stated, "Let every man or woman here, if you never hear me again, remember this, that if you wish to be great at all, you must begin where you are and with what you are. He who would be great anywhere must first be great in his own Philadelphia." No matter who you are, or where you come from, there is something to see in Philadelphia - it is a city that educates, embraces, and encourages people. Historic in its own right, the city is constantly changing, but never forgetting where it came from. The people, the parks, and the provisions are all reasons to explore and enjoy each moment in the city of Philadelphia.

The Betsy Ross House is located in Old City, and is said to be the site where Ross sewed the nation's first colonial flag.

People can sit in the serene setting of Longwood Gardens, fashioned by Pierre S. du Pont. The site offers 1, 050 acres of gardens, woodlands, and meadows, 20 outdoor gardens, 20 indoor gardens within four acres of heated greenhouses, 11,000 different types of plants, and spectacular fountains. The gardens are 30 miles outside of the city, but are considered to be one of the the world's premier horticultural landscapes.


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December 8, 2019, 7:52 am PDT

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