For anyone planning a trip to America, a destination that has to be top of your agenda would be Philadelphia. The largest city in the commonwealth state of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia has everything that you are looking for for a city break. This beautiful city is a joy to discover, easy to walk around with a great welcome from the multicultural mix of inhabitants, it is famed for its history, culinary delights architecture and culture. Philadelphia is an easy city to lose yourself in and while you are there you can soak up the history of this amazing country and its hospitality.
Famous the world over as being the birthplace of modern America, it is here that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed, Philadelphia has the allure of cities such as Washington and New York but also has a charm and grace of smaller towns.
Philadelphia or “Philly” as it is affectionately known, is located in the North East of America. The city was founded in 1682, by an English Quaker William Penn, to serve as the Capital for the Pennsylvanian colony. It once served as the capital of America itself, from 1790 – 1800 when Washington DC then took over and has long played an instrumental role in American history. As well as the Declaration signing, it also had great importance during the civil war and has long been regarded as a hotbed for new ways of thinking in science, the arts, and innovation. Indeed Benjamin Franklin, famous statesman, inventor, philosopher, and scientist was a resident of the city.
Philadelphia is one of America’s most historic cities and a long weekend spent here will take you to many interesting places but some of the main highlights have to be Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center, Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Masonic Temple.
Independence Hall, completed in 1753, is top of the list for anybody interested in history when visiting Philadelphia. Situated in the Independence National Historic Park, this piece of architectural history has seen many momentous happenings in its lifetime. It was here that the American Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and the American Constitution was signed in 1787.
Once you enter the Hall you will be able to see the Assembly Rooms where George Washington was made The Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. As well as the historic rooms open to visitors, you will also get a chance to go into the West Wing of the Hall to the Great Essentials Exhibit and see the surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. Guided tours offer the full history of the hall, making this a fascinating insight into the birth of modern America.
Situated opposite Independence Hall is the Liberty Bell another important marker in American history. Now encased in a glass gazebo for safe keeping, Liberty Bell has played a fundamental role in American history.
At one time this giant 200lb bell resided in the belfry on Independence Hall and was rung to mark historic events that took place there. The most notable event that the bell was used for was the first reading in public of the Declaration of Independence. The bell hasn’t rung since 1846 when it was used to mark George Washington’s birthday. During that occasion the famous crack appeared in the bell making it unusable and so now it stands as a viewable piece of history, probably making it one of the most famous bells in the world.
Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Apart from Independence Hall and Liberty Bell, Philadelphia is probably most famous for a piece of movie history, that being the film Rocky in which the main character Rocky Balboa played by Sylvester Stallone runs up the steps of the Museum of Art. This is a piece of current history that anybody visiting this iconic building can indulge in and there is even a statue marking this infamous scene.
The Museum, however, is known for more than its cinematic connections, as it is also a major institute of some of the world’s greatest pieces of artwork. Styled on the Ancient Greek Temples, inside you will discover works by artists such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir, Matisse and Picasso as well as some quite breath-taking full-size structures of a 17th Century Chinese Palace and a Japanese Teahouse. The impressive collection makes the Museum of Art one of the most important institutes in the country. A full day trip will be needed to fully take in the Museum of Art as a couple of hours will not do justice to the amazing exhibits inside.
Eastern State Penitentiary.
Away from the culture and splendor of many buildings in Philadelphia, another top tourist attraction has to be the Eastern State Penitentiary. It was here that the infamous gangster Al Capone was once incarcerated. The Penitentiary is also one of the most important historical sites in the city. It was opened in 1829 and unlike many other prisons, its main aim was to reform the prisoners that passed through its gates rather than punish them. The prison was inspired by Quakers and the reforms that took place inside replaced physical punishment and capital punishment with reflection and isolation. This method was used throughout the time that the prison was in use, right up until the 1970s when the prison was closed. The methods used by the Eastern State Penitentiary went on to reform the judicial system in America. Although the ESP was once the most expensive public building and famous prison in the World, now all that is left are ruins and stories of its past. It is a National Historic Landmark which is now operated as a museum
Although the ESP, as it is also known as, was once the most expensive public building and famous prison in the World, now all that is left are ruins and stories of its past. It is a National Historic Landmark which is now operated as a museum. There are still some solitary confinement cells that visitors can walk into but the majority remain in ruins. Ghost tours are also run there and the Prison has appeared in many films and tv programmes over the years. It is a fascinating insight into life inside a Prison and attracts around 220,000 visitors a year and is well worth visiting during your stay in Philadelphia.
All over the World, the Masons have held a certain mystery and reverence. Although there is uncertainty as to when the Freemasons Fraternity was actually formed is believed to date back to the Middle Ages, from the stonemasons’ guilds. The earliest recorded references date to about 1390 and it is known that in 1717 the first Grand Lodge was formed in England. The fraternity quickly spread throughout Europe and the Colonies in America, where it became very popular, especially in the American Colonies. Many of the Founding Fathers of America were Masons including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and Pennsylvania became one of the major states, indeed the earliest known American lodges were here.
Today the Masons still play a major role in American life and one of the popular tourist attractions in Philadelphia is the Masonic Temple. This stunning building was completed in the late 19th Century and the artist George Herzog decorated the interior. The Temple was the Headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and is one of the largest temples of its kind and has often been viewed as one of the” wonders ” of the Masonic Fraternity.
Inside the Temple, visitors will be able to admire some of the best artifacts of the Freemasons. Each room is based on different architectural themes and the guided tours that take visitors through the temple explain in detail the rooms and architecture. As well as stunning interiors, the Temple also houses the Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania. This comprehensive library contains thousands of documents and texts relating to Free Masonry.
The Temple is only open to guided tours but it is well worth booking a visit to get a glimpse of this fascinating world.
A visit to Philadelphia will encompass many different attractions and activities. This is a place rich in history and culture, a big city that has an intimate and welcoming feel. A great place to walk around and explore by day and when the sun goes down an equally fabulous place to eat and be entertained. The last few years have seen a real renaissance in this old city and it is a place well worth spending some time in and getting to know.