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Encyclopedia > Philadelphia, PA

This article refers to the largest city of Pennsylvania. For other uses, see Philadelphia (disambiguation)

Independence Hall
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Independence Hall

Philadelphia (often referred to as "Philly") is the sixth-largest city in the United States and the largest city in the state of Pennsylvania, occupying all of Philadelphia County.6 As of the 2000 census, the population was 1,517,550; a July 1, 2002 census estimate showed the population dropping modestly to 1,492,231.


Philadelphia is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It has played a critical role in American history and the birth of American independence and democracy.


During part of the 18th century, the city was the second capital and then-largest city of the United States. At that time, it eclipsed Boston and New York City in political and social importance, with Benjamin Franklin playing an extraordinary role in Philadelphia's rise.


Philadelphia is the central city for the Delaware Valley metropolitan area.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
City flag City seal
City nickname: "City of Brotherly Love"


Location in the state of Pennsylvania

Founded 30 July 1729
County Philadelphia County
Mayor John F. Street (Dem)
Area
 - Total
 - Water

349.9 km² (135.1 mi²)
19.6 km² (7.6 mi²) 5.29%
Population
 - City (2004)
 - Metropolitan
 - Density

1,492,231
5,751,803
4,337.3/km²
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5
Latitude
Longitude
39°57' N
75°10' W
www.phila.gov
Contents

History

Before Europeans arrived, 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). 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 ancient Greek. 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).

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Independence Hall, 18th Century

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 second only to London in size in the British Empire.


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.

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1888 German map of Philadelphia

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).

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Downtown Philadelphia panorama, from 1913.

Street layout of central Philadelphia

Philadelphia's City Hall
Philadelphia's City Hall

Penn's surveyor, Thomas Holme, laid out the city in a strict grid, with all streets running either north-south or east-west. The north-south streets are numbered sequentially from Front (instead of First), along the Delaware River, to 13th, followed by the main north-south thoroughfare, Broad Street (instead of 14th).


The numbered streets then resume, continuing in the original plan to 28th at the Schuylkill River. The east-west streets, many of them named for trees, e.g., Chestnut, Walnut, Locust, and Spruce, parallel the main thoroughfare named High Street by Penn, but called Market Street since at least the early 18th century (six blocks south of the latter is South Street, noted in recent decades for its raucous night life and the subject of the 1963 hit single by The Orlons of the same name). He also planned five public parks, one at the intersection of High and Broad Streets in the very center of the city (now occupied by the City Hall) and four others (now called Washington Square, Rittenhouse Square, Logan Square and Franklin Square) surrounding it. The eastern edge of Rittenhouse Square is on 18th St., four blocks west of City Hall, while the western edge of Washington Square is between 7th and 8th, about six and a half blocks east of City Hall. Both are the same distance south of City Hall. City Hall is the tallest masonry building in the world; and through the late 1980s, City Hall used to be locally known as the tallest building in Philadelphia. However in March of 1987, One Liberty Place broke the gentlemen's agreement not to exceed the height of the statue of William Penn on the top of the City Hall. Since then, seven other skyscrapers have been completed exceeding the statue, including One Liberty Place's little sister, Two Liberty Place. One Liberty Place is the tallest building not only in Philadelphia but in the entire state of Pennsylvania, with Two Liberty Place trailing behind it. Since the completion of One Liberty Place, no Philadelphia sporting team has won a world championship event in its respective discipline, a phenomenon locally - and increasingly nationally - known as the "Curse of Billy Penn." There is also a Masonic Temple located only a few blocks from the City Hall, a legacy of the Founding Fathers and signers of the Declaration of Independence, many of whom were Freemasons.


Rittenhouse Square is named after David Rittenhouse, a son of the first paper-maker in Philadelphia, William Rittenhouse. Rittenhousetown is a delightful rural setting in Fairmount Park. David Rittenhouse was a clockmaker and friend of the American Revolution.


Downtown is known "Center City."


The city limits have been coterminous with Philadelphia County since 1854. Prior to that, the city of Philadelphia consisted only of those areas between South Street, Vine Street, the Delaware River, and the Schuylkill River.

8th and Market Streets, 1910s
8th and Market Streets, 1910s

Government

From a governmental perspective, Philadelphia County is a legal nullity, as all county functions were assumed by the city in 1952, which has been coterminous with the county since 1854.

Historic seal of the city of Philadelphia, made by .
Historic seal of the city of
Philadelphia, made by William Penn.

Executive

The city is headed by an elected mayor who is limited to two consecutive four-year terms, but can run for the position again after an intervening term. The incumbent is former Philadelphia City Council President John Street (D), who was first elected in 1999. He was re-elected by a larger majority in 2003.


See also: List of mayors of Philadelphia


Legislative

The legislative branch of Philadelphia is the Philadelphia City Council. Philadelphia has seven council members at large, and ten council members from districts. The current council president is Ann C. Verna.


Judicial

The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, also known as the Court of Common Pleas for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, is the trial court of general jurisdiction for Philadelphia. It is funded and operated largely by City resources and employees.


The Philadelphia Municipal Court handles matters of limited jurisdiction as well as landlord-tenant disputes, appeals from traffic court, conducts preliminary examinations for felony-level offenses, and the like.


Traffic Court is a court of special jurisdiction which hears violations of traffic laws.


Pennsylvania's three appellate courts have chambers in Philadelphia. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which is the court of last resort in the state, regularly hears arguments in Philadelphia City Hall. Also, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania sit in Philadelphia several times a year.


Judges for all of the above courts are elected at large.


Business

Philadelphia's economy is heavily based upon manufacturing, refining, food, and financial services. Philadelphia has its own stock exchange.


The list of major companies in Philadelphia includes Aramark, GlaxoSmithKline, Sunoco, Comcast, and Pep Boys.


The Federal government plays a large role in Philadelphia as well. The east-coast operations of the United States Mint are based near the historic district, and the Federal Reserve Bank's Philadelphia division is based there as well.


Geography

Enlarge
A simulated-color satellite image of Philadelphia taken on NASA's Landsat 7 satellite. The Delaware River is visible in this shot.

Philadelphia is located at 39°59'53" North, 75°8'41" West (39.998012, -75.144793)1.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 369.4 km² (142.6 mi²). 349.9 km² (135.1 mi²) of it is land and 19.6 km² (7.6 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 5.29% water. Bodies of water include the Schuylkill River, Cobbs Creek, Wissahickon Creek, and Pennypack Creek.


Neighborhoods

Philadelphia is unofficially divided into numerous neighborhoods. These include Andorra, Roxborough, Northern Liberties, Old City, Manayunk, Center City, Queen Village, Kensington, Frankford, University City, Strawberry Mansion, Chestnut Hill, Fishtown, Port Richmond, Germantown, Mount Airy, Chinatown, Fox Chase, South Philly, Society Hill, the Museum District and many others.


For a more extensive list of Philadelphia neighborhoods, see List of Philadelphia neighborhoods.


Demographics

As of the census2 of 2000, there are 1,517,550 people, 590,071 households, and 352,272 families residing in the city. The population density is 4,337.3/km² (11,233.6/mi²). There are 661,958 housing units at an average density of 1,891.9/km² (4,900.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 45.02% White, 43.22% African American, 0.27% Native American, 4.46% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 4.77% from other races, and 2.21% from two or more races. 8.50% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. The ethnic makeup of the city is 43.2% Black, 13.6% Irish, 9.2% Italian, 8.1% German, 6.4% Puerto Rican, and 4.3% Polish.


Of the 590,071 households, 27.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.1% are married couples living together, 22.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 40.3% are non-families. 33.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 11.9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.48 and the average family size is 3.22.


In the city the population is spread out with 25.3% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 14.1% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 86.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 81.8 males.


The median income for a household in the city is $30,746, and the median income for a family is $37,036. Males have a median income of $34,199 versus $28,477 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,509. 22.9% of the population and 18.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 31.3% of those under the age of 18 and 16.9% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Transportation

Public transportation

Philadelphia is served by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA. SEPTA runs buses, trains, subways, trolleys, and trackless trolleys around Philadelphia and into the suburbs.


Philadelphia lies directly on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. Amtrak's 30th Street Station is a major railroad facility which offers access to Amtrak, SEPTA, and NJ Transit rail lines.


PATCO provides light rail service to Camden, Collingswood, Haddonfield, Cherry Hill, Ashland, and Lindenwold, New Jersey, from stations on Locust Street between 16th and 15th, 13th and 12th, and 10th and 9th Streets, and on Market Street at 8th Street.


Two airports, Philadelphia International Airport and Northeast Philadelphia Airport, reside within the city limits. Philadelphia International Airport provides domestic and international scheduled air service, while Northeast Philadelphia Airport serves general and corporate aviation.


Roads

Interstate 95 runs directly through the city along the Delaware River, providing transportation from Florida to Maine.


The city is also served by Interstate 76 (also known as the Schuylkill Expressway) which runs along the Schuylkill River. It meets with the Pennsylvania Turnpike at King of Prussia and provides access to Harrisburg and points west.


Interstate 676, or the Vine Street Expressway, was completed in 1991 after years of planning as a link between I-95 and I-76. It runs beneath city level through Center City.


The Delaware River Port Authority operates three bridges in Philadelphia over the Delaware River to New Jersey: the Walt Whitman Bridge (I-76), the Benjamin Franklin Bridge (I-676 and US 30), and the Betsy Ross Bridge (NJ 90).


History

Early railroads

Philadelphia was an early railroad hub. The following railroads, almost all radiating from downtown, were built in the mid-19th century:

People and culture of Philadelphia

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Philadelphia skyline

Philadelphia is known for distinctive food

  • Cheesesteaks, a kind of humble culinary masterpiece, made of cheese (usually either Cheez Wiz(tm), provolone or American) and slices of fried ribeye steak on a hoagie roll, sometimes combined with onions and/or mushrooms
  • Hoagies -- a type of sandwich made with cold cuts on an Italian roll
  • scrapple -- corn meal mush cooked up with every part (scrap) of the pig
  • Italian ice (water ice)-- a frozen dessert, similar to a slushie except stiffer
  • soft pretzel -- thick, doughy pretzels, generally salted, often served with mustard

Philadelphia has a large Italian American population along with Irish-Americans, Asian-Americans, and growing numbers of Hispanic residents and émigrés from Russia and Asian countries. For example, the "Italian Market" section of South Philadelphia is home to an increasing number of Vietnamese residents.


Famous past and present Philadelphia residents

See also: List of people from Philadelphia


List of museums

List of sites of interest in Philadelphia

Events

  • The Mummers Parade, held every New Year's Day on Broad Street
  • The Greek Picnic, a reunion and celebration of African-American college fraternities
  • The Wing Bowl, a chicken wing-eating competition
  • Philadelphia Flower Show
  • Philadelphia Auto Show

Education

Colleges and universities in Philadelphia

Colleges and universities in the vicinity of Philadelphia include Bryn Mawr College and Rosemont College located in Bryn Mawr; Haverford College; and Villanova University, located in Villanova, all three located northwest of Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania Main Line; Swarthmore College, located in Swarthmore; and Widener University, located in Chester.


Libraries

The Free Library of Philadelphia


Professional sports in Philadelphia

Philadelphia has a long and proud history of professional sports teams. Philadelphia sports fans have a reputation of being devoted to their teams in good times and bad. Of late Philadelphia teams have been performing well, but frequently missing championships by failing during the crucial stages.


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