Historical Markers
Philadelphia [Old] Historical Marker
Mouse over for marker text

Philadelphia [Old]

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
North Broad Street (PA 611) & John F. Kennedy Boulevard, just North of City Hall

Dedication Date:
December 6, 1982

Behind the Marker

The City of Philadelphia grew out of an idealistic man's dreams. In fact, William Penn named his dream plan his Holy Experiment, and he envisioned a place where the principles of toleration and liberation for fellow man would help to create a more democratic form of government. Penn later developed his ideal Frame of Government, which was a continuous work in progress. It ranged from his first idealistic dreams to demands and pressures from the Assembly for revisions and finally rested for more than seven decades on the pages of the Commonwealth's constitution, called at the time the Charter of Privileges.
An 1850 view of Philadelphia from Camden, New Jersey
An 1850 view of Philadelphia from Camden, New Jersey

Even before Penn arrived in America, he commissioned surveyors to begin the search for the right place in the new world to develop his dream. He appointed Thomas Holme as his surveyor general, and under Penn's direction Holme laid out the plan for the city of Philadelphia. Penn told Holme of his vision of "a greene country town where every house be placed in the middle of the plot, so that there may be ground on each side, for gardens, or orchards or fields and so that it will never be burnt, and always be wholesome." Included in the plan he also requested, "Four squares be set aside for physical recreation." Additionally, he wished to have "Publick Houses" set aside on "ten acre center squares" as community gathering places. In conformance with Penn's vision, Thomas Holme laid out the city of Philadelphia on a grid pattern, which set the precedent for future towns all over America.

Renowned as a city of firsts in North America, the country's founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence here, and it was in this city that the Liberty Bell rang out from Independence Hall for the first time. Philadelphia became the nation's capital in 1790 and remained so until 1800. The struggling upholsterer, Betsy Ross, sewed America's first flag, and markerBenjamin Franklin proved his theory of electricity from their homes in Philadelphia. In North America's history, the first public park, library, hospital, school and zoo are Philadelphia's own, as well as the first institutions of higher learning, including science, pharmacy, anatomy and the fine arts.

Situated along the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, this port city has a long history of strong industrial and commercial enterprise. Philadelphia played a leading role in the coal and iron industries, and shipbuilders launched some of the country's most famous ships from the Philadelphia Naval Yard. For many years Philadelphia lost its "green towne" image, as new factories were filled with immigrants from many diverse cultures.

Present day Philadelphia has lost much of the old industry and has made a successful effort to preserve its image as one of the nation's most historical cites. The historical district or old city Philadelphia has more than 600 historical homes that have been renovated to reflect their past history, and many new structures are designed to blend in with colonial heritage styles. Today's Philadelphia remains an enduring reminder of William Penn's first designs of his City of Brotherly Love, where many of the neighborhoods still retain the character of his "green towne" dream.

Back to Top