Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Travels to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Philadelphia was founded in 1682 by William Penn to serve as capital of Pennsylvania Colony.  During the American Revolution, Philadelphia played an instrumental role as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the United States, who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution in 1787. Philadelphia was one of the nation's capitals during the Revolutionary War, and the city served as the temporary U.S. capital while Washington, D.C., was under construction. Popular nicknames for Philadelphia are Philly and "The City of Brotherly Love", the latter of which comes from the literal meaning of the city's name in Greek.

During the 19th century, Philadelphia became a major industrial center and railroad hub that grew from an influx of European immigrants. It became a prime destination for African Americans during the Great Migration and surpassed two million occupants by 1950.  Keith and I recently took a #RoadTrip up to Philly for the weekend.  Here are a few things we saw during our stay:

Independence Hall
Independence Hall is known primarily as the location where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and adopted. The building was completed in 1753 as the colonial legislature (later Pennsylvania State House) for the Province of Pennsylvania. It became the principal meeting place of the Second Continental Congress from 1775 to 1783 and was the site of the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787.

Liberty Bell
Formerly placed in the steeple of the Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell was commissioned from the London firm of Lester and Pack (today the Whitechapel Bell Foundry) in 1752, and was cast with the lettering (part of Leviticus 25:10) "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

It originally cracked when first rung after arrival in Philadelphia, and was twice recast by local workmen John Pass and John Stow, whose last names appear on the bell. In its early years, the Liberty Bell was used to summon lawmakers to legislative sessions and to alert citizens to public meetings and proclamations. It was moved from its longtime home in Independence Hall to a nearby glass pavilion on Independence Mall in 1976, and then to the larger Liberty Bell Center adjacent to the pavilion in 2003.

Northwestern View from City Hall
Philadelphia City Hall is the house of government for Philadelphia, and at 548 ft, including the statue of city founder William Penn atop it, it is the world's tallest masonry building.  The observation deck located directly below the base of the statue, approximately 499 ft above street level, offers visitors an expansive view of the city and its surroundings. It is accessed via a 6-person elevator which has glass panels so visitors can see the wooden superstructure inside the tower.  The views from up top were amazing, especially during the beautiful clear day we were there.

The park across from City Hall was designed as a terminus for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and is nicknamed Love Park for Robert Indiana's Love sculpture which overlooks the plaza. The park was built in 1965 and covers an underground parking garage. The main features of the plaza are curved granite steps and a single spout fountain which was added in 1969.

One place I really wanted to visit was the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  It is among the largest art museums in the U.S. and has collections of more than 227,000 objects that include "world-class holdings of European and American paintings, prints, drawings, and decorative arts."

Rocky statue with Philadelphia Museum of Art in background.
Besides being known for its architecture and collections, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has in recent decades become known due to the role it played in the Rocky films – Rocky (1976) and four of its five sequels, II, III, V and Rocky Balboa. Visitors to the museum are often seen mimicking Rocky's famous run up the front steps, now known widely as the "Rocky Steps".  A bronze statue of Rocky was briefly placed at the top of the steps for the filming of Rocky III and later moved to the Spectrum. It now stands near the front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

CBP Ballpark
While in Philly, Keith also wanted to catch a baseball game.  Citizens Bank Park is a 43,651-seat baseball park part of the South Philadelphia Sports Complex, and home of the Philadelphia Phillies. It is commonly referred to by locals simply as "The Bank" or "CBP".

Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America's most notorious criminals, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and Al Capone.  Take a self guided audio tour, narrated by Steve Buscemi, through this eerie prison.

Clockwise from top left: Gothic entrance, hospital wing, Al Capone's posh cell, view of main prison hall
Lastly, for the foodies - you must visit the Reading Terminal Market.  We grabbed breakfast and lunch there on two different days because it was so close to our hotel.

Breakfast sandwiches.
Amish grilled cheese with tomatoes.
Established in 1892 at 12th and Arch Streets, is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers' market. When you visit the market, you can enjoy eating virtually every type of cuisine, from sublime soul food and exquisite Asian and Middle Eastern dishes to authentic Philly Cheesesteaks and traditional Pennsylvania Dutch fare - all available from largely family-run stands. The northwestern corner of the market is primarily devoted to Amish merchants from Lancaster County, who bring their farm-fresh products and distinctive prepared dishes to the Market four days a week. Cooks from the finest local restaurants come to the market each morning for the very freshest in meats, poultry, seafood and specialty ingredients. Cooking demonstrations and cookbook signings are frequent events.

Top: Fresh basked Apple dumplings
Bottom Left: Flowers, Right: Seafood
If you don't get enough from the Reading Terminal Market, check out Philly's Italian Market located at South 9th Street. In the early 1800s there were still a smattering of Italians in the city. During this period many well to do Italians left Italy for political reasons and came to Philadelphia as artisans, bankers, merchants and musicians.  The market is open seven days a week, year-round with many places to shop and dine.  We stopped here for Italian hoagies from Sarcone's Deli and walked around a bit before driving back home to DC.

Meats from the Italian Market.
For more Philly eats check out my restaurant reviews and special post on their local snacks.  Have you visited Philadelphia before? What are some of your favorites things to do and places to eat? Please share in the comments below!

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