The City of Brotherly Love, aka “Philly,” the birthplace of America (in 1776) is also Pearl’s place of birth, and her parents before her. Since a good part of Pearl’s Party takes place in Philadelphia, I felt I owed my readers a look at her hometown from a different angle….that of a tourist. I invite everyone to go visit. The Pope always does.
Philadelphia is situated on two rivers, the Delaware and the Schuylkill. On the latter you’ll find Boathouse Row, a series of charming mid-19th century structures erected for the many crew teams that row there. At night, the lights adorning them can be seen reflecting in the river. John B. Kelly, Jr. and Sr. the father and brother of Grace Kelly, both won Olympic Medals in rowing; the road running parallel to the river in front of the boathouses is named Kelly Drive. If you were born before 1956, you might not know that Pearl’s contemporary, the more famous (and a bit more beautiful) Philadelphian, Grace Kelly, became the Princess of Monaco when she married Prince Rainier III, following her distinguished Hollywood career.
The oldest residential street in America, Elfreth’s Alley, is paved with cobblestones that were the ballast from ships that arrived at the Port of Philadelphia 300 years ago.
When you walk the quaint cobblestone streets of Society Hill and Old City in downtown Philadelphia, you’re walking in the footsteps of history. These narrow thoroughfares were trod upon by Benjamin Franklin and the signers of our Declaration of Independence. History abounds around Independence Hall where many buildings are over 200 years old. Don’t miss the Liberty Bell and Constitution Center.
The city offers a wide array of cultural experiences. They are largely grouped in two areas: the corridor along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and Broad Street.
The majestic ten-lane Benjamin Franklin Parkway (know to locals as “The Parkway”) was designed by a French landscape architect in 1917 to resemble Paris’ Champs-Élysées. It is home to many of Philadelphia’s great museums, including the Franklin Institute (a science museum with lots of kid-friendly displays and a planetarium),the Academy of Natural Sciences (the oldest museum of its type in the New World, founded 1812), the Please Touch Museum, the Rodin Museum (the only museum outside of Paris devoted to the great sculptor with lush gardens), and the Barnes Foundation (181 Renoirs, plus yards of Van Goghs, Cezannes, Titians, et al). Dr. Barnes personally knew Matisse, who came to his home in suburban Philadelphia to install murals right on its walls. An unusual legal battle allowed the move of his enormous collection valued at $25 billion, to be near the other museums. The Free Library of Philadelphia’s beautiful Beaux-Arts main branch is also situated there. The drive is anchored on one end by the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (made famous in the film “Rocky” when Sylvester Stallone triumphantly ascends), and on the other end by City Hall. It swerves around the Swann fountain of Logan Square. This mile-long roadway is closed to vehicles each year to accommodate spectacular Fourth of July celebrations.
For more than a century, the world class Philadelphia Orchestra performed at the gorgeous Renaissance-style Academy of Music on Broad Street. Today it graces the stage of the newer and also fabulous Kimmel Center.
Beyond the art museum is one of the largest municipal parks in the world, Fairmount Park (4100 acres) home to the country’s first zoo and the (Robin Hood) Dell’s affordable outdoor music concerts in the summer.
City Hall is a unique French Second Empire-style building with a courtyard straddling the main intersection of Philadelphia: Broad & Market Streets. The magnificent edifice is topped by a statue of William Penn, founder of the city. No ordinary statue, it is the tallest, at 37 feet, that tops any building in the world. For over 100 years a “gentleman’s agreement” stipulated that no building would be built taller than his hat (so that he could be looking down upon his city?) This changed in 1987-90 to allow for the building of modern twin skyscrapers called Liberty Place.
The city is proud of its many successful sports teams: Eagles, Sixers (short for 76ers, 1776 being a most important year for Philadelphia and the country), Flyers, and Phillies. The Army- Navy game is played here each winter.
Since the bicentennial celebration of 1976, Philadelphia has become famous for its great restaurants. Buddakan or Jones or Parc or any of Steven Starr’s places won’t disappoint. Taste the local fare of cheesesteaks. (Pat’s and Geno’s near the Italian Market in South Philly are long-time rivals). Soft pretzels sold on street corners are also popular treats. Try them with mustard.
There are many hotels in Philadelphia. When planning my wedding,Pearl and I looked at two of the more famous ones. The Bellevue-Sratford (the grand old dame that was the unfortunate scene of Legionnaire’s Disease in 1976) and The Four Seasons, now The Logan. (Instead, we chose the Philmont Country Club in Huntingdon Valley.)I would recommend these for being in the center of the action.
Hyatt at The Bellevue, 200 South Broad Street
The Logan, One Logan Square
Sheraton Downtown, 201 North 17th Street
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