Ephemera From the Archives Photo Essay Travels

Philadelphia, revisited

Philadelphia is one of those cities that doesn’t seem to get much respect, especially from New Yorkers. To be honest, I’m not sure why. I had the pleasure of spending a week there on business in 2017 and found Philly to be a beautiful, vibrant, and interesting city, with lots to see and do.

Of course, given the time available, I only saw a small part of the city. Both my hotel and my customer’s offices were downtown, within 3km of each other, albeit on opposite sides of City Hall.

This kept me in the heart of the business and tourist areas, to be sure.

There is so much history here; Philadelphia (founded 1682) is after all the birthplace of America as we have come to understand it: the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution and ratified it here. Suffice it to say, Philly is old. But it’s also new, and these age differences can create stark contrasts. Philly is also a city of neighbourhoods, each with a distinct look and feel.

Like many older North American cities, the downtown core isn’t just for business, tourists, hospitals, and university students. People actually live downtown, adding a whole new level of vibrance and life to the city.

You can see the life early in the morning before work, or after the business day is done. Then again, I was in an office all day during business hours when I was there… who knows what’s happening on randum Tuesday afternoons in Philly?

Another standout is the outstanding Second Empire-styled City Hall. It sits smack-dab in the middle of everything and there are clear sight lines to it from all over the city. Early (and late) in the day, it gets spectacularly lit up by reflections from the surrounding modern glass office towers.


Photo Essay #9: Philadelphia City Hall

Philadelphia City Hall, completed in 1901, would not be out of place in Paris. Built in the Second Empire style, the 548′ (167m) structure was designed to be the tallest building in the world–a feat never achieved, since the Eiffel Tower was completed before the city hall was finished–although for a period it was the world’s tallest habitable building.

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As seen from Broad Street SouthAs seen from Broad Street South

As seen from Broad Street South

That little statue of William Penn you see at the top is actually 37′ (11.3m) tall and weighs 27 tons! Turns out that this is the largest statue atop any building in the world, even today.

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Philadelphia City Hall 3/5Philadelphia City Hall 3/5

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Philadelphia City Hall 4/5Philadelphia City Hall 4/5

There are a number of tall glass buildings to the west of city hall; in the morning, they reflect the rising sun spectacularly against the west side of the building which would otherwise remain obscured in the shadows.

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Philadelphia City Hall 5/5Philadelphia City Hall 5/5

Located at 1 Penn Square, which is actually the intersection of Market and Broad streets, the City Hall divides Philadelphia into North and South, East and West. Pedestrians can walk though portals on each side of the building to get to a courtyard in the centre, where musicians and buskers often play.