The Essence of Philadelphia in Eight Photos

Updated on October 21, 2016
Sculpture by Jacques Lipchitz in 1975 called Government of the People.  It sits in front of of the Municipal Services Building near City Hall.
Sculpture by Jacques Lipchitz in 1975 called Government of the People. It sits in front of of the Municipal Services Building near City Hall. | Source

She Lingers Forever

I lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for over fifty years. I worked, went to school, walked the streets, ate the food, married and had children inside its boundaries. Even though I live 3,000 miles away in the Central Coast of California, certain aspects of Philadelphia still linger. Her personality is forever ingrained in my conscious and subconscious mind. From her sea of brick row houses to her hundreds of murals painted on the side of buildings, to her Declaration of Independence and Constitution, to her massive City Hall with the statue of William Penn on top. From the screeching sounds of SEPTA trains to the unforgettable bespectacled face of Ben Franklin, she still lingers with me.

My wife standing in the courtyard of City Hall in a light drizzle.
My wife standing in the courtyard of City Hall in a light drizzle. | Source
Sitting on the stoop at my mother's house with my daughter.  My mother's ashes are in the wooden box next to us with her graduation picture reminding everyone how beautiful she was.
Sitting on the stoop at my mother's house with my daughter. My mother's ashes are in the wooden box next to us with her graduation picture reminding everyone how beautiful she was. | Source

A Sea of Row Houses

I see brick row houses when I think of Philadelphia. They are lined up evenly on a street, squished together, one street of row houses after another.

They usually have flat or sloping front lawns. They have a few steps with a platform leading to the front door that is sometimes called a "stoop." I spent a lot of my younger years sitting on the stoop, watching neighbors and waiting for my friends to come out.

The row homes usually have two or three bedrooms, one or two bathrooms and a finished or unfinished basement. There is a door in the basement that leads to the garage.

Most of the row houses are called "straight throughs." You walk through the door to the living room, then you walk to the dining area and to the kitchen on the left. Some have decks off the living room. Just slide open the glass door and you're standing on the deck looking out at the rear of the house. Not much to look at, however, just a torn up driveway and the backs of other houses.

You walk upstairs and there's a full bathroom; one bedroom on the right side and another to the left.

You walk downstairs to the finished basement that more than likely has a half-bath and a washer-dryer. Row homes that haven't been updated usually have dark panelling or tacky linoleum floors.

All in all, the row houses are warm and comfy. You get to know your neighbors. The row homes are all the same so there's no reason to envy your neighbor for having a nicer one.

Oxford Circle: Where I Grew Up

A markerOakland Avenue in Philadelphia, 19149 -
Oakland St, Philadelphia, PA 19149, USA
get directions

Oxford Circle in Northeast Philadelphia.

Murals Everywhere

One of the many murals in Philadelphia. Read more in "Philadelphia Murals and the Stories they Tell."
One of the many murals in Philadelphia. Read more in "Philadelphia Murals and the Stories they Tell." | Source

Philly Faces, Dreams, and Visions

Strolling in Philadelphia, I can't help noticing the art all around me, one mural, then another.

I see Dr. J. standing tall on the side of the building, dressed in a three-piece suit with his afro neatly cropped.

I see children on the walls letting doves fly off their fingertips, growing tall with the trees. I see children looking up to the sky, reaching for the stars that seem to breakout into fireworks,

In South Philly, I see Frank Sinatra on the wall with melodious notes flowing from his mouth. Down the street I see the handsome Mario Lanza singing operatic tunes. Pictures of Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and the other crooners remind me of an era long passed.

I see the young man with the silver metals of famous Americans hanging from his neck. He holds their dreams and words in the palm of his hand.

I see the glistening cut glass, the unusual trinkets and objects that people threw out stuck thoughtfully to the walls, a mosaic smiling down upon me, giving me a cryptic message.

I see Asians, Hispanics and African Americans joining hands with various other groups of people—dancing and singing, worshipping, and crying.

I see landscapes, impressionist paintings, modern art melting into the cement and brick walls that look more like a Monet or Renoir canvas.

I see the vision of the Philadelphia neighborhoods expressed in art. Every neighborhood has a different face but a similar goal of contributing a special gift to society.

Founding Fathers

Representatives from each colony in bronze inside the Constitution Center, positioned as they were when they ratified the most important document in our history.
Representatives from each colony in bronze inside the Constitution Center, positioned as they were when they ratified the most important document in our history. | Source
The Assembly Room in Independence Hall where all the work was done on  the Constitution.  The room is stark and dull by our standards, with some chairs, tables and a few ink wells. To look at it, you'd never think it had so much significance.
The Assembly Room in Independence Hall where all the work was done on the Constitution. The room is stark and dull by our standards, with some chairs, tables and a few ink wells. To look at it, you'd never think it had so much significance. | Source

Birthplace of Our Country

I think of her history and courage. I think of Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the little house on the narrow street where Betsy Ross lived and worked. I think of the magical Constitution that was created here by the hands of a few gifted and articulate men. Those revolutionaries, those founding fathers spoke in passion and strength, standing up for what they believed in while many of their peers were too scared. These patriots had their differences, but they found a common ground and dipped their pens into the ink wells to seal the deal.

They drew up the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution right here in Philadelphia, right around the block where I used to live.

Ben Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and quite a few other noble Americans walked the same cobblestones, inhaled the same misty air, and looked up at the same Philadelphia sky.

The dream was hatched.

The Bell was rung.

If you listen close enough you can still hear it ringing.

The Man Himself: Mr. Penn

William Penn on top of City Hall looking over his city.  "Oh, how things have changed," he must be saying.  "I'm no longer the tallest in Philadelphia.".
William Penn on top of City Hall looking over his city. "Oh, how things have changed," he must be saying. "I'm no longer the tallest in Philadelphia.". | Source

City Hall

Starting in 1871, City Hall took over thirty years to build. It cost over 25 million.

William Penn, all 37 feet and 27 tons of him, stands above the clock tower wearing his favorite overcoat and hat, looking over his great city.

It is located squarely in the middle of downtown Philadelphia, called Center City. The address is 1 Penn Square. Those who walk around and through City Hall can't help but experience a sense of awe.

If you look close enough, you'll see a lot of little details etched inside and outside City Hall like gargoyles, angels, ancient Romans, lion and tiger heads, snakes and lizards, symbols of justice and freedom, new mayors, ex-mayors and brigadier generals all wrapped up in its French Renaissance architecture.

For a few years it was the tallest building in the country and many more years City Hall was the tallest building in Philadelphia. No Philadelphian was allowed to build any structure taller than City Hall, bounded by a gentleman's agreement. Things changed with time. Billy Penn had to adjust to our modern values. The Comcast Center is now the city's tallest building, but William Penn still stands as the focal point of the city.

Kissing Ben Franklin

The face of Ben Franklin on the top floor of Liberty Place One, the second tallest building in Philadelphia.
The face of Ben Franklin on the top floor of Liberty Place One, the second tallest building in Philadelphia. | Source

Ben Franklin Is Everywhere

Ben Franklin is everywhere in Philly. His name is on buildings, on streets, parkways, schools, zoos, museums, bridges, ships, and in stores and shopping malls. If you're lucky enough, you might see him walking around the historic district with Betsy Ross. You might see him in his colonial attire—coat, vest and breeches.

Ben's creative presence is everywhere:

If you use swimming fins, he's there.

When you turn on the stove, he's there.

When you adjust your bifocals, he's there.

When you change your clocks to daylight savings time, he's there.

When you look up at a thunderstorm, see a lightening rod and realize its electricity, he's there.

You can visit his grave in the cemetery of the Christ Church at 5th and Arch Street and thank him personally for all his contributions to our society.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • Mark Tulin profile image
        Author

        Mark Tulin 2 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Thanks, Glenn. I didn’t appreciate Philly until a moved several years ago. The distance made my heart grow fonder.

      • Glenn Stok profile image

        Glenn Stok 2 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

        I visited Philadelphia three times in my life. Once with a school tour when I was in elementary school. Once when I went with my parents to visit friends of theirs. Then when I was grown, I visited with a friend.

        However, I never got to appreciate the developments that took place in our history until I read your article Mark. You gave me a better understanding of how Philadelphia represents the backbone of our country, much of which I knew but never fully appreciated.

        In addition, you made the entire story interesting and captivating by including your own personal experience having grown up there.

      • Mark Tulin profile image
        Author

        Mark Tulin 7 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Thank you Linda for the read and the positive input.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 7 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thank you for sharing such an interesting look at Philadelphia. I've never visited the city and probably never will, so I appreciate being able to learn about it by reading your article.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://wanderwisdom.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is used to quickly and efficiently deliver files such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisements has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)