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Arts & Culture

Important Places To The People Who Built Philadelphia

August 13, 2012 6:00 AM

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A statue of George Washington looks over a group of demonstrators on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on July 30, 2000, in Philadelphia. An unidentified National Park Law Enforcement Ranger stands guard at Independence Hall. (Photo credit: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

A statue of George Washington looks over a group of demonstrators on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on July 30, 2000, in Philadelphia. An unidentified National Park Law Enforcement Ranger stands guard at Independence Hall. (Photo credit: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

Philadelphia is so renowned for hosting historical sites that are integral to the founding of this great nation that it’s easy to overlook the men and women who made them important. William Penn founded the eponymous Pennsylvania and directed the planning and development of the city. Benjamin Franklin is so cherished by the city of Philadelphia that you can’t walk five feet without finding something named after him. Moreover, the Quakers and African American figures were also important in the founding and early development of Philadelphia. If you’re interested in meeting some of these people, then keep reading.

City Hall
Broad St and Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 686-2840
phila.gov/virtualch

City Hall’s construction actually didn’t begin until 1871, long after William Penn’s founding of Philadelphia in 1682, so its connection to the city’s founders might seem a bit opaque. However, even though the building wasn’t completed until the 20th century, City Hall’s history can be traced right back to Philadelphia’s founding. When William Penn designed Philadelphia, he set aside five parcels of land to be used as city squares with the one centrally located and destined to be the home of City Hall. The architecture of City Hall is in the impressive French Victorian style and is truly a sight to behold. When you look up at it, you feel like you’ve been plucked out of the United States and plopped down in Paris. Moreover, Philly’s iconic statue of William Penn tops the imposing building. This is a Philadelphia founders’ site not to be missed.

Graeme Park
859 County Line Road
Horsham, PA 19044
(215) 343-0965
graemepark.org

Graeme Park has connections to not just one, but two founders of Philadelphia. The manor was built in 1722 and originally belonged to Sir William Keith, who was William Penn’s provincial governor in the new colony of Pennsylvania. Later, the manor was owned by Elizabeth Graeme, who was engaged to marry William Franklin, Ben Franklin’s son, until Franklin sent her a “Dear Jane” letter after he married another woman during a trip to England. If you’re into history, or you just like spending time in an idyllic park, this place is for you. At just 40 minutes from downtown Philadelphia, it would make for a great day trip.

Related: Top Historical Spots In Philadelphia

American Philosophical Society Museum
104 S 5th St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 440-3442
apsmuseum.org

The American Philosophical Society Museum building was erected in the 1780s and was our nation’s first museum, academy of science and national library. Moreover, Benjamin Franklin himself founded the American Philosophical Society to promote “useful knowledge.” The society is still ongoing and is renowned for its excelled scholarly research and publications. If you’re interested in either Benjamin Franklin or critical thinking, this is the spot for you.

Historical Fallsington
4 Yardley Ave
Fallsington, PA 19054
(215) 295-6567
historicfallsington.org

This entire town will make you think that time has stood still. Fallsington is nearly perfectly preserved from its 17th, 18th and 19th century roots. Guided tours include log cabins, a stagecoach tavern from the 1700s and the 1809 Burgess Lippincott mansion. This town grew up around a 1690 Quaker meetinghouse that was actually frequented by William Penn himself, who lived nearby. It is only a half an hour from Philadelphia and definitely worth visiting.

Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
419 S 6th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 925-0616
motherbethel.org

Mother Bethel AME Church is our country’s first black denomination. It was founded in 1797, and if you’re looking for the African American founders of Philadelphia, you can’t do better than visiting the oldest piece of land continuously owned by African Americans in the United States. The church began in the 1700s, when Reverend Richard Allen and Absalom Jones encouraged African Americans to stop sitting in the black-only balconies of the city’s traditional white churches and instead form their own congregations.

Related: Best Book Clubs To Join In Philadelphia

Katherine Ernst is a full-time novelist and freelance writer in Montgomery County. Follow her activity on her blog at katherineernstwrites.com. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

 

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