Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

473 Topics

Downtown
A discussion about downtown area in Philadelphia and connections from today with its historical past.

West of Broad
A collection of articles about the area west of Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Delaware (State of)
DelawareOriginally the "lower counties" of Pennsylvania, and thus one of three Quaker colonies founded by William Penn, Delaware has developed its own set of traditions and history.

Religious Philadelphia
William Penn wanted a colony with religious freedom. A considerable number, if not the majority, of American religious denominations were founded in this city. The main misconception about religious Philadelphia is that it is Quaker-dominated. But the broader misconception is that it is not Quaker-dominated.

Custom Tour of Private Philadelphia
Philadelphia Hospitality, a non-profit group, puts together the following tour for visiting bigwigs. A good guide to what's best around here.

Particular Sights to See:Center City
Taxi drivers tell tourists that Center City is a "shining city on a hill". During the Industrial Era, the city almost urbanized out to the county line, and then retreated. Right now, the urban center is surrounded by a semi-deserted ring of former factories.

Philadelphia's Middle Urban Ring
Philadelphia grew rapidly for seventy years after the Civil War, then gradually lost population. Skyscrapers drain population upwards, suburbs beckon outwards. The result: a ring around center city, mixed prosperous and dilapidated. Future in doubt.

Tourist Walk in Olde Philadelphia
Colonial Philadelphia can be seen in a hard day's walk, if you stick to the center of town.

Historical Motor Excursion North of Philadelphia
The narrow waist of New Jersey was the upper border of William Penn's vast land holdings, and the outer edge of Quaker influence. In 1776-77, Lord Howe made this strip the main highway of his attempt to subjugate the Colonies.

Land Tour Around Delaware Bay
Start in Philadelphia, take two days to tour around Delaware Bay. Down the New Jersey side to Cape May, ferry over to Lewes, tour up to Dover and New Castle, visit Winterthur, Longwood Gardens, Brandywine Battlefield and art museum, then back to Philadelphia. Try it!

Tourist Trips Around Philadelphia and the Quaker Colonies
The states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and southern New Jersey all belonged to William Penn the Quaker. He was the largest private landholder in American history. Using explicit directions, comprehensive touring of the Quaker Colonies takes seven full days. Local residents would need a couple dozen one-day trips to get up to speed.

Touring Philadelphia's Western Regions
Philadelpia County had two hundred farms in 1950, but is now thickly settled in all directions. Western regions along the Schuylkill are still spread out somewhat; with many historic estates.

Up the King's High Way
New Jersey has a narrow waistline, with New York harbor at one end, and Delaware Bay on the other. Traffic and history travelled the Kings Highway along this path between New York and Philadelphia.

Arch Street: from Sixth to Second
When the large meeting house at Fourth and Arch was built, many Quakers moved their houses to the area. At that time, "North of Market" implied the Quaker region of town.

Up Market Street
to Sixth and Walnut

Independence HallMillions of eye patients have been asked to read the passage from Franklin's autobiography, "I walked up Market Street, etc." which is commonly printed on eye-test cards. Here's your chance to do it.

Sixth and Walnut
over to Broad and Sansom

In 1751, the Pennsylvania Hospital at 8th and Spruce was 'way out in the country. Now it is in the center of a city, but the area still remains dominated by medical institutions.

Montgomery and Bucks Counties
The Philadelphia metropolitan region has five Pennsylvania counties, four New Jersey counties, one northern county in the state of Delaware. Here are the four Pennsylvania suburban ones.

Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Northern Overland Escape Path of the Philadelphia Tories 1 of 1 (16)
Grievances provoking the American Revolutionary War left many Philadelphians unprovoked. Loyalists often fled to Canada, especially Kingston, Ontario. Decades later the flow of dissidents reversed, Canadian anti-royalists taking refuge south of the border.

City Hall to Chestnut Hill
There are lots of ways to go from City Hall to Chestnut Hill, including the train from Suburban Station, or from 11th and Market. This tour imagines your driving your car out the Ben Franklin Parkway to Kelly Drive, and then up the Wissahickon.

Philadelphia Reflections is a history of the area around Philadelphia, PA ... William Penn's Quaker Colonies
    plus medicine, economics and politics ... nearly 4,000 articles in all

Philadelphia Reflections now has a companion tour book! Buy it on Amazon Philadelphia Revelations

Try the search box to the left if you don't see what you're looking for on this page.

Market at Schuylkill

{Privateers}
Kelly Drive River Side

Two columns of commercial high-rise office buildings are now advancing West on Market Street, although construction has halted for the moment because of economic recession. The last four or five blocks before you reach the Schuylkill are in a state of decay characteristic of real estate waiting for a developer.

river view 30th street

Because the land rises to a summit around 22nd Street and then slopes off to the river, Market Street at this point becomes the approach to a bridge, and the buildings have their front doors considerably above the ground. One apartment building and a furniture design building (there's a very good restaurant inside) take advantage of the view over the river, which can be quite spectacular at night. Outdoor lighting at sundown suddenly emphasizes the impressive classical architecture of 30th Street Station, and the Art Museum on its acropolis.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

But down at the bottom of the buildings, well below street level on the bridge approaches, is a pretty intimidating scene right out of some novel by Charles Dickens, with cobblestones, dark alleys, deserted parking lots, and dim street lights. This is the area of the former terminal of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad . In its time, the Terminal building was an admired product of the imagination of Frank Furness(pronounce:"furnace"). It will be remembered that the Pennsylvania RR tracks run along the West bank, converting this lovely river into a depressing sight for several miles. The B&O was the first railroad in America, and for a while, the two railroads were booming competitors. Both railroads have of course gone through bankruptcies and mergers, their names are gone. It's even hard to say for sure who owns what is left of them.

Reading railroad

Just about every railroad in America (the European ones are government subsidized) has been through bankruptcy, so the whole railway industry had a century of the boom but now has an uncertain future. The B & O at first only headed westward to Ohio, but then turned North to try for New York-Washington dominance by coming up the Schuylkill on its East side, going through a tunnel under the Acropolis that now holds the Art Museum, and then turned East along Race Street to join the Reading Railroad at 12th Street. The Reading had a North-South spur called the Trenton Cut-Off which was to be the trunk line for the combined East Coast railroad. Eventually, the Pennsylvania Railroad won this battle by avoiding acquisitions and using leased rights of way. Although it eventually became the dominant railroad of the country, Pennsylvania only owned the property between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, leasing all the rest from about 70 partner lines; it proved a better business model than purchasing the trackage.

{Privateers}
Industrial Revolution

This transportation frenzy had to reflect a major underlying economic upheaval. Two events propelled Philadelphia into the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers, and then the railroads brought it down along the Schuylkill, because the Lehigh River alternative was steep and rocky, filled with dangerous rapids.

The second economic event was the discovery of oil in upstate Pennsylvania. Almost all freight traffic on the great national railroads was going from East to West, so the trains returned East without much cargo. But the discovery of oil was soon followed by the construction of refineries in Philadelphia, creating the return traffic needed to put the Pennsylvania Railroad ahead of its competitors, especially the New York Central. Heavy rail traffic and smoking refineries create a wasteland around them, and that was the price Philadelphia paid for its boom.

For a tour of the area mentioned in this Reflection, visit Seven Tours Through Historic Philadelphia

International Visitors Council

Nancy Gilboy

The President of IVC, Nancy Gilboy, tells us it stands for International Visitors Council, now approaching its 50th anniversary. As you might suppose, it is located at 1515 Arch Street, near the old visitors center. Philadelphia has a new visitors center on 5th Street, of course, and perhaps it takes time to move or maybe moving isn't in the cards. We had another Visitors center on 3rd Street that came and went, so proximity between Center and Council perhaps isn't as important as rental costs, or leases, or other issues.

{Philadelphia Art Museum}
Philadelphia Art Museum

The Council has a modest budget, but a great idea. Anyone who has traveled much knows that you tend to follow the travel agent's set agenda for a town, you see a lot of churches and museums, but you can almost never get tickets for the local entertainment events, and you almost never meet any local people except taxi drivers and bellhops. That's even more true of young travelers, who don't have either the money or the experience to anticipate the issue, or enough local friends to guide them around the obstacles (This exhibit closed on Mondays, that event is all sold out, this event was spectacular, you should have been there yesterday, sorry we didn't know you were coming we have a wedding to go to, etc.). On guided tours, it is remarkable how few things seem to happen after 4 PM.

So, fifty years ago, some imaginative Philadelphia leaders got the idea that a lot of Philadelphia residents would enjoy taking some foreign tourists under their wing, maybe have somebody to know when they, in turn, make a reciprocal visit, maybe boast about our town a little. Furthermore, by getting involved with the US State Department, young visitors can be identified as potential future leaders in their country. If the guess is a good one, and the experience favorable, Philadelphia might prosper from the publicity and from the later return visits, now in the triumph of success. That was the founding spirit of the Philadelphia International Visitors Council.

So that's how it came about that Margaret Thatcher, < Tony Blair, the current President of Poland, and the head of the Russian Space Program were once visitors in Philadelphia homes. People who like to do this sort of thing tend to like each other, so the monthly receptions (First Wednesday at the Warwick) are interesting Philadelphia social occasions in their own right. Success begets success, and the CCP (originally Business for Russia) has affiliated itself, along with the Philadelphia Sister Cities Program, the Consular Corps Association, The Philadelphia Trade Association, and probably others.

Look at it from the visitors' viewpoint. New York has larger colonies of foreign nationals than Philadelphia does, but New York is an expensive place to visit. Washington has dozens and dozens of embassies, but a visitor soon learns the last thing an embassy staff wants to see, is a citizen from home. So those places aren't really a typically American place to visit. Indiana is plenty American, but there isn't much to see there. So Philadelphia has many attractions, lots of history, it's as thoroughly American as a city can be, and all it needs is someone to open up and show it to you. Cleverly organized, the IVC has undoubtedly put the Philadelphia stamp on many foreign visitors, without their exactly recognizing they are being told This is America. If the State Department is shrewd in its assessment process, Philadelphia will in time be held in high esteem by the leaders of a lot of foreign nations.

In the spirit of announcing that Philadelphia is where you can find America, my own little daughter astonished me at a dinner party by telling the assembly the following story:" William Penn was nice to the Indians, so it was safe to land in Philadelphia. Pretty soon, so many people landed here they had to move West to settle down. And, folks, that's why the people to the North of us talk funny, and the people to the South of us talk funny -- but everybody else in America talks like Philadelphia!"

There She Goes, Miss America

Atlantic City has long been a summer resort, crowded with people on the boardwalk by the sea. But families suddenly disappear at Labor Day, when the kids go back to school. So, in 1921 the merchant community hit on an idea to extend the busy season an extra week, by having a big beauty contest on the week following Labor Day. The early Miss America contest struggled for a year or two and then became an established annual national ritual. The hotels and boardwalk did indeed stay crowded for an extra week, during which a publicity campaign was conducted to build up anticipation for the big Saturday night event. The preliminaries included interviews and mini contests, for the bathing suit division, the evening gown division, arguments about official state representation, occasional scandalous behavior, parades in open convertible cars, and whatnot and whatnot. Behind the scenes, there were little local battles, including a grim determination not to have a negro girl represent a state from the old Confederacy. Since only one Jewish girl ever won the contest in eighty years, there were probably other issues in other states, hidden behind the curtains. Smoking and drinking were prohibited but scarcely non-existent, as was getting married or pregnant; much of the fuss about these lesser moral issues was probably intended to cloak the event with the high moral tone, counteracting some unfortunate early beginnings of the pageant, and the exciting laxity traditionally associated with summer resorts by the ocean. But they aimed at and succeeded in attracting, a certain kind of audience.

For months before the pageant by the sea, preliminary contests were held throughout various states to select the local Queen, Miss Arizona, Miss Mississippi, Miss Delaware and so on. The people involved in these local contests duly trooped to Atlantic City to see the big event and cheer their candidate. Over time, it became clear that some states worked really hard on this effort; Mississippi was a notorious big spender, and a consistent big winner, but others were almost as determined to win. The grassroots campaign was largely centered on small-town high schools, but the effort was conducted by a great many local women, mostly middle-aged and often quite homely, who somehow got control of local beauty politics and ran the local contests. Over the years, two of these groupies had been nurses who worked in hospitals where I was a consultant, and I got to watch their enthusiasm bubbling under the surface. One woman had worked for years as a night nurse. The sort of person who sleeps all day and works all night tends to be a little odd, often slightly hostile. But when I asked this ancient battle-ax every year about the contest, she immediately blossomed and went on for half an hour about the gossip surrounding this year's contestants and winner. There was something about all this which was like the fantasies of playing with dolls, fulfilling unfulfilled dreams. If you pause to think about it, that enormous convention hall in Atlantic City wasn't filled with school kids after Labor Day; the school kids were back at school. Although the publicity was all about kids and giggles, the real fans were dreaming of days long past, perhaps as former beauties, more often only wannabes, their dreaming only intensified by knowing for a certainty that this success would never be theirs.

It was this self-delusion quality which the promoters of the contest never seemed to get through their heads; after all, the pageant was created and promoted by local merchants who mostly aimed to sell salt-water taffy to the rubes. Radio, and then television, gave the Miss America contest a big publicity push, and then eventually used up its material. When the casino crowd moved into A.C., the non-gambling ladies playing with dolls quickly demonstrated they didn't gamble, in fact, would sass the serious gamblers for their idiotic behavior losing money as fast as they could. TV ratings, contest attendance, and publicity began to fall off rather seriously. The idea was tried that perhaps women now wanted careers, so "points" were awarded for talent shows, musical performances, and brief contests about current events. Foo. That's not what the audiences wanted. So the contest moved to Las Vegas, and the date was shifted to January, a slow time for casinos. The awards were shifted from national tours and opportunities for screen tests to the awarding of college scholarships. Unfortunately, most of the contestants were already in college or married, and the scholarships were in fact mostly used to pay off trailing debts from colleges already attended.

So Miss America, now regularly a black woman but seldom a Jewish one, continue to be fodder for the sponsors and promoters of the pageant. But wherever it goes and whatever its modifications, the Miss America contest is never going to return to former glory until it learns who its real audience is. The lonesome, middle aged lady who dreams of playing dolls with live dolls.

And then, Miss America went away. Some other city has her. Atlantic City lost her. And there she goes, Miss America.

Google Earth: Philadelphia Virtual Tours

{Google Earth}
Google Earth

Like most computer software, Google Earth can be expected to bring out new versions and updates, regularly. Therefore, it is a little uncertain to depend on precision in the instructions for how to use it for a particular purpose. With that warning that the reader may find it necessary to look around, the following instructions should enable a tour around town, and out to neighboring places of particular interest to Philadelphia. Once you get the hang of it you can take tours of everywhere on earth, so it's a great skill to master.

So, download Google Earth if you don't already have it, and click on the button called "Directions", which you ought to find in the upper left-hand corner of the displayed program. Enter the start of the trip and the destination, click the "play" button or its icon, and sit back. Because Google assumes you want to take the straightest possible high-speed tour, it sometimes isn't suitable for trips along historic roads, or for linking several tours together. Therefore, a trip to Kingston, Ontario (where the Tories fled ) requires at least two trips: one straight north to Doylestown, and then another straight north to Kingston. By doing that, you get the feel for the way the Tories went through the Delaware Water Gap, rather than up the Northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Perhaps in time, the folks at Google will make historic tours possible, but right now this is the only way to accomplish it.

Due North of Philadelphia, More or Less

{Privateers}
Google Earth

Airplane pilots tell us the main streets of quite a few cities seem laid out as if with a compass, north, and south, east and west. Philadelphia probably started that tradition in America, although Google Earth will show anyone who doubts it that Beijing, China was laid out along the same grid two thousand years earlier. It seems possible that Thomas Holmes was aiming at the Delaware Water Gap when he drew his famous map for William Penn, but there are troublesome objections. Broad Street, itself due North-South, when extended is called Route 611, heading straight for Doylestown, and then for the Water Gap. While there's a second pass through Blue Mountain at Wind Gap, it was a hard climb in the 17th Century. Until the Lehigh Tunnel was built, the water gap was the only practical way to go north for three centuries. The gap's existence had been known to the Indians for centuries, and the dividing line between East and West Jersey terminates at Dingman's Ferry, essentially the same place as the Delaware Water Gap. Since Penn's Proprietorship of New Jersey was seven years older than his ownership of Pennsylvania, he definitely knew about the main landmark of the area which he used as a fixed boundary marker. In fact, it is a tradition among modern proprietors that he unsuccessfully pressured the boundary negotiation in order to get both sides of the Delaware Gap into West Jersey, taking advantage of the sharp bend in the river for the purpose. Since he eventually owned or controlled all of the regions, it seems entirely plausible that he could arrange the direction of the roads as he pleased. There is one big problem with such a unifying hypothesis, however. If the Water Gap was to be made due North of Broad Street, and Broad Street was to be the center of the city, there was no way to accomplish it except by adjusting the location of the whole City of Philadelphia. That was within his power as owner, but it seems an extreme way to get maps tidy. The alternative explanation is that these mapping niceties were just a series of coincidences, and that is equally hard to believe. Present-day proprietors are often engineers and surveyors, so even to mention these issues is likely to lead to indignant dispute.

The Allegheny Mountains run from Georgia to the Adirondacks, presenting a sheer face to the East with very few gaps except for the major rivers. The water gap was a busy place for all North-South travel, whether on riverboats, canals, railroads or Interstate highways -- or mocassins. From there up to Canada, the simple explanation for a continued northerly path was there was scarcely any other way to go. The rivers and finger lakes have a due north orientation between mountain ridges as a result of advancing glaciers and receding glacier melt. That's the whole idea of global warming and global cooling; the polar ice cap advances and recedes from the north pole. When you are standing on the North Pole, everything else is South of you.

With logic plus a little imagination, it's thus possible then to see why a compass points you from City Hall, Philadelphia to Kingston Ontario, but how fast you go is your decision. The rest of this article argues that this seemingly desolate trail is peppered with an interesting history; even if you drive straight and fast, you ought to know a little about what you are passing. In this suggested trip, the traveler is urged to consider stopping for half a day in Doylestown, followed by the Water Gap, or Jim Thorpe, PA. You might alternatively duck off the Pennsylvania Turnpike extension into Wilkes-Barre and Great Bend, or toward Ithaca and Cornell University's famous bird sanctuary, then onward to Skaneateles and Marcellus over good local roads, tipping your cap toward Apalachin the gangster headquarters as you go. People in a hurry to get to Canada will take Interstate 81 most of the way, but at least consider taking secondary roads along Lake Ontario. It's a very pleasant drive, including a stop in Sackets Harbor for at least a meal. And then, detour to Clayton and Alexandria Bay before going over the international bridge to Canada. Finally, go down along the northern shore of Lake Ontario to Kingston. You're there.

Getting home after a long weekend is a hard drive, four-lane highways suggested, stopping at some of the places mentioned on the way home rather than using them all up on the way north. The detours add perhaps a half day to the trip in each direction. If you have the time, a trip westward along the northern or southern sides of Lake Ontario to Niagara Falls would be very nice, but not the subject of this topic.

It's pleasant to wander and stop at interesting places on impulse, but it's also nice to have a fairly clear idea of the day's outlines. You can eat in nice restaurants or grab a burger in a fast-food outlet; it often makes little difference which you choose. If you are traveling with children, tell the waitress to bring some crackers for the kids when she brings the menu. But by all means avoid the dreadful experience of watching it get darker and darker in the evening, with all the hotels full and adamant about it. By at least four o'clock in the afternoon, pick out a likely place to spend the night and call ahead for a reservation.

If you are traveling on a tight budget, at lunch don't go to a fast-food place, but to a supermarket. Pick up ingredients of tomorrow's breakfast and today's lunch; at the check-out counter, ask where the town park is, for a picnic lunch. With an assured place to spend the night, it's a lot easier to take a bath there, and then go out on the town for dinner. The main reason people drive like demons and thus miss the most interesting parts of a vacation trip comes from not knowing how to manage the children, and the details of travel life.

175 Volumes

The Right Angle Club of Philadelphia -- Club Matters
The Exchange luncheon club of Philadelphia, then meeting at the Bourse, withdrew from association with other Exchange Clubs on a point of principle -- hence the name it adopted, the Right Angle Club.

Philadephia: America's Capital, 1774-1800
The Continental Congress met in Philadelphia from 1774 to 1788. Next, the new republic had its capital here from 1790 to 1800. Thoroughly Quaker Philadelphia was in the center of the founding twenty-five years when, and where, the enduring political institutions of America emerged.

Sociology: Philadelphia and the Quaker Colonies
The early Philadelphia had many faces, its people were varied and interesting; its history turbulent and of lasting importance.

Nineteenth Century Philadelphia 1801-1928 (III)
At the beginning of our country Philadelphia was the central city in America.

Philadelphia: Decline and Fall (1900-2060)
The world's richest industrial city in 1900, was defeated and dejected by 1950. Why? Digby Baltzell blamed it on the Quakers. Others blame the Erie Canal, and Andrew Jackson, or maybe Martin van Buren. Some say the city-county consolidation of 1858. Others blame the unions. We rather favor the decline of family business and the rise of the modern corporation in its place.