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A step into the past.

Welcome to the birthplace of the nation! With its 18th century national icons standing next to 21st century skyscrapers, Philadelphia prides itself as a mecca of history art, culture and cuisine. RIMS 2005 offers a busy schedule but don't forget to take some time to explore the city Travel & Leisure magazine ranks as one of the top three U.S. destinations to visit for historical sites and monuments.

Philadelphia was founded in 1682 by William Penn, an English Quaker who envisioned a colony based on racial harmony and religious freedom. As one of the largest communities in the colonies, Philadelphia is the site of many historical events before, during and after the American Revolution. In the aftermath of the French and Indian War (1763), Britain imposed stricter regulations regarding colonial trade. Opposition to this policy and levying of unfair taxes by the British government led to increasing support for independence among many Americans in the 1770s.

By 1774, Philadelphia had become the military, economic and political hub of the colonies. That year, the city hosted the First Continental Congress, and in 1776, patriots declared their independence at the State House (later renamed Independence Hall). In 1787, the Constitutional Convention was held at Independence Hall, where fine delegates drafted the Constitution. From 1776 to 1800 (except for a brief period from 1789 to 1790), Philadelphia served as the nation's capital.

After the Revolution, Philadelphia continued to flourish as one of the nation's greatest cities. Very early, it was recognized as America's first multicultural society and by 1790, Philadelphia was home to the nation's largest free African American population. In the 1800s, the city became one of the nation's top industrial centers and also formed a major hub of the country's nascent railway system. This manufacturing brawn would come to play in the Civil War, making Philadelphia a main provider of uniforms, munitions and rifles for the Union Army.

Of the dozens of city attractions for the history buff, an excursion to the Liberty Bell (Market & 6th Sts., 215.597.8974) is an ideal starting point. First arriving from England in 1752, this great American icon of freedom was ordered by the Pennsylvania Assembly to commemorate the 50th anniversary of William Penn's Charter of Privileges, which involved citizens in the law-making process and granted freedom of religion in Pennsylvania. The 2,080-pound bell rang on July 8, 1776 to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. In later years, it toiled for the deaths of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The bell's signature crack did not appear until the 1800s and by 1846, it had expanded enough to render the bell mute.

A few steps away sits Independence Hall (Chestnut St., between 5th and 6th Sts., 215-597-8974). This historic building with its charming Georgian architecture is often known as the birthplace of our nation. Within its walls, the Second Continental Congress was housed from 1775 to 1783 (except for the winter of 1777 to 1778 when Philadelphia was occupied by the British Army). It was in the Assembly Room of this building that George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in 1775, the Declaration of Independence was penned and signed and the Constitution was written. (Admission is free, but timed tickets are required. To reserve a ticket, visit http://reservations.nps.gov.)

Rebuilt in 1975 from old photos, Graft (Declaration) House (7th & Market Sts., 215.597.8974) is the historical landmark where Thomas Jefferson rented out rooms during the three weeks in which he drafted the Declaration of Independence. The first and second floors contain a re-creation of the rooms that Jefferson rented out during his stay.

Carpenters' Hall (320 Chestnut St., 215.925.0167) is where the story of the young nation continues. For years, it was home to many national institutions, including the country's first lending library, the First Continental Congress, the first Secretary of War, the First Bank of the United States, the Second Bank of the United States, the Franklin Institute, and the first trade exhibition.

Founded in 1695, Christ Church (2nd & Market Sis., 215.922.1695) is the birthplace of the American Episcopal Church. George Washington, Betsy Ross and Benjamin Franklin are some well-known figures who once worshipped inside this quaint structure. The church is still an active Episcopal parish today and is also the location of daily presentations of the church's history

A pilgrimage to the church is not complete without a tour of the Christ Church Burial Ground, the final resting place for some of the nation's most prominent figures, including Ben Franklin and four other signers of the Declaration of Independence. While here, be sure to throw a penny onto Ben Franklin's grave, as it is believed to bring good luck.

As for learning about Franklin himself, be sure to explore Franklin Court (318 Market St., 215.597.8974). 318 Market Street was Franklin's home when he served in the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention and as President of Pennsylvania. Today, the original building no longer stands, but the Court features a print shop and a U.S. Post Office. Directly below is a museum filled with paintings, objects, and inventions associated with one of the most fascinating characters in American history

There is as much to see inside Independence National Historic Park as there is to see outside. Take a stroll down the cobblestone streets to the Betsy Ross House (239 Arch St., 215.686.1252), home of the patriot believed to have made the first American flag. Tour the house and learn about that historic day in 1776 when General George Washington and two members of the Continental Congress walked through the door of Ross upholstery shop and asked her to make a flag for the new nation (self-guided tour, $3: audio guide and admission, $5).

For those not interested in site-hopping, the National Constitution Center (525 Arch St., Independence Mall, 215.409.6600) offers inquisitive minds a compact history lesson in one visit. The world's first museum dedicated to honoring and explaining the U.S. Constitution, the Center features over 100 interactive and multimedia exhibits, artifacts and films (admission: $7).

And if time permits, take a relaxing drive along Philadelphias scenic routes and travel to the outskirts of town. A 25minute westward drive from the city is Valley Forge National Historic Park (Rt 23 & N. Gulph Rd., 610.783.1077), where General George Washington and his 2,000 soldiers camped during the brutal winter of 1777-78. Though no battles were fought at Valley Forge, this site is a true testament to the strength of the American spirit. Hike around the pastoral grounds and view Washington's headquarters, the troops' log cabins and cannons.

Rich in history, there is more to Philadelphia than its political backdrop. The Nations Birthplace is also the home of the nation's first medical school, hospital and pharmacy. Founded in 1751 by Ben Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond, Pennsylvania Hospital (8th & Spruce Sts., 215.829.7352) is the nation's first hospital. Visitors can tour the hospital grounds, which feature a historic Medical Library, the first and largest in the United States, and the Surgical Amphitheatre, the country's oldest. The amphitheater was the setting of many of the operations performed by Dr. Philip Syng Physick, known "the Father of American Surgery" (admission is free).

For those not inclined to roaming around the halls of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson's favorite hangouts, Eastern State Penitentiary (2124 Fairmount Ave., 215.236.3300) is the place to go. Opened in 1829 as the birthplace of solitary confinement, this imposing granite medieval castle surrounded by huge turrets and 30-foot-high, 12-foot-thick walls once housed notorious criminals such as bank robber Willie Sutton and Chicago kingpin Al Capone. Heralded by Theodore Fischer of the Travel Channel as the "world's best prison museum," Eastern State gives the curious out-of-towner a glimpse into the morbid world of prison life (admission: $7).
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Title Annotation:Historical Attraction of Philadelphia
Author:Leong, Blenda
Publication:Risk Management
Geographic Code:1U2PA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
Words:1322
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