The oldest sections of Philadelphia—Society Hill, and the Independence Hall area—lie to the east, along and inland from the Delaware.
Southwark is the oldest, having been settled by Swedes in 1643.
Among the more interesting is the Germantown section of North Philadelphia, settled in Penn’s time by Germans and the home in the 18th century of wealthy Philadelphians fleeing the periodic yellow-fever epidemics of the riverside city.
North Philadelphia has a large African American and Puerto Rican community.
Once a section of outlying estates of the wealthy, the park contains many fine old mansions maintained by the city as museums.
Through it winds the narrow valley of Wissahickon Creek, whose rugged beauty has inspired generations of poets and painters.
Its many trees, parks and other open spaces, and its quiet pace of life reflect in various ways the genteel Benjamin Franklin, a Philadelphian by adoption, who left his imprint on innumerable ongoing institutions, both cultural and commercial, in the city.
Beneath this facade, however, Philadelphia represents an urban cluster of national and international stature. The Port of Philadelphia and Camden, one of the largest freshwater ports in the world, is the major element in the official agglomeration of Delaware River ports, collectively one of the busiest shipping centres in the world.
This latter area contains some of the city’s finest old houses, taverns, and churches, though some high-rise apartment buildings strike a dissonant note in the hearts of many Philadelphians.In 1987, a change was signalled by the completion of the first of a number of new skyscrapers that redefined the skyline of Philadelphia and formed part of the construction boom that took place during the 1990s and early 2000s.The long stretches of Philadelphia north, south, and west of the intersection of Broad and Chestnut streets, a city hub of sorts just below Penn Square, contain numerous distinctive sections, often identified for generations with various ethnic groups that have filled the city during its long history.Nearby, Elfreth’s Alley, dating from 1702, contains 33 houses that make up the oldest continuously inhabited street in the country.Included in the complex are Carpenters’ Hall, site of the meeting of the First Continental Congress, and Philosophical Hall, home of the American Philosophical Society.The building itself, opened on January 1, 1901, is one of the city’s great monuments and is the largest example of French Second Empire architecture in the United States.City Hall contains 700 rooms and 250 architectural reliefs and sculptures by William Penn that stands atop the building’s main tower; the tip of his hat— almost 549 feet above ground level, or approximately 33 stories—was for some 90 years the highest point in the city, by an unwritten “gentleman’s agreement.” Four shady, fountained squares—Logan, Franklin, Washington, and Rittenhouse—dot the quadrants.South Street is a popular night spot with shops, restaurants, and theatres, connecting Headhouse Square, a renovated colonial market place, and Penn’s Landing.For most of the 20th century the major features of the skyline were the massive contours of the city’s many banking and financial institutions.It has nothing approaching New York City’s Fifth Avenue as a street of large stores.Pine and other streets are noted for such specialties as antique shops, and Chestnut Street contains many smaller shops along with a Lord & Taylor department store on the site of the former Philadelphia institution, Wanamaker’s.