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Philadelphia - a City of Firsts

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Philadelphia in Pennsylvania is more than just the birthplace of the U.S.A., it is home to many of the nation’s first landmarks and modern inventions. As one of the original colonies in the United States, Philadelphia is known as a city of historical ‘firsts,’ and offers a host of entertaining and historical attractions that display the beginnings of this thriving city.

 

The Academy of Natural Sciences

The oldest natural sciences institution in the Western Hemisphere, The Academy of Natural Sciences was founded in 1812 when Philadelphia was the cultural, commercial, and scientific center of the new nation. Since its founding, The Academy of Natural Sciences has made tremendous progress in unlocking the secrets of life through its world-renown scientific research and expansive scientific collections. On top of its 17 million specimens, The Academy of Natural Sciences houses the first dinosaur skeleton discovered in North America, the oldest collections of mollusks, fish, and plants in the Western Hemisphere, the first specimen of petrified wood ever collected and the only meteorite to have fallen in the state of New Jersey. The Academy is open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday, and holidays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults (ages 13 and up), $8 for children (ages 3-12), and free for children under three.

The Academy of Natural Sciences is located at 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 215/229-1000. 

Philadelphia Academy of Natural Science

Bartram’s Garden

Only minutes from the hustle and bustle of Center City Philadelphia, Bartram’s Garden offers a tranquil escape into America’s oldest living botanical garden and pastoral 18th century homestead. Explore John Bartram's 18th-century home, barn, and a cider press carved from bedrock. See delicate flora, saved from extinction by the Bartram family and named for John Bartram's great friend, Benjamin Franklin. Guests can also stroll through the fragrant Common Flower Garden and the riverside meadow with a spectacular view of the Philadelphia skyline.

The 45-acre grounds at Bartram's Garden are free and open to the public weekdays (except Mondays and City-observed holidays) from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and weekends from noon to 4 p.m. Bartram’s Garden is located at 54th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard, 215/729-5281.  

Crystal Cave 

Located in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Crystal Cave is the most popular natural attraction in Pennsylvania. Nature has slowly carved calcium crystals into the cave walls creating magnificent formations. Crystal Cave was discovered in 1871 and is Pennsylvania’s oldest operating cave. The cave is open 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., from March 1 through November 30. Guided tours are available, $11.00 for adults, $7.00 for children (ages 4-11), and free for children under three.

Crystal Cave is located at 963 Crystal Cave Road in Kutztown, PA, 610/683-6765.  

Elfreth’s Alley 

Located in the heart of Philadelphia's history-rich Old City neighborhood, Elfreth's Alley is a National Historic Landmark and the nation's oldest residential street, dating back to 1702. In its distinguished history, the Alley has been the home to thousands of residents, from Benjamin Franklin's colleagues to large families, immigrants to esquires, all which reflect the diversity of Philadelphia itself. Elfreth’s Alley is open seasonally and admission to the museum is $5.00 for adults, $1.00 for students (ages 6-18), and free for children under six.

Elfreth’s Alley is located on 2nd Street, between Arch and Race streets, 215/574-0560.  

Elfreths Alley Philadelphia

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Founded in 1824 in Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest historical societies in the United States. Some 600,000 printed items and more than 19 million manuscript and graphic items are housed in the Society’s building. The Society is one of the largest family history libraries in the nation, has preeminent printed collections on Pennsylvania and regional history, and currently serves as a center for information on ethnic communities and immigrant experiences. The Society’s library is open Tuesday, from 12:30 until 5:30 p.m.; Wednesday, from 12:30 until 8:30 p.m.; Thursday, from 12:30 until 5:30 p.m.; and Friday, from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. 

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is located at 13th and Locust streets, 215/732-6200.  

The Italian Market

The Philadelphia Italian Market is the oldest and largest working outdoor market in the United States. Still predominantly Italian, the market has the best of many cultures and cuisines to offer gourmet cooks and shoppers alike. Fresh fruits and vegetables, domestic and imported cheeses, as well as fresh meats and herbal remedies can all be found at the Italian Market. The market is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The Italian Market is located in the heart of historic Philadelphia, on 9th Street from Wharton to Fitzwater streets. 

Italian Market Philadelphia

Loews Philadelphia Hotel, formerly the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (PSFS)

Founded in 1816, PSFS was the first savings bank in the United States. Its original headquarters building was erected in 1932 and is widely considered to be the first international modernist skyscraper with air conditioning. In 1997 the PSFS building, located directly across from the Pennsylvania Convention Center, was renovated as a luxury hotel and is now home to the Loews Philadelphia Hotel.

Loews Philadelphia Hotel is located at 12th and Market streets, 215/627-1200. 

The Wanamaker Building

Wanamaker’s department store was the first department store in Philadelphia. Designed by famous architect Daniel H. Burnham, the 12-story granite Wanamaker Building was completed in 1910 and encompassed an entire block at the corner of 13th and Market streets. Other firsts for this building include: becoming the first store to guarantee the quality of its merchandise in print in 1861; the first store to have a guaranteed refund policy in 1865; the first department store to open a public restaurant in 1876; the first department store to be illuminated by electricity in 1878; first store to use Bell telephones in 1879; first store to install pneumatic tubes as cash carriers in 1880; first store to install elevators in 1882; first store to become an establishment for young employees in 1896; and the first store in the nation to have a wireless. In fact, the store received news of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. 

The building also housed the world's largest instrument, the Wanamaker Organ, and the 2,500-pound bronze "Wanamaker Eagle" in the store's Grand Court. The Eagle became a famous meeting place for residents who simply said, "Meet me at the eagle." 

In 2006, Macy’s department store made the Wanamaker building its newest home. Equipped with a welcome center and special discounts for an out-of-state and international visitors, the Wanamaker building remains the most popular visited department store in Center City.

The Wanamaker Building is located at 13th and Market streets, 215/241-9000.

Macys Philadelphia

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Founded in 1805, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is the oldest art museum and school in the nation. The Academy's museum is internationally known for its collections of 19th- and 20th-century American paintings, sculptures and works on paper. Its archives house important materials for the study of American art history, museums and art training. The current museum building opened in 1876 and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Designed by the American architects Frank Furness and George W. Hewitt, it was carefully restored in 1976.

The Academy’s galleries are open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is $10.00 for adults, $8.00 for students and seniors, $6.00 for youth (ages 5 – 18), and children under five are free. 

Museum tours are given at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on weekdays, and Noon and 1 p.m. on weekends. Tours are free with admission.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is located at 118-128 North Broad Street, 215/972-7600. 

Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts

Pennsylvania Hospital

Founded in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond "to care for the sick, poor and insane who were wandering the streets of Philadelphia,” Pennsylvania Hospital is the oldest hospital in the country. It now stands as a symbol of innovation in patient care, treatment techniques, and medical research. The hospital operates as a 500-bed facility offering a full range of diagnostic and therapeutic medical services.

Pennsylvania Hospital also has an impressive list of “firsts” including: Historic Library, the first medical library in the United States, which began in 1762 as a teaching and reference library for the hospital's managers, physicians and medical students; the nation’s first surgical amphitheatre, which served as the operating room from 1804 through 1868, where surgeries were performed on sunny days between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. since there was no electricity at the time.

Guided and self-guided tours are offered Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Appointments are required for the guided tours, 215/829-3270. 

Pennsylvania Hospital, part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, is located in historic Society Hill at 8th and Spruce streets, 215-829-3000 www.uphs.upenn.edu/paharc/

Pennsylvania Hospital

Philadelphia Zoo

The Philadelphia Zoo, opened in 1874, is America’s first zoo. The zoo now houses more than 1,600 rare and exotic species, including red pandas, blue-eyed lemurs, tree kangaroos, and so many more. The Philadelphia Zoo also has many ‘firsts’ of its own: first animal health laboratory (1901), first successful birth of orangutan in a U.S. zoo (1928), and first children’s zoo in western hemisphere (1938). The Philadelphia Zoo is open March through November, from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily; and December through February, from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily. Admission prices vary.

In 1793, the first North American passenger balloon flight occurred in Philadelphia. More than 200 years later, Zooballoon, the Philadelphia Zoo’s helium balloon, rises 400 feet above the treetops of the Zoo overlooking giraffes and zebras. Guests may enjoy both daytime and evening flights on the region's lone passenger-carrying helium balloon. Voyages last approximately 15 minutes and are offered seasonally, April through October.

The Philadelphia Zoo is located at the corner of 34th Street and Girard Avenue in Philadelphia’s historic Fairmount Park, 215/243-1100. 

Treetop Trail Philadelphia Zoo

United States Mint in Philadelphia

The first Federal Mint was completed in the fall of 1792 when Philadelphia was the nation’s capitol city. The first mint was erected at 7th and Arch streets and by March 1793, it delivered its first circulating coins: 11,178 copper cents. David Rittenhouse, a leading American scientist and the first Director of the United States Mint, oversaw their production.

Today, the nation's first mint provides a wide array of coins and manufacturing services, including making circulating coins of all denominations, and commemorative coins as authorized by Congress, and producing the dies for stamping coins and medals. In addition, Philadelphia is currently the only United States Mint facility that engraves the designs of the U.S. coins and medals. It took coiners three years to produce our nation's first million coins. To produce the same amount today, takes 22.2 hours.

Tours are offered Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Visitors can watch money being made, view early coins, and learn the story behind our nation's currency. Tours begin at the United States Mint at Philadelphia’s visitor entrance, located on 5th Street between Arch and Race streets, and are offered on a "first come, first served" basis pending availability. Adults will be asked to provide government-issued photo identification for security purposes.

The United States Mint in Philadelphia is located at 151 North Independence Mall East, 215/408-0110.  

 

Walnut Street Theatre

Operating continuously since opening in 1809, the Walnut Street Theatre has earned the distinction of being the oldest theatre in America. Walnut Street Theatre has its own list of ‘firsts,’ including being the first theatre to install gas footlights and air conditioning. Some of the shining stars that appeared on the same Walnut stage that exists today include: Helen Hayes, Houdini, George M. Cohan, George C. Scott, Jack Lemmon, Mike Nichols, Jane Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, Ethel Waters, and Jessica Tandy. 

Since 1983, Walnut Street Theatre has produced more than 145 plays, including 23 world premieres, and 10 American premieres. The Walnut Street Theatre School was established in 1985 and has provided theatre instruction, self-improvement, and a deepened appreciation of the art form through its Outreach Programs and classes to more than 30,000 children and adults annually. 

Walnut Street Theatre is located at 825 Walnut Street, 215/574-3550.  

 

For more information on what there is to see and do in this iconic city – visit http://www.philadelphiausa.travel

 

 

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