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)
Originally 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.
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.
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
Millions 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.
MEETING OF THE SHAKSPERE SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA AT THE FRANKLIN INN CLUB, NOVEMBER 5, 2003
Dean Wagner in the chair. Other members present Ake, Bartlett, Binnion, Bornemann, Cramer, Dunn, Fallon, Fisher, Frye, Green, Griffin, Hopkinson, Lehmann, Mabry, Madeira, Peck, Pickering, Warden. Mr. Dunn introduced his guest Daniel Richter, Professor of History at Penn and Mr. Dunn's successor as the director of the McNeil Center for the Study of Early American History.
The Secretary has been looking through the minutes and the menus of the Society in the 1850's, 60's and 70's. (These ancient documents are part of the H.H. Furness collection in the Van Pelt Library at Penn. Mr. Furness, one of the first eminent American Shakspere scholars, was the second secretary of our Society).) Minutes are at times detailed, at others minimal; the extensive minutes show that Society meetings typically were spent discussing, in excruciating detail, the meanings of a series of difficult phrases and lines from the play under study (usually one a season). Suspect textual readings were warmly debated as well. Annual dinners were at first held just after Christmas and then, from the end of the Civil War, on or near Shakspere's birthday. They were six- or seven-course affairs, with wines served with each course, followed by discussions about perhaps eight or nine different topics relevant to the play studied during the previous month. These sessions lasted for six or seven hours in some years. A heroic age!
We began our reading of Macbeth at the start of Act Three, Scene Four. The Vice Dean asked us to continue to think about why Macbeth and his Lady change as they do, and to ask ourselves how powerful the influence of the witches is on Macbeth. A member asked about the Third Murderer who appears in 3.3 and only there; is he, Macbeth, as some claim? Unlikely, the Vice Dean feels: Macbeth does not know in 3.4 that Fleance has escaped. This very minor part is cut in some productions of the play.
3.4'Macbeth now shows himself a full-fledged tyrant and is so named several times in the rest of Act Three. Earlier, he felt excruciating regret for his murder of Duncan; now he orders more murders without compunction. Did discussion ensue about the nature of the ghost of Banquo: a figment of Macbeth's imagination? No one else at the banquet sees him/it. A contrast to the witches: Macbeth and Banquo both see them in Act One. Could one stage the play without a ghost appearing? Some members emphatically endorsed this idea.
Macbeth may be ruthless now, but he is still tortured by inner fears: conscience? He refers vividly to the worthlessness of the power he now enjoys: he and his Lady "eat our meals in fear" and cannot sleep without "these terrible dreams that shake us nightly." He tells himself that "blood will have blood," that inevitably murder will out. At the end of this wonderful scene, he tried to calm himself by renouncing forethought before action: as long as he kills as soon as he thinks of it, he can have mental peace. As if, Mac!
3.5'Hecate's scene with the witches is a later addition, scholars agree (Thomas Middleton was paid for additions to a later staging of the play, we know). "Oh well done, I commend your pains/ And everyone will share in the gains" sounds like Grand Ole Opry rather than the bearded crones who chant about fingers of babies "Ditch-delivered by a drab" and strangled at birth.
3.6'In England, patriotic Scots get help from Edward the Confessor, as piously healing as Macbeth is ruthlessly bloodthirsty. The Vice Dean noted the imagery that makes Macbeth a source of disease to the land he rules. Overthrowing Mac, says a Lord, will allow Scots to eat their meals and sleep in peace, echoing Macbeth's language in 3.4.
4.1'Vigorous reading of this scene by all the assembled company! Do we see a decisive moment here of change by Macbeth into a complete moral monster? He decides to kill all of the escaped Macduff's family. Members commented that the tyrant behaves as irrationally, as primitively here as a Saddam Hussein or a Joseph Stalin: mindless revenge that yields no clear benefit to the ruler. Macbeth, desperate, repeats to himself that he must stop thinking about what to do to protect himself and simply act brutally, cruelly, murderously. The Vice Dean contrasted Macbeth here to Hamlet, endlessly analyzing whether and how he should act to avenge his father's murder. (Your scribe might add that Hamlet sounds rather Mac-like when he tells himself to sweep to his revenge and to "put away all trivial fond records" in Act One, and when he praises the brutal Fortinbras and castigates himself in Act Four: "O from this time forth/ My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth!")
The witches both give Macbeth false hope in 4.1 and drive him frantic with dismay: no man born of a woman can kill him, he will not fall till the woods come to his castle' but the progeny of Banquo will be kings for generations to come. This ambiguity of message, these mixed feelings in Macbeth, are pervasive in the play.
4.2'Lady Macduff and her son are killed, the boy before our eyes'unusual in Shakspere, as members noted. Macduff, his wife, says, is a traitor and in leaving his family exposed, "wants the natural touch": more of the moral ambiguities so common in the play. 4.3'Malcolm tests Macduff's patriotism at a rather tedious length; then the terrible moment when Macduff must hear the news of his family's murder. Macduff is eloquently silent at first, and then he says only, "He has no children": meant of Macbeth? No eye for eye possible? Or of young Malcolm? "He can't grasp what I feel." Malcolm urges murderous vengeance; Macduff says he must first "feel it like a man" when he hears of his family's slaughter. We remember Macbeth's brief resistance to his Lady's call for Duncan's blood: "I dare do all that may become a man. / Who dares do more is none."
A member argued that this play is Shakspere's attempt to define what a good king is. The Vice Dean noted that Macbeth is not lustful or greedy for possessions as Malcolm (at first) says he would be asking. Only the urge for power consumes Macbeth. The Vice Dean asked members to assess the further changes in Macbeth in the last act.
WE WILL MEET NEXT ON NOVEMBER 19, AND BEGIN READING MACBETH AT THE START OF ACT FIVE. Our next play will be Timon of Athens, which we will read in its entirety, contrary to the Secretary's earlier advice to members!
Respectfully submitted Robert G. Peck Secretary
|Palace on Wheels|
Journalists tactfully intone that India has fallen behind in its infrastructure. Translation: it's often at real risk of your life to cross a street. The Indian road system is overwhelmed by avalanches of rickshaws, tick tocks (motorcycle rickshaws), little cars, big cars, buses, trucks, and motorcycles. All vehicles seem to be driven by teenaged maniacs, honking their horns and driving straight at you; the motor accident rate in India is among the worst in the world. It's not just a statistic. One tour bus we were riding bashed into a motorcyclist, and just kept on going even though the passengers yelled and banged on the windows. Conclusion: airplanes and trains are the only reasonably comfortable ways to travel in India today. In another twenty years, things will surely improve or India must strangle, but right now you better save your pennies to afford the Palace on Wheels. That's a tourist train making a big continuous loop through the main tourist attractions of central India, beginning and ending in New Delhi every Wednesday.
You would have to be pretty aloof to avoid acknowledging the other seven passengers who share a sleeping car with you: four bedrooms, two houseboys, and a living room. And you soon enough know the busload (thirty passengers) in your guide group. Ours was the Pink Group, definitely not named for its political leanings. With the passengers from four bedroom cars, you also share a bar car, arranged in a facing circle of overstuffed furniture, (just as you see extended families in Bollywood movies), a sitting in one of the dining cars, and one tour bus with a Pink sign in the window. Thus organized, the twenty-car train with three trailing buses carries a hundred tourists with well-practiced efficiency in the style which claims to treat each passenger as a maharajah. It is true these modern rajahs do not have three hundred concubines or twelve wives, as the real ones did. But the briefest reflection confirms that no sane man would want twelve wives or more than, say, twenty concubines. So the tourist's condition could in a way be held superior to that of any real maharajah. The central point at the moment, however, is that the arrangement of this brief collection of strangers lends itself to gossip and reckless self-description, sort of like a rolling girls' boarding school. There's really nothing much to talk about except each other, and only eight members in the conversation group.
|The Pink Group|
While it was hard to overlook the mixed-ethnicity elderly couple in our midst, it was, of course, the ladies of the party who quickly assembled the essential bits of intelligence available. These two, an elderly Indian man with a broad smile and broader paunch, plus a thin wisp of a little white lady with the grace and social command of a duchess, had been friends in a Canadian nursing home where their children had placed them, had both lost their spouses, and then eloped to freedom. By escaping from the hateful nursing home they saved $9000 a month, so it really must have been a pretty upscale CCRC, or retirement village. In Canada, there is lots of snow, cozy like an igloo all winter, but unquestionably confining. A little bit of scientific background allowed me to estimate the life expectancy of these two to be about eight more years, or perhaps seven if you subtract the dismal last year that everyone should be glad to skip. These two had apparently counted up their resources, found they could afford better things than a nursing home and decided to make a dash for freedom to spend their last seven years in playland while they had the chance. The ladies in our group obviously thought this adventure was just about the most exciting thing ever and grinned approvingly at every new detail. Although our travel group overall seemed to have its fair share of boors, no one, absolutely no one was boorish enough to ask if there had been a wedding.
Like pimpled teenagers, the two would slip their hands together with the hope that if they didn't look at their hands, no one else would notice. So, from time to time, the gentleman would slide his hand onto her thigh. And she, with the practiced skill of a high school cheerleader, would wait thirty seconds and with a big smile aimed at no one in particular, brush his hand away. She was having a perfectly wonderful time because she knew very well that every other lady was watching every movement.
At about the same age, Ben Franklin once moved with the fast set in Paris in his eighties. In fact, Franklin probably moved with a fast set wherever he was at any age. He seldom discussed the topic directly except in that famous letter to his son which concluded, "And son, they are so grateful". In our present society which claims such infinite sophistication, Ben might now have expanded on the misdirected pressures of inheritance laws which thwart re-marriages. Or on new-found freedom, the age-related indifference to complicating children, which some couples miss more than others. In fact, Franklin's famous letter to his (illegitimate) son enumerates a list of other advantages of love affairs with older women which could just as easily have been listed by John Milton or Cotton Mather. At least one gentleman has given the opinion that Franklin was all mischievous talk and no action. But I dunno. That remark about how grateful they are surely carrying some implication of personal experience.
Architect Alvin Holm spoke recently about an idea he had dreamed up in 1986, for an amphitheater in the Eakins Oval, right in the middle of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. At that time he envisioned it as a memorial to Grace Kelly, but Monaco wasn't interested, and the City was broke. But times change, neighborhoods change, and maybe the idea needs to be re-examined.
A bit of history needs to be refreshed. Around 1900 when the Parkway was dreamed up, Philadelphia was said by some local boosters to be the richest city in the world. That may have been a little overoptimistic, but it was nearly true enough that no one laughed loudly when it was enunciated. The Parkway was envisioned as a new departure to transform the whole city from square blocks of red-brick buildings of Georgian style, into a classical French version of grand elegance. To emphasize the new departure, it cut a diagonal from City Hall to the Art Museum, uniting these two French architectural monuments into a transformational classic boulevard. It wasn't just an imitation of Champs Elysees, it was a design by the very same architects, intended to lead the centers of many great cities of the world into modernized versions of the Roman Forum. Paris somehow managed to get away with it in time, but the 1929 crash stopped Philadelphia's dreams dead in their tracks, and the city just didn't recover.
Consequently, vast stretches of North and West Philadelphia were abandoned, then transformed into slums as poor people sought cheap housing. If you just look at Baltimore and Newark, you can easily see how sudden reversals can destroy a city completely. Philadelphia retreated into Center City, surrounded by an inner ring of slums, which were in turn surrounded by a ring of newer suburbs. The automobile hastened the flight to the suburbs, while the business district retreated to the inner core of Center City. In order to protect the Shining City on a Hill from being completely disrupted, informal barriers were sought, and the Parkway became one of them. They weren't walled moats, but they served the same purpose. Therefore, during the long decades of limping along, occasional cries of, "Why don't we make the Parkway into a grand boulevard?" had a silent, sullen answer. We weren't really sure it was a good idea. It didn't fit within our revised circumstances.
|The Amphitheatre on the Parkway|
But the City is now getting back on its feet, as anyone who has noticed the astonishing restaurant revival of Fairmount Avenue, or of Old Towne, or Society Hill, and the rebuilt "Chinese Wall" leading to and from the old Broad Street Pennsylvania Railroad station, can easily see. The Independence Mall and the University of Pennsylvania areas were largely built with Federal Money, but no matter, the transformation is still evident, the tide has turned. So Alvin Holm got out his drawings about premature dreams we couldn't afford, and asked, "Is it time?"
The unfinished Ben Franklin Parkway has cut its path, willy-nilly, through the neighborhoods, the trees have had time to grow, the museums time to migrate. The childless couples of the metropolitan area were coming back in town to enjoy the restaurant revolution and the theater revolution. Alvin Holm was getting a little older but not less energetic. He remembered that at the foot of the Art Museum was a statue of George Washington on a horse, and behind our First President was a big expanse of empty land. To build an amphitheater only took bulldozers, and could seat a thousand people. If you were as lucky as the ancient Greeks, and possibly if you built in precisely the same way, a speaker in the center could be heard -- without artificial amplification -- if he whispered, by everyone in the amphitheater audience. If you do use electronics, there's plenty of space in back of General Washington for a dignitary to give a speech on a raised platform, and there's enough empty audience space in a wider sweep, for fifty thousand people to congregate and listen. To him, or to a rock band, or whatnot. There aren't very many places left on earth in the center of a big city, where a single person can stand against a magnificent classical background, and be heard by fifty thousand chanting, hollering true believers. All of this could be accomplished by essentially digging a hole in the ground and closing off the area to traffic. But oh, yes, it takes one more thing. You have to want to do it. So let's consider for a moment who else covers the neighborhood, waiting for the right time to make a move.
Instead of regarding Fairmount Hill as just a big obstacle to automobiles trying to get home, let's just see what some others are thinking. For example, the people who run Drexel University are seriously talking about buying the air rights above the railroad marshaling yards on the west bank of the Schuylkill, and putting up a major business district and residential complex. They are thinking mainly of reviving West Philadelphia, and that's fine, but another bridge at that spot is badly needed to divert traffic around the present choke point on the Schuylkill Expressway, and that's also fine. Put some paths down to the river from the Art Museum to meet a new pathway to the Drexel development, as well as the recreational area along the river, and you could really have something pretty nice for the commuters who would otherwise begrudge the cost of digging an amphitheater hole in back of G. Washington.
Looking to the north of the Art Museum, there's a second small mountain with Kelly Drive between the two. At one time, both hills had reservoirs on top. The Art Museum demolished one reservoir, but the other reservoir is still there. It's a fifty-acre lake surrounded by dense forest; but from the inside look back over the top of the trees and you can see skyscrapers, almost right next to you. It's been adopted by migratory birds as part of the Atlantic flyway, and you would just be amazed at the hawks and ducks and all manner of other little black jobs that fly around and get recorded by bird watchers. The lake is full of fish, probably originally dropped by passing birds. The Audubon Society has a fundraising project going on, right now, to build a visitors' center in the forest, in conjunction with Outward Bound, the rock climbers group. Go to the left and you are overlooking the races at Boathouse Row, turn in the other direction to see Girard College, the hospital complex, and the further north you get to Temple University.
And one more thing. The old B&O Railroad once snaked along the Schuylkill and turned right around the (now) Art Museum, through tunnels over to Spring Garden Street, and down to Reading Terminal. Just what to do with this ditch running through the center of town unnoticed, is beyond my scope. Let someone else have a chance at being a visionary, but it must be remembered that New York City recently had a similar relic on its hands, and made something pretty nice out of the West Side of their town.
All of this potential even has the danger that projects will collide with each other, so it would sound like a nice idea for some Foundation to put together a planning board, to fit it all together without getting mixed up in politics, or squabbling over who will run things. But even that fuss would be a novelty, a nice thing to have for a while.
Franklin Roosevelt famously put together a political coalition which contained both rich white people and blacks. It has long seemed a puzzle that such extremes of society could join in an enduring coalition, but perhaps the 150th anniversary of The Nation supplies a clue. The magazine must have its share of ordinary working people, but the editorial core seems to be drawn from rich whites and poor blacks. They don't share the same dances and supermarkets, so why should they share a common political viewpoint?
So perhaps a clue to outsiders is the founding date of the magazine -- 1865. That was the time of Reconstruction in the South. It may have been the time of other public movements, too. It led to the Ku Klux Klan and violent re-segregation movements, Governor Faubus and the rest. But it must have offended the children of the planter class in the South, as well. It must have offended the border states, forced to stand silently while their leaders went the other way. The great European immigrations were several decades later, so the present composition of the magazine's leadership enlisted later volunteers perhaps. So perhaps the present leadership does not completely reflect the views of the founding members. And Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy mixed things up, considerably.
Does anyone know the history of the founding?
It may seem strange we shifted obstetrical costs in our proposal from cost-to-mother, to cost-to-child, but here's why it was done. In the first place, it smooths out the huge cost of large families, into an identical cost per child. Persons who prefer small families may think this favors religious preferences, but its real motive was to create insurance neutrality for people in choosing the family size. If the consequence turns out to be families like my grandmother's with thirteen children (or Ben Franklin's with eleven), the formula could, and probably would, be adjusted. At the same time, it should be pointed out this shift allows insurance to overcome the present nearly insurmountable tendency of women to delay their first child until it becomes both a medical (Down's Syndrome for example) and social (male-female employment inequality) problem. There may be other ways to accomplish this goal, but I can't think of any.
The proposal, remember, is to begin employment insurance at age 25, and to make zero to age 24 health coverage into a gift from a designated grandparent's escrow account, paid out of the grandparent's surplus accumulated during a lifetime of his last-year-of-life re-insurance. The necessary assumption is that the Affordable Care Act can do as it pleases with insurance for a worker, just so long as it neither adds nor subtracts from the child's escrow fund, but lets the balance continue to grow its compounding investment income. This is the price asked from both the Affordable Care Act and employer-based insurance, in return for eliminating the expensive part of obstetrical costs from their cost obligations.
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.