Regional Overview: The Sights of the City, Loosely Defined

Philadelphia,defined here as the Quaker region of three formerly Quaker states, contains an astonishing number of interesting places to visit. Three centuries of history leave their marks everywhere. Begin by understanding that William Penn was the largest private landholder in history, and he owned all of it.

Many neighboring residents may feel it is presumptuous to claim that Philadelphia's spirit extends over most of three states. Indeed many residents of even center city Philadelphia would resist a claim that Philadelphia is dominated by a Quaker heritage. But that is what will gradually emerge from this website. Perhaps it helps to state right out that at one time William Penn the Quaker owned the whole area. Furthermore, Penn was a dominant figure in the Quaker religion, playing a spiritual role rather like that of St. Paul in the early Christian Church, only lots richer and a friend of the King. Although the Penn proprietorship was extinguished by the Revolutionary War, it lasted in partial form from 1675 to 1787, during the period when Philadelphia was the largest and most prosperous city in the colonies. Even at the end, only a quarter of Penn's land had been sold off; the rest was essentially expropriated in a forced sale at fifteen cents per acre. Without arguing the fairness of this transaction, it amply illustrates how Penn and his co-religiounists could leave their imprint on such a vast area.

We present well over a thousand essays about Philadelphia, broadly defined. We must begin somewhere, and choose to start with brief glimpses appealing to newcomers and tourists. In later chapters there is time to take up some of Philadelphia's most interesting features in expanded detail. The Scots say many a mickle makes a muckle , so electronic linkages connect those tourist glimpses to "topics" of expanded detail. But the reader at any level must be warned this is a work in progress, containing gaps we mean to fill, and errors we hope to correct.