Philly Landmarks Recount Philadelphia's Political History

Philly Landmarks Recount Philadelphia's Political History

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When delegates gather in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention in summer 2016, all eyes will be on the nation’s birthplace. Having hosted numerous political conventions, including the 2000 Republican gathering and the 1948 conventions for all three parties (Democratic, Republican and Progressive), Philadelphia is used to being in the political spotlight Philadelphia, PA - Having hosted numerous political conventions, including the 2000 Republican gathering and the 1948 conventions for all three parties (Democratic, Republican and Progressive), Philadelphia is used to being in the political spotlight. It was here where disgruntled colonists created a new form of government, and today many of the places where those meetings, debates and activities took place still stand. Here are a few iconic locations with deeply rooted connections to the American political process:

 

Declaring Independence:

  • The first organized grumblings of discontent with the British crown bubbled up when delegates from 12 colonies assembled in Carpenters’ Hall for the First Continental Congress in 1774. The contentious meeting resulted in a defiant trade embargo against England and inspired Patrick Henry’s fiery oratory. An acclaimed example of Georgian architecture, Carpenter’s Hall still displays the delegates’ chairs and the original banner carried during the 1788 Constitutional parade. 320 Chestnut Street, (215) 925-0167, carpentershall.org
  • Each night, after delegates argued and debated their next move against King George, Thomas Jefferson retired to his rented rooms in the home of Jacob Graff to contemplate the colonies future. In what is known as the Declaration (Graff) House, Jefferson drafted what would become one of the world’s most influential documents, the Declaration of Independence. 7th & Market Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov
  • Risking “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor,” 56 courageous men gathered at the Pennsylvania State House, now Independence Hall, defying both the blistering summer heat of 1776 and the King of England to launch the colonies to independence. Eleven years later, representatives from 12 states convened there to shape the U.S. Constitution, creating a unified nation and designing a form of government never before seen. 520 Chestnut Street, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov
  • When the British army occupied Philadelphia, under the protests of power couple Elizabeth and Mayor Samuel Powel, they took over the Powel House, relegating the couple to the servants’ quarters. Years later, delegates to the Continental Congress of 1787 continued their sometimes vehement debates at the Powel House as they framed the U.S. Constitution. The fourth amendment banning unreasonable search and seizure speaks directly to the Powel’s experience. 244 S. 3rd Street, (215) 627-0364, philalandmarks.org
  • During the summer of 1776, the Founding Fathers wrapped up their daily discussions at the State House and decamped to the City Tavern, where they practiced the fine art of politics over a meal and mug of ale. Reopened in 1976, City Tavern recreates that Colonial dining experience as staff attired in 18th-century dress serve 18th-century victuals and beverages. 138 S. 2nd Street, (215) 413-1443, citytavern.com

A Fledgling Nation:

  • If the walls of Congress Hall could talk, they’d provide the lowdown on the debates that took place when representatives and senators from the fledgling nation assembled here. Located next to Independence Hall, the House of Representatives met on the first floor (Lower House), which looks as it did for John Adams’ inauguration in 1797, with desks for 106 representatives from 16 states. The Senate convened on the second floor (Upper House) in more elaborate quarters that boast carpeting adorned with an American eagle encircled by the seals of the United States. 6th & Chestnut Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov
  • When the Yellow Fever epidemic swept through the city in 1793, President Washington evacuated Philadelphia and moved government operations and his residence to the Deshler-Morris House in Germantown, then a countryside retreat located about 10 miles from the city. He returned in 1794 using the home, known as the Germantown White House, as a summer escape. 5442 Germantown Avenue, (215) 596-1748, nps.gov
  • One of the first rulings on states’ rights was decided at Old City Hall in 1793 when the Supreme Court heard the case of Chisholm versus Georgia. At issue was whether they had jurisdiction over the state of Georgia and if “the people of the United States form a nation.” Ultimately, it was agreed that Georgia was subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court. 5th & Chestnut Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov
  • Before becoming a gallery featuring more than 100 portraits of 18th- and 19th-century political leaders, military officers, explorers and scientists, the Second Bank of the United States, chartered by Congress in 1816, was the focal point of the banking wars between financier Nicholas Biddle and President Andrew Jackson. Strongly believing the bank was unconstitutional and a threat to republican ideals, Jackson’s anti-bank stance was a critical campaign issue and one reason he defeated opponent Henry Clay. Chestnut Street between 4th & 5th Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov
  • America’s favorite Founding Father was also one of the most politically adroit. At the Benjamin Franklin Museum, visitors can follow the life of the statesman/diplomat/inventor and his influence in shaping governmental policy in America and abroad. 317 Chestnut Street, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov
     

An Evolving Country:

  • Independence Square has long been the focus of individuals and groups exercising their First Amendment right to address politically charged topics. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass spoke on Independence Square, as did Susan B. Anthony who interrupted the Fourth of July centennial celebration to deliver the Women’s Declaration. And the first organized gay rights demonstration took place in front of Independence Hall. Between 5th & 6th Streets and Chestnut & Walnut Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov
  • The paradox of a nation fighting for its freedom while allowing the practice of slavery is told in The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Marking of a New Nation. Built on the remains of the executive mansion where President George Washington resided and held nine enslaved people, the open-air memorial utilizes timelines, videos and archaeological fragments to depict this powerful and challenging story. 600 Market Street, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov
  • The Liberty Bell Center recounts the powerful history of the world’s most famous bell, from its role of summoning lawmakers to session and alerting citizens of public meetings to serving as an international symbol of freedom and justice. The inscription “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof” inspired abolitionists in their quest to eliminate slavery, suffragists in their fight for women’s rights and other leaders in their fight for civil rights. 526 Market Street, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov
  • At the National Constitution Center, visitors experience artifacts, live performances, interactive exhibits and special exhibitions, including one of 12 surviving copies of the Bill of Rights. It’s the only institution in America where people of all perspectives across the country and around the globe can debate, celebrate and educate themselves about the greatest vision of human freedom in history, the U.S. Constitution. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6700, constitutioncenter.org
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