A nucleus of American culture in colonial times (among its prominent citizens at that time was the scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin), Philadelphia is still the seat of many philosophical, artistic, dramatic, musical, and scientific societies. Among these are the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1805); the Academy of Natural Sciences (1812); the American Philosophical Society (1743); and the Science Museum of the Franklin Institute (1824), which now includes the Benjamin Franklin Memorial (1933), an important unit of which is the Fels Planetarium. In nearby Merion is the Barnes Foundation, with an extraordinary collection of paintings. Musical activities flourish in the city, whose outstanding symphony orchestra plays in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. In Fairmount Park, the largest city park in the United States, are the Philadelphia Museum of Art, zoological gardens, and many historic monuments and shrines.
Many early historic shrines are also in Independence National Historical Park (est. 1956). Among them are Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed; the Liberty Bell; the neighboring Congress Hall, where Congress met from 1790 to 1800 and where Washington gave his farewell address; and Carpenters' Hall, where the First Continental Congress met. The modern National Constitution Center also is here. Near Elfreth's Alley, a narrow street that has retained its colonial air, is the Betsy Ross House, where, according to one story, the first American flag was made.
City Hall, one of the nation's largest, is a conspicuous building with a tower surmounted by a statue of William Penn. Also of interest are the Rodin Museum; the Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church; and Christ Church (begun in 1727), a representative example of Colonial architecture. Edgar Allan Poe's house has also been preserved. The historic 18th-century houses in the Society Hill section are additional tourist attractions, as is the restored Revolutionary War Fort Mifflin.
Philadelphia has over 30 educational institutions, including the Univ. of Pennsylvania, Temple Univ., Drexel Univ., La Salle Univ., Chestnut Hill College, St. Joseph's Univ., Curtis Institute of Music, Thomas Jefferson Univ., the Univ. of the Arts, and Philadelphia Univ. A sports complex in S Philadelpha is home to the National Basketball Association's 76ers, the National Hockey League's Flyers, the National Football League's Eagles, and the National League's Phillies. A casino opened on the Delaware NE of Center City in 2010.
Installations of the U.S. Mint, the Federal Reserve System, and the Internal Revenue Service are in the city. The U.S. Naval Shipyard, once the most prominent of Philadelphia's military installations, was closed in 1995; a commercial shipyard and other businesses are now on the site.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.