• Ongoing coronavirus / COVID-19 discussion: how is the pandemic affecting your community, workplace, and wellness? 🦠

    Working from home? So are we. Come join us! Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no social distancing.

Philadelphia->Old City->Independence Park


This is the first of three Old City installments. What follows is in and around Independence Park..

The Old City District claims as their territory everything from Front to 7th St. and from Walnut St. to Spring Garden St. (two blocks north of Callowhill). If you asked someone from Philly where Old City was they’d likely put you somewhere in the area shaded blue.

Looking south from the top of the Mall towards Market St. and Independence Hall. The Penn Mutual Bldg (old and new) dominates.

Turning to the left 90degrees and facing east we see what used to be Church St. It’s now a ped. path stretching from the Visitors Center across 5th St. and across 4th St. before becoming an alley again.

Turning another 90 to the left and facing north towards Arch St. and the National Constitution Center. The Park Service is working feverishly to finish the Mall. Unfortunately they’re having problems. The area between the patriotic bunting and the green fencing in the distance is the very uneven roof of an underground parking garage.

Looking west down Market from 6th St with City Hall as the focal point. The PSFS tower (now a hotel) was the first skyscraper built in the International style. I think the date on it is 1938 but i'm sure someone on here can place the proper date.

Looking southwest from the corner of 5th & Market. The stairs to the Market-Frankford El are just behind the railing (yes, we call it “the El” only the center city portion is underground.) From right to left the Rohm&Haas Bldg, First Union, Public Ledger, and the still under construction St. James Condos (the tallest residential bldg in the city and the tallest bldg. east of Broad St.

One of two colonnades left in the city (oustside of stadiums). Here looking East along Market St. with the stairs to the El at my back.

Looking east on Market St. from 5th St. towards the river and Camden. The colonnade is just to the left now. The Old City height restrictions come into view.

Rubber tired trolleys in Philadelphia. :-/ The tourists love it and why not? It’s more reliable than SEPTA at ½ the price. $1 per ride or $4 all day. It runs up and down Market St. from Penn’s Landing to City Hall then heads up the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum.

Bike rack security. Cover in red white and blue bunting, add Wackenhut Security Service and all is quiet. To the left is the old Liberty Bell Pavilion that is now being used to house airport style security. After passing through the security you wind your way through a maze of gates to enter the new Liberty Bell Pavilion that you seen on the right. It was just built last year so why the new security wasn’t incorporated in the design of the new building is anyone’s guess.

Looking north and slightly west along the Mall. The Constitution Center is at the top of the mall with the new Visitor’s Center and new Liberty Bell pavilion framing the Mall on your left. The federal building sticks out like a thumb hit with a hammer. On the lawn you can see workers setting up for Hamed Karzai’s visit on the 4th.

Independence Hall. More bunting and bicycle racks. In the lower right corner you can see the actual structure containing the liberty bell. It’s surrounded by feet of concrete and steel blast walls not visible from this side. The word on the street around here is “who cares? It’s already broken.” The sister bldgs. on the right are the Public Ledger and Curtis Publishing buildings.

Looking west from 5th St. down the Chestnut St. canyon. On the right the modern F.U. building squats atop a parking podium and crushes the neighboring Wachovia bank branch housed in a colonial replica. Down the bollards on the right a Wackenhut cop chats with a park service employee. The Wackenhut guys block the sidewalk periodically as they escort tourists from the Liberty Bell to Independence Hall. This entire block of Chestnut St. had been closed for nearly a year for tourist benefit. The business community was livid and had Mayor Street reopen this one.

Looking north up 5th St. from the same corner from right to left the Lafayette Bldg, the Bourse, Channel 3 (CBS) and Wachovia. Market St runs between the TV station and the Bank. The Lafayette Bldg. has some big tax breaks coming its way. The city wants a local firm to expand and bring its out of state jobs here rather than move the new jobs there. Notice the tour bus dropping people off and “trolley” picking people up. Multi-modal tourism.

The back of Independence Hall. School kids and bike racks.

More of the park behind Ind. Hall. This time looking southwest toward the larger Washington Square Park. Behind the green fencing some sidewalk restoration is being done. I have no idea why they waited until the height of tourist season or why they found it necessary to block off 1/3 of the park.

The Signer at 5th & Chestnut.

Competing banks from back when the area around the Bourse was the center of Philly finance. Looking west on Chestnut from 4th.

Old and New. Looking west down Chestnut from 4th St. Same old banks with the new Omni Hotel rounds out the block.

Looking North up 4th from Chestnut we see the back of the Bourse building. Market St. runs between the red and white buildings. The parking garage on the left is actually attached to the Omni. Beneath the glass awning is the entrance to a movie theater. The lobby is at street level but the theaters themselves are below ground. You can actually see the curb cut in the bottom right-hand corner. That’s the entrance for the garage. It makes for an interesting scene on Friday nights. The exit for the garage was appropriately placed around the corner on Ranstead St.

Who says fast food can’t be trendy? Cosi at 4th looking east on Chestnut. Sandwiches, Salads, and hard coffee!

Just across Chestnut from Cosi – vestiges of Penn’s ‘greene countrie towne.’ OK, they’re not really vestiges they’re replicas . . . just don’t tell anyone.

Looking north toward Chestnut on what used to be Orianna St. It will take you across Chestnut towards Market and up to Ben Franklin’s old digs.

The back of Carpenter's hall with the Omni peaking over the trees on the left.

The Second Bank of the United States. Looking north towards Sansom St. from Walnut. The pick-up truck off to the left gives some scale.

Doing a 180 and looking across Walnut St. through the Rose Garden and into Society Hill. Watch your step.

2nd bank again. This is the 2nd summer the steps have been closed. My co-workers and I were big fans of eating lunch here. There’s a big restoration job going on inside and out.

Looking East on Sansom across 4th St. This walkway will take you all the way to Front St.

Just off Sansom at 4th St. Plenty of privacy just don't lean back. That's all holly.

Looking east on Walnut towards 4th St. A recent office to apartment conversion – now leasing. Nice views of the 2nd Bank and Independence Hall.
Last edited:
God, I love that city. Thanks!

My small salary, school/credit card debt, aversion to paying even higher car insurance, and resentment of the 5% wage tax (shooting yourself in the foot policy, if ever there was one) have thus far kept me from living there...

But I'd like to get a slightly better paying gig and make the jump.



Staff member
Thanks for the update on Philly -- it's been almost a generation (1985) since I was there and it has certainly turned a corner in this neighborhood. Is there still a mall in the Bourse? I think "phlash" is taking it a bit far, no? Are you familiar with the work of Franco-American architect Paul Phillippe Cret?


What? No pics of tourists running "the steps"?

Excellent photos. I was last there in 1976, and visited the Liberty Bell in that godawful little building on the mall. The new building looks a little better, but why do we hide our history in modernist buildings? (We are doing the same thing here in Illinois--the new Lincoln Libraryand Museum in Springfield is another HOK monstrosity).

The One

You ask why.....

DecaturHawk said:
What? No pics of tourists running "the steps"?

Excellent photos. I was last there in 1976, and visited the Liberty Bell in that godawful little building on the mall. The new building looks a little better, but why do we hide our history in modernist buildings? (We are doing the same thing here in Illinois--the new Lincoln Libraryand Museum in Springfield is another HOK monstrosity).

Because the "establishment" doesn't want to spend the extra money for some brick and a decent architect! Also, its ok to spend trillions on the millitary, but when it comes to our history and sense of place/time, cheap cheap cheap is the tune that bird sings..... |-)

I love the photo's o:) My family vacation a couple of years ago included a trip to Philadelphia. We had a great time and will return soon....
A fun quote:
They have Easter egg hunts in Philadelphia, and if the kids don't find the eggs, they get booed.
Bob Uecker


I'll be getting to other neighborhoods in the city - like the Art Museum - but i still have a lot more pics from Old City that i'm trying to put into some sort of order.

I should have them up tomorrow.

Towncrier - it's a 3.5% wage tax. ;-)
City council actually got it cut again - it's on its way out and i'll be glad to see it go.