As a native Philadelphian, I was born in the defensive position, ready to defend the City of Brotherly Love to all the naysayers out there. For years, I have watched Philadelphia grow into her own with the renaissance of Center City, then stretching slowly into neighborhoods north and south. But this city has been leading its own renaissance from the very start, standing for so many things that impacted the growth of our country.
Philly is commonly torn apart for our unruly sports fans (yes, we threw snowballs at Santa Claus back in 1968. We’ve come a long way.), and this often casts a shadow on the amazing things that this city has done to position itself as—in my mind—the greatest city in our nation, marrying the old with the new, embracing individual cultures to create a place unlike any other.
I could likely write a novel highlighting the many great things about my hometown, but let me lay out some of the obvious greatness that Philadelphia has offered the world. I may be biased, but try to deny how amazing this is:
The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were written in a building that still stands in the center of Old City, which is visited by over 3.6 million people per year. And if you’re in the area, be sure to stop by Betsy Ross’s house, where the famous 13-star flag was sewn by her very hand. It’s no surprise we were the first Capital of the United States. Here, our forefathers fought for democracy, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and the civil liberties that give individuals a voice and a say in their government.
Yes, being one of the nation’s first towns, we are likely to be the first to do a lot of things. But that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Especially when you consider how many of these are still operational today. Let’s talk about how Philly had the first:
We were even the first city to plan a street grid.
Yes, many of those things happened at the inception of this country, but Philadelphia didn’t stop there. We were the first to experiment with electricity (thanks Ben Franklin!). The first U.S. city to host the World’s Fair to celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. We are home to the first electronic computer, constructed at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946. Most recently, in 2015, we were bestowed the honor of being the Nation’s First World Heritage City.
Speaking of firsts, Philadelphia has paved the way for modern medicine and education. Pennsylvania Hospital, the country’s first hospital, is still in operation today and part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. The hospital paved the way for modern medicine with the founding of the first medical library.
The creation of the first surgical amphitheater gave physicians a live learning facility, though surgeries were only done between 11:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M., prime daylight hours, since there was no electricity. Philadelphia’s hospital also birthed a groundbreaking development in their creation of a “lying-in” department for women—AKA, a maternity department—with the first child being born in a hospital back in 1765. Around that same time, the University of Pennsylvania opened the country’s first medical school.
With all of these births and a focus on maternity, the city faced a new problem in caring for sick children. Enter the founding of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, North America’s first children’s hospital, ranked No. 2 in the nation in 2017.
So meds, we got. What about eds? Well the University of Pennsylvania paved the way for education as the first university in the country. Later, they combined with the Wharton School, the nation’s first business school, which is still the No. 1 MBA program in the world, according to Business Insider.
Onto the fun stuff. We love to eat! And yes, Philly is nationally known for soft pretzels, water ice (pronounced wudder ice), scrapple (don’t ask), Tastykakes, our infamous cheesesteaks, and the creation of the hoagie (or subs as you haters call them). But we are so much more than that!
Iron Chef Morimoto established his first restaurant in Philadelphia. Iron Chef Jose Garces has been building his restaurant empire in the city for years as well. We are home to the nationally renowned Marc Vetri, restaurateur extraordinaire Steven Starr, James Beard nominees and winners, and numerous Top Chef winners and contestants (kudos to my buddy Sylva Senat).
But don’t miss some of our historical gems like McGillan’s Olde Ale House, the oldest continuously operating tavern in the city. And enjoy a taste of history at the Italian Market and Reading Terminal Market. And did I mention BYOBs? Yes, that’s right, you can bring your own booze to a plethora of restaurants throughout the city, including some owned by those previously mentioned award nominees.
We may not be Broadway, but I think Philly will surprise you. After all, we are home to the Walnut Street Theatre, the oldest theatre in the United States and the Grand Old Lady herself—the Academy of Music, America’s first opera house—both still in operation today.
Add in the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, the Wilma Theater, Philadelphia Theatre Company’s Suzanne Roberts Theatre, the Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts and the Merriam Theatre, and you have yourself a pretty impressive Avenue of the Arts. A little further south, you’ll find the High School for Creative and Performing Arts, which was the inspiration behind the movie FAME! This high school has produced a few artists you may know, including Boyz II Men, for whom that piece of the Broad Street corridor is now named.
Some other names of famous peeps from this inspiring city include Will Smith, Chuck Barris, Kevin Bacon, Patty Labelle, John Barrymore, Bradley Cooper (swoon!), and Kenny Gamble—cofounder of Philadelphia International Records—who brought the soul movement to the world in the 1970s. And let’s not forget, we were the home of Band Stand and the inspiration behind the Rocky series (and actually have a statue next to the “Rocky Steps”).
The famous “Rocky Steps” lead to the Philadelphia Museum of Art , one of the largest in the country. The building sits atop of the Ben Franklin Parkway and looks down on the Barnes Foundation, the Rodin Museum, the Franklin Institute, and the Academy of Fine Arts. For those looking for a less formal art experience, Philadelphia also possesses the largest number of public art and mural installations in the country. What started as an anti-graffiti campaign is now the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, which, under the direction of local artist Jane Golden, inspires efforts around the country.
So, fine. Philly’s résumé checks out. But the reason this city is so great goes much deeper. In the last 10 years or so, we’ve made great strides to make our city greener, adding pop-up parks and creating programming to bring communities together. We added a boardwalk over the Schuylkill River Trail, which was named the best urban trail in the nation.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s easy to name the good things and glaze over the bad things. I’m the first to admit—we aren’t perfect, not even close. But the one thing I love about this city is its ability to overcome adversity and keep inspiring its people to create and innovate.
Many make comments about our “Brotherly Love” persona (enter Santa and snowballs again). The way I see it, people have a misperception about what “brotherly love” really means. In my experience, siblings aren’t always polite. In fact, they are usually blunt, sometimes harsh, and tell us what we need to hear. They challenge us to be the best version of ourselves. Philadelphia, in essence, does this on a community level. Yes, we are harsh to our teams, but dammit, they represent this city we love. Is it wrong for us to want them to do the family proud?
And Philadelphians are born with loyalty like no other. No matter where we go, we seek each other out, listening for the Philly accent and the unique spin we put on vowels. When meeting a native Philadelphian anywhere in the world, the first question is often “where did you grow up?” We know each other by our roots, from which a kinship grows between our residents. That alone is what makes this city so spectacular and is perhaps its most underrated phenomenon.
So the challenge is on! If you haven’t been here, we invite you with open arms to come visit and take in all of the things that make us who we are. Explore Ephram’s Alley, have a beer in Betsy Ross’s house, maybe even run into Ben Franklin himself strolling the streets of Old City. Oh, and @Amazon, that includes you as you search for your second corporate headquarters, because I promise, no matter how hard you try to underrate us, #PhillyDelivers.