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  • Writer's pictureVenture Philly Group

5 Most Historic Neighborhoods in Philadelphia

The city of neighborhoods has a rich history that dates back centuries ago to when William Penn founded the city of Philadelphia in 1682. Neighborhoods have grown and changed a lot since then, but many of them have kept the historic aspects that originally brought them to life. Let’s take a look at some of the most historic neighborhoods in Philadelphia that have helped shape the city into what we know and love today.

1. Old City

As a true taste of history, Old City is a prime location to take a step into our past. Located in the place where William Penn and the Quakers first settled, the neighborhood spans north to south from Vine Street to Walnut Street and east to west from 7th Street to the Delaware River. How many opportunities do you get to see where you came from? Old City gives people the chance to visit the real places that were milestones in the history of America. Home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross's house, and a copious amount of others, you can visit, and the best part is, they're all right outside your door.

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2. Society Hill

Society Hill has had some highs and lows throughout the past few centuries, but it’s a true depiction of urban renewal in a historic setting. It got its name from the Free Society of Traders, a colonial-era merchant’s society. In the 20th century, Society Hill was on the decline. But it turned itself around - a rags to riches story. It was rundown and filled with commercial buildings, but today it’s an upscale residential building with cobblestone streets and 18th and 19th century homes that could be museums, but they are people’s beloved homes. This neighborhood spans from the Delaware River to Washington Square and Walnut Street to Lombard Street.

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3. Washington Square West

In the 18th century, residents and businesses began to move further west into the city as the areas adjacent to the Delaware riverfront become more and more crowded. It’s home to Washington Square, which was one of the original five squares laid out by William Penn and later became a burial ground for soldiers. It’s made up of almost 3 neighborhoods in one: Midtown Village, the Gayborhood and Washington Square park. It’s home to Antique Row where you’ll find the oldest hospital and the oldest theatre in the country. It has the old-world feel, but with a modern spin. It has beautiful row houses and an abundance of rainbow flags and some of the city’s best restaurants and bars.

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4. Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square is another one of William Penn’s five squares and was named after the famous astronomer-clockmaker, David Rittenhouse. Before it was a major gathering place and home to the city’s elite, in the 18th century the park provided pasturage for local livestock. Come the late 1700s, brickyards surrounded the square. Then later in the 19th century, it became an elegant place for the wealthy and elite to call home. It started with family mansions and those who lived on the square were seen as very prestigious. Today, those original homes have been converted into apartments and condominiums but is still home to some of the most expensive real estate in the city.

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5. Germantown

Germantown is filled with an abundance of history. It got its name as it was the first permanent German settlement in America. 13 German families were greeted by William Penn when they arrived. It was also a place where government business took place. President Washington rented a house in Germantown to escape the yellow fever pandemic and here he met with Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton to conduct government business. It was also the birthplace of the anti-slavery movement in the U.S. It was also home to the first paper mill in the U.S. Plus, it was where the Battle of Germantown took place in the Revolutionary War. Located Northwest of Center City, Germantown is a charming neighborhood with historic homes, taverns and storefronts.

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