Travelin’ Local visits the City of Brotherly Love

Apr 28, 2009 by Lisa Newton

It is both my pleasure and joy to introduce today’s featured article, by D. Travis North.

By way of further introduction, Travis’ own biography and background is provided by him as:

"D. Travis North is a photography enthusiast with a strong interest in the photography of landscapes and architecture (among other things). His website, Shutter Photo, is dedicated to the sharing of his works, wisdom, experiments and anything that seems relevant."

Today, Travis takes us Travelin’ Local to his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Through his words, photographs, and passion, it’s not hard to quickly realize just how beautiful Philadelphia is, and exactly why it’s an urban genome and testimony to the celebration of Cultural ethnography, geography, development, ethnicity, eclecticism, infrastructure management, and prudent and wise understanding of how people and their neighborhoods and cities interact with each other. Although quietly understated, Travis also takes us on a journey to understand the types and kinds of things that we should expect–and need–from the cities where we live.

Travis’ professional background in landscape architecture and photography, provide a grounded reality check as to how we can better appreciate and visit our own neighborhoods when Travelin’ Local:

The shape of a building, the lines of a park, the beauty of a store, or the portraiture of people.

After reading this, who wouldn’t want to move to Philadelphia?

Philadelphia’s Cultural Infrastructure

Philadelphia City View

Philadelphia is best known as the birthplace of the United States. This historic city has seen the document that started the American Revolution and served as a temporary home to a young new government. It is host to many firsts including the first public grammar school, the nation’s first public library, the nation’s first hospital, the first American public bank, the first American Stock Exchange, the first municipal water system and first Zoo in the United States. And let’s not forget all of the National Parks assets including, but not limited to, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and Carpenter’s Hall. Unfortunately for its 1.5 million residents, all this history overshadows one of the city’s greatest assets: its cultural infrastructure.

Fairmount Park


Cited as one of the largest urban park systems in the country, the Fairmount Park system – named after the largest of its parks – is made up of 63 regional and neighborhood parks spanning nearly 9,200 acres – nearly 10% of all city land (To give you a rough idea, New York’s Central Park is 843 acres). The park system is, in my opinion, the backbone of the city’s cultural infrastructure. East Park, along with the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, literally cuts a thin wedge of green through the city, terminating at Love Park just short of City Hall. All along the parkway and all throughout the Fairmount Park system are literally hundreds of sculptures and fountains. Most are classic sculptures of famous Philadelphians, but modern art is well represented as well. Fairmount Park, as a whole, serves as a place for activity and socializing and utility. Many picnic, exercise or play games in the Philadelphia parks. But in Center City, where you won’t have to travel more than a few blocks to find a park, most of the city’s museums and cultural centers front on the parks, squares and boulevards.


Art Museum

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, with architecture that resembles a Greek temple, is recognizable even to outsiders. It sits atop a hill that overlooks the city and its many museums. Unknown to many, however, the Griffin Society – the non-profit organization that runs the museum – has one of the largest art collections in the United States: Over 225,000 pieces. Believe it or not, The Griffin Society owns one of the largest collections of Rodin’s works as well as Monet’s works. In fact, the collection is so large that The Philadelphia Museum of Art built a separate Rodin Museum dedicated exclusively to Rodin’s work. But Philadelphia’s cultural exhibitions aren’t limited to art. Also calling the city home are the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, The Please Touch Museum (an activity center for kids that also exhibits the collections of classic toys), The Museum of Archeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania (home to an exceptional Egyptian collection), and The National Constitution Center. Probably one of the most unique museums is the Mütter Museum, a medical museum that hosts medical oddities, pathological specimens – dissected brains, still-born babies in jars and tripinnated skulls – and some of the most bizarre tools you’ll ever see.

Performing Arts


Broad Street is the main north-south route through center city, and the several blocks south of City Hall is referred to as the Avenue of the Arts. Probably the Avenue’s most notable building is the classic Academy of Music, the former home to the world renowned Philadelphia Orchestra. While the Academy is still in use today, the Orchestra now has a new home: The Kimmel Center. The Kimmel Center, a large multi-theatre complex, was a much needed upgrade for the city. Not only can the state-of-the-art facility host multiple events at once, but it has smaller theaters for more intimate performances. Traveling stage shows are not uncommon to both the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music, but many of the Off-Broadway performances will be found at one of the city’s many theaters. But not all performances are limited to buildings built specifically for such purposes. One of the most extraordinary experiences will be found at the Macy’s on Market and Broad Streets (formerly The John Wanamaker’s Department Store): The world’s largest playable pipe organ. As legend would have it, The Wanamaker Organ was built to appease Mr. Wanamaker’s obsession, and it is played twice every day (or every hour during the holiday season) for all to appreciate. This picture does it little justice, however, as the pipes nearly completely fill all four walls and three floors of the main plaza in the store. Just to see it is awe-inspiring. To hear it played…that’s indescribable. But to carry out Wanamaker’s tradition, performances are absolutely free.

Cultural Melting Pot

Reading Terminal Market

While racial harmony is still many years off, I like to think of Philadelphia as a place where we are at least moving in the right direction. Culturally diversified neighborhoods like Mount Airy or Manayunk, where several cultures collided without prejudice, are not entirely uncommon in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a place where you can live in the same skyscrapers that are home to world renowned businesses or you can own a townhouse just across the street from a museum (though admittedly, they aren’t cheap).Mixed use is all the rave in the land development these days, but Philadelphia and other historical cities have been doing it for centuries. The overlap of uses allows many great things. Easy access to public transportation, environmentally friendly lifestyles and inner-city farmers markets like the great Reading Terminal Market. Here you will find products from all sorts of cultures including Amish food stuffs, Italian and Jewish Delis, Chinese and Japanese cuisines and clothing and other products from Africa and South America.

Elfreth's Alley

In fact, Elfreth’s Alley, is the oldest continuously residential street in the USA. All this is just barely outside the shadow of City Hall. I admit that I may have a bit of a bias having grown up in Philadelphia, but when it comes to historical cities in North America, The City of Brotherly Love is the cultural role model.

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17 Responses to “Travelin’ Local visits the City of Brotherly Love”

  1. Travelin’ Local Visits the City of Brotherly Love | Shutter Photo says:

    [...] As you all know, I recently took a day trip through Philadelphia – the city where I grew up and live.  When I first mentioned the trip, Lisa Newton of Travelin’ Local, asked me to write a report of my travels for her site.  I was of course honored.  Well today, you can read my article on Lisa’s site:  Travelin’ Local Visits the City of Brotherly Love. [...]

  2. Frank Levangie says:

    Lisa, you are definitely on a roll and deserve an award for having one of the great blogs around…….. keep up the good work(s)….


    PS: thnx for the over-the-top links…..


  3. Tess The Bold Life says:

    I’ve never been to Philadelphia so this was new. I love “love park.” What a great name.

    Your photos are outstanding. Thanks for sharing with us!

    Tess The Bold Life’s last blog post..Mondays = 1/7 of Your Life


  4. Diane C. says:

    Wonderful article about Philadelphia with so many fun links to explore. Great images, my favorite is of Elfreth’s Alley.

    Diane C.’s last blog post..Cactus Monday – Sonoran Desert Art


  5. D. Travis North says:

    @Tess – one of the great Philadelphia moments in ‘Love Park’ was when the 80+ year old Ed Bacon (former city planner – very passionate about his city) joined in the protest against the city’s ban of skating in the park. The park was notoriously home to skate-borders because of it’s granite benches and ledges. Well, in protest…Mr. Bacon – with the aid of others – skate boarded around the park in front of cameras.

    I’m glad everyone is enjoying the article and photos.

    D. Travis North’s last blog post..Travelin’ Local Visits the City of Brotherly Love


  6. David says:

    Travis, I’m totally blown away by your ode to Philadelphia. I had no idea just how many great things to do and places to go, you guys have there. And its cultural infrastructure is astounding. Any preconceptions I may have had about the city has been forever destroyed.

    Lisa, your a tour-d’-force of writing, photography, and quality lifestyle reporting.


  7. FrugalNYC says:

    Great insight into the city of Brotherly love :) Looks like I have much to do in shooting and writing about NYC. Perhaps I can even be featured on Travelinlocal in the future :)

    Love the photos on this post. Makes me want to visit Philly and my own home city of NYC :)


  8. Lara says:

    Elfreth’s Alley looks like an amazing place to live; I love anywhere with an historic twist to it!

    Lara’s last blog post..Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes


  9. LisaNewton says:

    @ Frank Thank you. I love putting links into a post. Reading and learning are two of my favorite activities……..:)

    @ Tess Travis definitely has a great eye for Philly, and you see his heart in each of his shots.

    @ Diane C. I love sharing other people’s locations. You and Tess were great examples of different places in time.

    @ D. Travis North Thank you so much for sharing your Philly adventure with the Travelin’ Local readers. With the Internet, the world is getting closer and closer, so the West Coast and the East Coast seem like next door neighbors.

    @ David Thank you. Travelin’ Local is all about places, people, and how we each see life from different angles.

    @ FrugalNYC I’d love to invite you to guest post here on Travelin’ Local. Your photos are great, showing the wide and varied side of NYC. Just shot me an email at lisajnewton at gmail dot com……………:)

    @ Lara Philly and US history definitely go hand in hand. I love the brick townhouses, too. What a great angle on that particular shot.


  10. D. Travis North says:

    @David – Kind words. Thank you.

    @FrugalNYC – Take Lisa up on the offer. It was a lot of fun having a the article in mind when I was wandering about the city. You’ll benefit from it and we all will, reading about NYC from your perspective.

    @Lara – Elfreth’s Alley is a beautiful place. I question whether or not I’d be willing to live at a tourist destination, however. I can’t imagine there’s much privacy. Christmas time is the time to go visit the Alley – they do open houses for anyone to see. It’s a big fund-raiser for the preservation group.

    D. Travis North’s last blog post..Planning for a Day Trip


  11. Paisley (Paisley Thoughts) says:

    I’ve never been to the US. These pics are lovely. I never thought I’d say that about city buildings but there’s something very personal in the presentation – they were different yet familiar (if that makes any kind of sense). This blog is showing a different side to the US from the usual sitcoms, chat shows and news I see.

    Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)’s last blog post..Instinctive Words, a Painting, a Pawnbroker and an Invitation


  12. Kevin says:

    I love the history in Philadelphia and Travis, you certainly do as well. Hope to visit some day but it looks as though it might need to be for a few weeks, not just a couple days.

    As much as I love the west coast there is a certain lack of old history in many areas, unless we look at the native populations of course. That said, I find the history of the past couple hundred years out here has lots to offer, fishing, settlement etc.

    Kevin’s last blog post..Brentwood Regatta 2009 Photo Gallery


  13. Kevin says:


    Thanks for taking Tavelin’ Local to a new level. As much as I hate to say it, travelling locally for many people is by airplane now.

    Kevin’s last blog post..Brentwood Regatta 2009 Photo Gallery


  14. Lance says:

    Very nice pictures, and words to go along with them. I’ve never been to Philadelphia, and seeing these makes me want to plan a visit – Fairmount Park and Elfreth’s Alley are great shots!!

    Lance’s last blog post..The Destination


  15. LisaNewton says:

    @ Paisley I’ve traveled to several different countries and never fail to be surprised at the way Americans are viewed. You’ll see the “real” USA here on Travelin’ Local…………:)

    @ Kevin I realize many people travel by plane, but I’m still a fan of my bike, public transportation, or even my car. There is so much to see just on the way to somewhere else that plane travelers miss. I know that often times it isn’t possible to use a slower mode of transportation, but when it is, it’s great.

    @ Lance Thanks for dropping by. Your comments always bring a smile to my face…….:)


  16. Kevin says:


    I agree about missing so much when you travel by air. My personal favourite mode of transportation is my feet, I can walk for hours slowly taking in the surroundings. More people should give it a try!

    Kevin’s last blog post..Learning from Past Lessons – Concert Photography


  17. Reader Appreciation Links | Shutter Photo says:

    [...] destinations in and around Southern California.  As you know, I contributed a guest article about Philadelphia on her site, and Lisa was a gracious host and editor.  The site is appealing to me because of [...]

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