PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nearly 50,000 people are making their ways into Philadelphia this weekend for the 2016 Democratic National Convention that begins Monday.
Ten things you may not know about Philadelphia, the birthplace of America:
THE FIRST CAPITAL
Philadelphia was the meeting place for the Continental Congress starting in 1874 and then was the national capital after it declared independence two years later. That lasted until 1800, when the seat of government moved to Washington D.C. The site of the president’s mansion — occupied by George Washington and then John Adams — has been turned into a display to recognize the lives and work of the nine slaves Washington brought with him.
CRACK IN THE BELL
What’s known now as the Liberty Bell was in the tower above the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) back when the Continental Congress was drafting the Declaration of Independence there. Its role in the Revolution isn’t clear, but it did become a symbol for abolitionists and then of unity after the Civil War. And by then, it was cracked too badly to ring clearly. It’s still on display near Independence Hall.
ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMIN
Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston and spent nine years in France, but his home was Philadelphia. Everyone knows about his experiments in electricity (a key and kite sculpture is at the foot of the Ben Franklin Bridge to New Jersey) and maybe that he invented bifocals. He was also a prolific civic leader with roles in founding the city’s library, fire company, Pennsylvania Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania, the idea of fire insurance — and of course, the United States. He also had time to invent a musical instrument known as the glass armonica. One is on display at the Ben Franklin Museum in the historic Old City neighborhood.
HOW TALL IS THAT BUILDING?
At the time of the Revolution, the tallest building in the colonies was Christ Church, which still stands on North Second Street. Later, the city was out of the skyscraper race as developers respected what was known as a gentlemen’s agreement not to put up any structure rising above the William Penn statue atop City Hall. That changed in the 1980s, and now the tallest buildings both belong to the Comcast Corp. One is the company’s headquarters and a second is under construction for additional space. The 1,121 tower that’s under construction — scheduled for a 2018 opening — is to be the tallest in the U.S. outside of New York or Chicago.
RUNNING LIKE ROCKY
Philadelphia was the setting for Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” in 1976. The fictional boxer and city are so closely linked that a Rocky statue sits on the grounds of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, next to the steps he famously ascended. Visitors can even replicate the epic training scene in the 1979 sequel. But be warned: A Philadelphia magazine writer figured out a few years ago that hitting all the landmarks in order covers 31 miles.
Besides Rocky’s Philadelphia Museum of Art, the city is home to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the nation’s oldest art museum and art school. It’s also home to the Rodin Museum, the largest collection of Auguste Rodin’s works outside Paris and the Barnes Foundation, a museum of post-impressionist and early modern art. The art isn’t confined to museums, though; the city has pioneered the idea of public art. The most photographed is probably Robert Indiana’s “LOVE” sculpture. Even the outside of the legendary dive bar Dirty Frank’s is adorned with a mural featuring various Franks, including Sinatra, Zappa and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was nominated for his second term as president in the 1936 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
PHILADELPHIA ON PHILM
“Philadelphia,” starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, which brought the AIDS crisis to life for many people when it was released in 1993, was also shot in the city it was named for. Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn starred in the 1940 “The Philadelphia Story.” The movie was shot in Hollywood and set not in Philly but rather its tony Main Line suburbs. The city has been featured in other movies, too, including “Twelve Monkeys,” ”Witness” and “Trading Places.”
ALL THAT JAZZ
Philadelphia had a role in the lives of many jazz greats. Billie Holiday was born here and out-there composer Sun Ra lived for decades in a row house in the Germantown neighborhood with other members of his band, The Arkestra. Saxophone titan John Coltrane, born in North Carolina, arrived in Philadelphia and polished his craft after finishing high school in the 1940s. He stayed until 1958, when he moved to New York and established himself as one of the brightest lights in jazz. There’s an effort to renovate his old North Philadelphia house, which is listed as a National Historic Landmark, and open it to visitors.
POP AND ROCK
In rock and pop, Philadelphia is the birthplace of “Twist” singer Chubby Checker, 1950s teen idol Frankie Avalon, disco queen Patti LaBelle, blue-eyed soul duo Hall & Oates, rapper Fresh Prince (later known as actor Will Smith) and his DJ, Jazzy Jeff. It was also the original site of “American Bandstand,” the hit-making TV show hosted by native son Dick Clark. But it was two local songwriters and producers, Leon Huff and Kenneth Gamble, who created The Sound of Philadelphia, the smooth brand of soul recorded at their Philadelphia International Records. One of the label’s bands, the O’Jays, originally from Canton, Ohio, is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, as are Gamble and Huff. Some of the city’s most famous contemporary ambassadors are The Roots, the versatile band that plays nightly on “The Tonight Show.” Founder Questlove and other members are Philadelphians.
WHAT’S POPPING UP?
For the last several years, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has been turning empty urban lots into temporary summertime beer gardens featuring craft brews and menus from celebrity chefs. This season’s spots included one under a long-abandoned railway known as Reading Viaduct. There’s been a push to turn the elevated portion of the tracks into a park. In the meantime, the line is a favorite spot for urban explorers. The second beer garden is in the southwest section of downtown Philadelphia.
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