Ever since its founding in 1698 by William Penn, Philadelphia has been one of the most important and unique American cities. The city is arguably the cradle of American democracy (no offense, Jamestown), the site of the First and Second Continental Congresses and the Liberty Bell.
Philadelphia is also the home of Paddy’s Pub and the birthplace of Gritty. So it goes without saying that it has a rich and interesting cultural history.
Whether you’re a lifelong resident or a new transplant just beginning to explore this great city from your home base at one of Common’s three inviting buildings, we hope you’ll learn something from our fun and interesting facts about Philadelphia.
#1 The Mural Capital of the World
Art is a huge deal in Philadelphia. The Mural Arts Philadelphia program began in 1984 as an anti-graffiti campaign and has since turned Philadelphia into a worldwide leader in publicly accessible street art. Currently, there are over 4,000 pieces of community-based art throughout the city, with new pieces being commissioned every year.1
Some of our favorite murals include:
- Wide Open in Fishtown – This Jim Houser mural on Spring Garden Street will make you feel the brotherly love.
- Colorful Legacy in West Philadelphia – The colors on this Willis “Nomo” Humphrey and Keir Johnston mural never fail to inspire.
- The Silent Watcher in University City – This 19 story mural painted by Faith XLVII is simply breathtaking. You’ll find it hard not to make eye contact with the Silent Watcher the next time you’re passing through University Square.
If you’re interested in checking out as much of Philadelphia’s street art as possible, the city offers a self-guided tour via an app. A stroll by some iconic artwork is a fun way to get to know your Common coliving housemates.
#2 Philadelphia has the Oldest Inhabited Road in America
Elfreth’s Alley, in the appropriately named Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia, is the oldest continuously inhabited street in America. The cobblestones in Elfreth’s Alley date all the way back to 1702. The street was named after Jeremiah Elfreth, a local blacksmith and property owner. Today, it’s like a museum that people live in, and a rare preserved example of what a working class neighborhood looked like in the 18th century.
Common at the Frankford in Fishtown is just a short distance north from Elfreth’s Alley. While the Frankford hasn’t been around for 300 years, its sleekly modern amenities are perfect to return home to after a day imagining life in the 1700s.
#3 Philadelphia is a City of Firsts
A list of fun and interesting facts about Philadelphia would be incomplete without mentioning all the firsts that the city is responsible for. To wit (incidental cheesesteak reference):
- Philadelphia was host to America’s first birthday.
- It was also home to the Philadelphia Packet and Daily Advertiser, founded in 1784, which was the country’s first daily newspaper. Take that, New York Times!
- Philadelphia was also home to the country’s first zoo, hospital, and medical school.2 (The country’s first veterinarian, however, got his start in New York.)
Philadelphia still plays an important role in the modern medical world. One out of every six doctors in America is trained in Philadelphia.
#4 It’s Also a City of Champions
Speaking of firsts, let’s talk about first place. Ask any Philadelphia fan and they’ll tell you that’s exactly where Joel Embiid and the Sixers are going to finish this year. In Philadelphia, hope springs eternal. Philadelphia is one of thirteen American cities to have a professional sports team in all four of the major leagues.
Some fast facts about those teams:
- Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies, who last won a championship in 2008. They were originally named the Quakers, then rechristened the Philadelphians, which was in turn shortened to the Phillies.
- The National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles, who won the Super Bowl in 2017. For a patriotic city like Philadelphia, the Eagles seems like a logical nickname. Go birds!
- The National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers, who haven’t won an NBA title since 1983. They’re nicknamed in honor of America’s founding. If you’re going to live in Philadelphia, it’s important you learn to trust the process.
- The National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers, whose championship drought is worse than the 76ers, dating back to 1975. Why the Flyers? Because the owner’s wife thought alliteration sounded cool. She was right!
#5 The Eagles Killed the Wing Bowl
On the subject of sports successes and failures, before the city’s Super Bowl victory in 2017, Philadelphians needed to find a way to celebrate Super Bowl weekends where the Eagles usually weren’t participating. Thus, Wing Bowl was invented. The competitive chicken wing eating contest ran from 1993 until 2018 and would attract some 20,000 fans to the Wells Fargo Center every year.
The last Wing Bowl champion, Molly Schuyler, ate 501 wings in a 30 minute period. Now that’s what we call a champion!
#6. Visit the Mutter Museum to See Einstein’s Brain
Speaking of medical oddities and the horrors of the human body, Philadelphia’s famed Mutter Museum is home to a vast collection of medical artifacts and curiosities. The Philadelphia museum has a collection of over 3,000 osteological artifacts. Wondering what those are?
Skeletons. 3,000 skeletons. That’s either very cool or very creepy.
The Mutter Museum is also the only place where visitors can view slides of Albert Einstein’s brain. Or, for a truly macabre experience, consider checking out the thoracic tissue of John Wilkes Booth.
#7 Betsy Ross… Fraud?
We’re all taught in elementary school that famed Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross was responsible for stitching together the first American flag. However, most historians agree that there’s no actual evidence of this being true. Like the founding of America, the creation of the first American flag was more of a collaborative effort shared by a number of men and women on the flag committee.
Even if the story is a bit of an urban legend, Betsy Ross still sewed some pretty old flags. You can check them out, along with a ton of other artifacts from that era, at Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution.
Tours are also available for Betsy Ross’ home, because even if she didn’t technically stitch together the first American flag, she still played an extremely important role in American history.
If you’re looking to learn more about Philadelphia or the United States’ history, one of the best parks in Philadelphia to do so is the Independence National Historical Park. Associated with the American Revolution and United States founding history, the Independence National Historical Park represents the early eras of the nation. Don’t forget to visit the Liberty Bell Center while you’re there.
#8 Philadelphia Loves Pretzels
If there’s one food that’s come to be associated with Philadelphia, it’s definitely the famed Philadelphia cheesesteak. However, pretzels should also be in the conversation. Apparently, Philadelphians consume 12x more pretzels than the average American.
Pretzels are a big deal in Philadelphia. The country’s first large-scale pretzel manufacturer was started in Philadelphia and there used to be a pretzel museum in the city.
If salty and doughy goodness isn’t your thing, don’t worry. The city has a vibrant culinary scene with some of the top restaurants in Philadelphia found in every neighborhood.
#9 Philadelphia is Close to Everything
A quarter of the United State’s population lives within five hours of Philadelphia. We aren’t saying that the city is the nexus of the universe, but with easy access to New York City, Washington DC, Baltimore, and Atlantic City, Philadelphia makes for an amazing weekend getaway.
But Philadelphia isn’t all about the metropolitan experience. There’s also plenty of nature to love in the surrounding area. If you need a break from city like, consider checking out:
- Fairmount Park
- Wissahickon Valley Park
- Ringing Rocks County Park
#10 Beer was Philadelphia’s First Business
According to some sources, the first business set up in newly founded Philadelphia was a brewery. William Frampton set the place up way back in 1683. He also founded a bakery and a tavern at the same time, but as true Philadelphians we’re choosing to focus on the beer.
Some quick facts about Philadelphia’s early beer scene:
- John Adams once wrote to his wife: “I drink no cider but feast on Philadelphia beer.” He was being literal. Back then, beer was considered a food.
- The early beer brewed by Frampton was made from molasses, pine, and sassafras. Eventually, brewers in Philadelphia would transition to using malt… and sassafras would later be banned by the FDA.
- America’s first lager was brewed in Philadelphia.
With that rich history, it’s no wonder that present day Philadelphia has such a flourishing craft beer scene.
Discover More About Philadelphia at Common
Philadelphia holds significance from its historic sites to its fine art and eateries. There’s always something new to learn about Philadelphia. Perhaps the most fun fact about Philadelphia is that the city and its people are always growing and evolving. There’s something new around every corner, or something historic to discover for the first time.
At Common, we love being a part of this city. We have three buildings in Philadelphia including Common at Broadridge in Fairmount, Common Frankford in Fishtown, and Common Civic in Francisville. With so many options across town, we feel connected to Philadelphia’s diverse and exciting neighborhoods. Our fully furnished apartments and coliving arrangements make it easy to become part of Philadelphia’s vibrant community.
Book a tour of your next home today!
- Discover Philadelphia. City of Murals. https://www.discoverphl.com/blog/city-of-murals/
- Mental Floss. 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Philadelphia. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/55036/25-things-you-didnt-know-about-philadelphia