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Society Hill

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The Free Society of Traders was a stock company organized by friends of William Penn in 1682 to operate in Philadelphia with title to all the fishes in the river and with the privilege to establish markets, fairs, and other commercial ventures in the new community. Their property stretched from Pine to Spruce streets and from the Delaware to the Schuylkill rivers. In various eighteenth-century uses, the name of the Free Society of Traders was contracted to Society Hill and was adopted by Philadelphia's post–World War II city planner Edmund Bacon to increase the cachet of an area that had become a slum in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Now highlighted by restored houses, its streets recall the days when Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington strode them, and slept here, too. Churches of various denominations including a Quaker meetinghouse (demolished) and two Anglican congregations, the much-altered St. Paul's Church and the largely original St. Peter's Church (PH18), ornamented the new neighborhood. With Bacon's ingenious greenway walks and its link to center city, Society Hill serves as a remarkable example of a livable downtown that was created even as the federal highway system was siphoning vast numbers out of the city. A tour of Society Hill might begin at the “New Market” (see PH16) that, in the eighteenth-century pedestrian city, marked a new subcenter of the expanding city.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas

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