Philadelphia History: The Early Years

Hundreds of years before Phila condos were built in the city, the area now known as Philadelphia was inhabited by the Lenape (Delaware) Indians. The Europeans arrived to the area in the early 1600s, with the very first settlements founded by the Dutch, British, and Swedish.

As part of a repayment of a debt, Charles II of England granted William Penn a charter in 1681. This would later become the Pennsylvania colony. With this colony, Penn hoped to create a city on the Delaware River that would serve as a port and place for government. Although Charles II already granted him the land, Penn still went on to buy the land from the local Lenape tribe in order to be on good terms with the Native Americans, thereby ensuring peace for his prized colony. Penn was even known to have made a treaty of friendship with Lenape chief Tammany under an elm tree at Shackamaxon, located in what is presently the City of Philadelphia’s Kensington section. Because he was a Quaker, Penn had personally experienced religious persecution, so he therefore wanted his colony to be a place where anyone could worship freely despite their religion. Penn subsequently named the city Philadelphia, which is Greek for brotherly love (philos, “love’ or “friendship,” and adelphos, “brother.”)

Penn planned for Philadelphia to be more like an English rural town instead of a city. The roads were therefore designed with a grid plan, affirming the idea that houses, future Philadelphia condominiums, and businesses would be spread far apart and surrounded by beautiful gardens and orchards. Although Penn planned for the city to be similar to an English rural town, the city’s inhabitants did not follow these plans. They crowded by the Delaware River and subdivided and resold their lots. Before Penn would leave Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the last time, he issued the Charter of 1701, establishing Philadelphia as an actual city.

Following the Charter, the city grew into a vital trading center. At first, conditions in the city were poor, but living conditions drastically improved by the 1750s. Benjamin Franklin helped to significantly improve the City of Philadelphia services, and he founded new ones, including the American Colonies’ first hospital.

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