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The original capital of the nation, Philadelphia was laid out by William Penn Jr. in 1682, on a grid system that was to provide the pattern for most American cities. It was envisaged as a "greene countrie towne" and today, for all its historical and cultural significance, it still manages to retain a certain quaintness. Just a few blocks away from downtown, shady cobbled alleys stand lined with red-brick colonial houses, while the peace and quiet of huge Fairmount Park make it easy to forget you're in a major metropolis.
Philadelphia, which translated from Greek means "City of Brotherly Love", is in fact one of the most ethnically mixed US cities, with substantial communities of Italians, Irish, Eastern Europeans and Asians living side by side. Many of the city's residents are descendants of the migrants who flocked here after the Civil War when, like Chicago, Philadelphia was seen as a place of tolerance and liberalism. More recently, it voted in the nation's first black mayor, and has the country's best museum dedi-cated to African-American history and culture.
Once known as "Filthydelphia", and the butt of derision from W.C. Fields in the 1930s (as in his famous epitaph: "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia"), the city underwent a remarkable resurgence preparing for the nation's bicentennial celebrations in 1976. Philadelphia's strength today is its great energy fueled by history, strong cultural institutions, and a new influx of income due to its new downtown convention center grounded in its many staunchly traditional neighborhoods, especially Italian South Philadelphia. An impressive amount of new construction and revitalization is currently being undertaken in the downtown area, further testimony of the city's economic boom.
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