Any visit to Philadelphia, whether you have one day or several, should begin in the city area that comprises Independence National Historical Park. Philadelphia was the birthplace of the United States, the home of the country's first government, and nowhere is the spirit of those miraculous early days—the boldness of conceiving a brand-new nation—more palpable than along the cobbled streets of the city's most historic district.
In the late 1940s, before civic-minded citizens banded together to save the area and before the National Park Service stepped in, the Independence Hall neighborhood was crowded with factories and run-down warehouses. Then the city, state, and federal government took interest. Some buildings were restored, and others were reconstructed on their original sites; several attractions were built for the 1976 Bicentennial celebration. In recent years a flurry of construction has again transformed the area, with several notable buildings—including an expanded visitor center, a more attractive home for the Liberty Bell, and national museums to celebrate the U.S. Constitution and the contributions of Jewish-Americans. Today the park covers 42 acres and holds close to 40 buildings. Urban renewal in Independence Mall plaza and in Washington Square East (Society Hill) have ensured that Independence Hall will never again keep unsightly company. The city's most historic area is now also one of its loveliest.