07/26/06 - william penn

In today's excerpt - William Penn, using A Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia in the Province of Pennsylvania in America, a seminal document in the history of city planning, promotes the new colony to prospective settlers and investors. Promoting that most basic of human tendencies reaches new levels in the new cities of America over the next two centuries -- from Philadelphia to Houston to Los Angeles and countless cities in between -- and sets the stage for the hyperbole of the real estate developers and promoters of today. Penn and his city planner, Thomas Holme, mindful of the great fire of London in 1666 and the Puritan religion of most of Penn's peers and contacts used this, and other communications to tell prospects that the city had been designed so:

" '... that it may be a greene Country Towne, which will never be burnt, and always be wholsome.'

" '... I remember not one better seated,' Penn announced, 'so that it seems to me to have been appointed for a Town, whether we regard the Rivers, or the conveniency of the Coves, Docks, Springs, the loftiness and soundness of the Land and the Air, held by the People of these parts to be very good.' Holme was careful to label the plan a 'draught' that might 'hereafter, when time permits, be augmented' and drew in only a rough approximation of topography, leaving out such worrisome details as the numerous streams that zigzagged through the area, and the marshy banks along the Schuylkill that would impede the building of roads or houses immediately adjacent to that river. The Portraiture described an efficient commercial hub where 'Ships may ride in good Anchorage, in six or eight fathom of good water in both rivers, close to the City, and the Land of the City level, dry and wholsom: such a scituation is scarce to be parallel'd.'

"... both Penn and Holme described the city as if already formed."

Portaiture of Philadelphia


Elizabeth Milroy


"The Politics of Penn's Squares"


The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography


July 2006


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