Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square is a living
memorial to founder William Penn's original ideas
for the city of brotherly love. In the Smithsonian
Museum in Washington
D.C. there is a map of Philadelphia from the 1680s. Some of the street names may have changed
and one or two new thoroughfares have been cut at the
outskirts of Center City, but the layout of central Philadelphia
has remained remarkably unchanged in the last 300+ years.
Penn envisioned a "greene countrie towne"
with five public squares spread around the city at its
corners and at its center. Of these original squares the
most famous is without a doubt Rittenhouse Square. The
central square is now dominated by Philadelphia's
impressive Third Empire-style City Hall; the northeastern
square, now named Franklin Square, is home to a popular
mini golf course; the northwestern square is now beautifully
crafted Logan Circle on the Ben Franklin Parkway; the
southeastern square is up-and-coming Washington Square,
part of the sprawling park complex that includes the Liberty
Bell and Independence
Rittenhouse Square is Penn's original southwestern square and gives its name to the upscale neighborhood that surrounds it. It is named in honor of David Rittenhouse (1732-1796) an important figure from Pennsylvania history. Rittenhouse was a noted Philadelphia scientist and politician and the first director of the U.S. Mint.
Rittenhouse Philadelphia has been a prestigious neighborhood since the mid-1800s and many elegant Victorian houses still line the nearby streets. More recent constructions have made the Rittenhouse skyline worthy of note. Large apartment buildings surround the urban park, and a place in a Rittenhouse skyline building is one of the most sough-after addresses in the city. The exquisite building at 1801 Walnut Street stands out on the Rittenhouse skyline. The 1898 beaux-arts building was once home to the Pennsylvania athletic club. That it is now home to a leading national clothing store is indicative of Rittenhouse Philadelphia's status as the city's premier shopping district. The block between 17th and 18th streets on Walnut Street, known as Rittenhouse Row, is home to both national box stores and some local independent boutiques.
In recent years Philadelphia has established a reputation as a great restaurant town, and the area around Rittenhouse Square is dotted with some of the city's finest dining establishments: Barclay Prime (237 South 18th Street), Le Bec Fin (1521 Walnut), and Opus 251 (251 South 18th Street), among others.
Rittenhouse Square is also the site of one of the most luxurious of all Philadelphia hotels. Rittenhouse Hotel is located at 210 West Rittenhouse, overlooking the square. The views from Rittenhouse Hotel are amazing, but the secluded tearoom and indoor garden make the hotel an oasis from the busy urban life outside. The rooms at Rittenhouse Hotel are uniformly excellent, with large layouts and luxurious marble bathrooms.
Acclaimed director Robert Downey Sr. recently released
a cinematic homage to Rittenhouse Square. As captured
in Downey's film, Rittenhouse Philadelphia is a
perfect place to watch the vibrant urban life of the city
or to sit with a book and rest after a day touring Philadelphia's
attractions and museums.