A Philadelphia City-wide Survey

Photo by P. Meyer for Visit Philadelphia



Philadelphia is a city rich in history; full of diverse, dynamic stories worth recognizing and preserving. Woven into the everyday fabric of our community, these stories reveal themselves through cherished traditions, passed down from one generation to the next. They imprint themselves on the spaces we gather—to celebrate and mourn, to honor and protest. They speak to our personal and collective past, tell of experiences shared throughout our neighborhoods, and provide context for the communities in which we live today. When we travel around Philadelphia neighborhoods, we see these stories represented in the architecture, the landmarks, the shops, public spaces, sculptures, public art, bridges, districts, and streetscapes. Yet the current process our City uses to document and designate these histories has left many voices unheard and some of our most valuable cultural resources unprotected.


What’s more, some of these stories are not marked by visible, physical objects—their memories persist on a street corner where a parade stops, in a park where a pop-up market takes place, or by objects that are buried, out-of-sight. Institutions, traditions, language, songs, stories, food, and folklore are no less important than ones represented by centuries’ old architecture and help shape and form the identity of the City. There are so many examples of these cultural resources across Philadelphia—events that bring people together like the Philadelphia Flower Show, Odunde Festival, Penn Relays, Cambodian Food Market in FDR Park, and el Carnaval de Puebla; music and musicians that mark important places and memories like The Sound of Philadelphia, Marian Anderson, Sun Ra, Hall and Oates, and the Roots; and cuisines that keep family traditions alive like the Eastern European restaurants of the Northeast, African restaurants of the Southwest, and the South Philly Italian cafes. All of these, and so many more, represent stories that are important to the identity of the City.


To help us celebrate, protect, and conserve our City’s cultural history, The Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia (the Fund) and the City of Philadelphia Department of Planning and Development (DPD) seek a consultant team to develop and test a community-led process for identifying, surveying, and documenting the stories and spaces that represent Philadelphia’s rich and varied past.


The goal of this project is to provide DPD with a plan, tested in a pilot project, that enables Historical Commission staff to engage in an ongoing partnership with community members throughout the City to: 1) inventory cultural resources, 2) identify resources at risk that may require priority attention, and 3) improve the City’s processes for documentation, designation, and protection.

What are we working on?

Strategic and equitable designation that is generated by community members, and neighborhood residents

Documentation that reflects previously overlooked or ignored histories and does not rely solely on architectural importance or integrity

Protection that recognizes that preserving many spaces, sites, and expressions of cultural heritage can and should be accomplished through means other than designation

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