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[291]

Chapter 28: Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is the best example of White progress in America, because nothing accidental, nothing temporary, rules the conditions of her growth. She has not been made a Royal residence, like Rome; the centre of a new imperial system, like Berlin. No great discovery of mineral wealth has drawn to her the daring spirits of all nations, like San Francisco. She is not the chief entry of immigrants from Europe, like New York. She has not sprung into fashion like Brighton and Saratoga. She owes no part of her fortune to having been made a free port, like Livorno, or to her having taken the fancy of a Caesar, like Madrid. Her growth is natural. Accidental growth is seen in many towns. A railway bridge secures prosperity to Omaha; a line of docks makes Birkenhead; a spring of oil gives life to Petrolia. But Philadelphia owes her wealth to [292] general causes, and her greatness is not jeopardized by the failure of a dozen industries.

Men now living in Walnut Street remember a time when Philadelphia was not so large as Croydon. She is now bigger than Berlin — nearly as big as New York. Only fifty years ago she was about the size of Edinburgh. Ten years later she was as big as Dublin. In another ten years she had outgrown Manchester. Fifteen years ago she was ahead of Liverpool. At the present moment Philadelphia is more than equal to Manchester, Liverpool, and Sheffield combined. If the population of Dublin and Edinburgh, York, Lancaster, and Chester were counted in one list they would hardly make up half the number of people who house in Philadelphia at this present day. If size is but another name for power the City of Brotherly Love is metropolitan.

Leaving out Chinese cities, Philadelphia claims to be the fourth city in the world, admitting no superiors save London, Paris, and New York. She over-caps all other rivals. She is bigger than Moscow and St. Petersburg, the two capitals of Russia, put together. The three capitals of the Astrologer Monarchy, Vienna, Pesth, and Prague, fall [293] far below her numbers. She has left behind her the four capitals of United Italy-Rome, Florence, Naples, and Turin. She claims to have at the present hour a population somewhat exceeding eleven hundred thousand souls.

The growth of modern Rome, the splendour of Berlin, are not so singular as the growth and splendour of Philadelphia. No city in our time has thriven so much as Rome has done since she became the capital of Italy ; yet in point of population Rome is but a sixth-rate town. In three years London adds to her numbers more people than cluster on the Seven Hills. In four years Philadelphia does the same. No one supposes that Rome will grow for ever as she is growing now. A Government, a Court, an army, and a Parliament, cannot enter her gates every year. Berlin has grown with an amazing swiftness, and the capital of Imperial Germany may feel the impulse of events longer than Rome; for Germany is a bigger country than Italy, her state system is less parochial, and more of her chief citizens, both civil and military, find their interest in living near the Emperor's court. Yet in Berlin, as in Washington, Madrid, and other artificial capitals, [294] the limit of this accidental growth must soon be reached. Berlin is not, like London and like Philadelphia, a great commercial centre, with a port sufficiently near the sea for purpose of trade. Berlin is land-locked, like Madrid. Few things are more certain than that the future capitals of the world will stand on both elements, accessible, as Constantine said of Byzantium, by sea and land. We hear so rarely of this silently-growing city on the Delaware that four persons in every five will be amazed to hear that, like New York, Philadelphia has left such ancient and historic capitals as Vienna and Constantinople far behind.

And yet her growth seems no less sound in bole than high in branch and rich in foliage. On coming back into the city after some years' absence you are caught by a surprise at every turn. You may not like to say you left the city clay and find it marble, yet the saying would not seem a great perversion of the facts. Eight years ago I left many of my friends in brick houses, who are now dwelling in marble palaces. The thoroughfares are rising into pomp and show. I do not speak just now of public buildings of exceptional character and excellence-such [295] edifices as Girard's College, the most perfect classical building in America, or of the new Girard bridge, over the Schuylkill River — the widest, perhaps the handsomest, iron roadway in the world --but of ordinary structures-clubs and banks, churches and law-courts, masonic halls, hotels, and newspaper offices. Two or three of the new banks are equal to the best things lately done in Lombard Street, while the great Masonic Temple puts the residence of our own Grand Lodge to shame. The new churches are mostly in good style and rich material, nearly all being faced with either rough green-stone or polished white marble. The new buildings of the University of Pennsylvania-partly completed — are fine in exterior, built of the rough green-stone peculiar to the .place, faced with red sand-stone, as well as rich in apparatus and collections, the department of physics being particularly good.

Broad Street is not yet a rival of Pall Mall, but Penn Square is both larger and better built than St. James's Square. Market Street is not yet equal to the Strand, but Chestnut Street is not unworthy to rank with Cheapside; and in a few years the business [296] quarters of Philadelphia will vie in architectural effect with that of the best parts of London, even Queen Victoria Street and Ludgate Hill.

But banks are banks, and clubs are clubs. A special beauty may be gained in one part of a city at the expense of others, as we have seen in Bloomsbury and Belgravia, when thousands on thousands of the poor were routed out of ricketty old lodgings to make room for New Oxford Street and Grosvenor Gardens. Such things occur in great cities without being signs of growth. The pulling-down of Paris, under Louis Napoleon, was no evidence of public health, but rather of a hectic glow and morbid appetite for change. flow are the ordinary houses in a city built? How are the masses lodged? These are the questions which a statesman and a moralist ought to ask. It is not enough to ask whether, behind these banks and palaces, lie Field Lanes and Fox Courts; it is of more importance to see how the average classes of mankind are housed.

In no place, either in America or out of it, have I seen such solid work-such means of purity and comfort — in the ordinary private houses, as in Philadelphia. There seem to be no sheds, no hovels, [297] no impurities. In almost every house I find a bathroom. Let no reader think the presence of a bathroom in a house a little thing. It is a sign. A bath means cleanliness, and cleanliness means health. In Oriental countries we see the baths of sultans and pashas; basins of marble, in the midst of shady trees, with jets of flashing water; luxuries for the rich, not necessaries for the poor. Here we have baths for everyone who likes to pay for water; and I read in the Water Company's report that more than forty thousand heads of families in Philadelphia pay that company a water-rate for household baths. That record is a greater honour to the city-as implying many other things, the thousand virtues that depend on personal cleanliness — than even the beauties of Fairmont Park.

Yet Fairmont Park, containing three thousand five hundred acres, and lying along the Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek, is a wonder of the earth. Think of a park in which Hyde Park, with its four hundred acres (the Ring, the Serpentine, and the Ladies' Mile) would be lost! Central Park, New York, is more than double the size of Hyde Park, yet Central Park would lie in a mere corner [298] of Fairmont Park. All the seven London Parks thrown into one-Victoria, Greenwich, Finsbury, Battersea, St. James's, Hyde, and Regent's-would not make one Fairmont Park.

Nor is the loveliness of Fairmont Park less striking than the size. Neither the Prater in Vienna, nor Las Delicias in Seville, nor the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, though bright and varied, can compare in physical beauty with Fairmont. The drive along the Guadalquiver on a summer evening is delicious; and the views of Sevres and St. Cloud are always charming; but the Schuylkill is a more picturesque river than either the Guadalquiver near Seville or the Seine near Paris. The view from George Hill combines the several beauties of the view from Richmond Hill and Greenwich Hill. There is a wooded country rolling backwards into space. There is the wide and winding river at your feet, and, just beyond the river, camps of spires and steeples, towers and domes; and, rising over all, like a new Parthenon, the noble pile called Girard's College. Seen on a sunny day, in the Indian summer, when the forest leaves are burning into gold and crimson, and the shining marble flashes through the [299] air, this view from George Hill is one of the things which, “seen, become a part of sight.”

Yet, in this proud story of American growth, there is some drawback. May one hint that in the halls of victory there is a sad, if not a serious, writing on the wall?

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