Benjamin Franklin famously said that “three people can only keep a secret if two of them are dead... and the other one doesn’t work at Thrillist,” and he was totally right, as evidenced by all the Philly secrets you probably didn’t know about that we’re totally spilling below...
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Did you know that nestled between 12th and 13th Streets (and Walnut and Locust) is one of the only remaining wooden streets in America? You see back in the 1910s, city planners got the bright idea to pave the streets in Philly using pine and oak blocks in an attempt to lessen the sound of carriage and horse traffic throughout the city. However, like the floor of the house you lived in senior year, a combination of overuse, water damage, and urine (in this case horses) left the streets in terrible shape. Restored in 1997, Camac Street is the only remaining wooden street left in the city (and possibly country).
You could get sent to jail at Veterans Stadium
While it’s always been possible to get arrested at an Eagles game, nowadays you will have to leave the stadium (and probably do some time in the drunk tank) before getting your sentence. But back in the late '90s, the Vet had its own justice system: Eagles Court. Probably more notorious than anything else, particularly “spirited” fans could be sentenced mid-game by a sitting municipal judge in the basement of Veterans Stadium. The concept briefly switched to Lincoln Financial with the stadium switch but was dropped with an overall increase in good behavior.
There are "illegal" drinking establishments everywhere
Since the secret's officially out (and we won’t be spoiling anyone's fun), there’s no harm in telling you that Philly’s burgeoning collection of beer gardens is actually giving the proverbial finger to the PA liquor control board. Back in 2012, the PLCB introduced Act 116, which expanded local businesses' ability to host “catered” functions serving alcohol. After a few smart businessmen realized this allowed for summertime pop-ups, which could be started without a standard liquor license, the rest was history. So you can actually THANK government oversight for something beneficial.
There used to be (plans for) rail stops on the Ben Franklin Bridge
During initial plans for construction of the Ben Franklin Bridge, designs included a trolley line that ran across with stops in Camden and Philly. There were also additional access points built into the bridge's anchorages for any foot traffic, however, as interests shifted towards automobiles the plans were scrapped before tracks were officially laid.
The Billy Penn statue is hollow (and you can exit through his hat)
Perched at the top of city hall, and once the tallest point in the city, the statue of Billy Penn is one of the most important symbols of Philadelphia. Instantly recognizable, there are some interesting facts about the 27-ton statue. For one, Billy is hollow and has housed all forms of communications devices, from radio towers to microwave dishes during the '60s. A lucky few can also access the top of Billy’s head through a 22in hatch found at the top of his hat.
There are Olympic-sized pools below the Fairmount Water Works
Located along the Schuylkill River, the Fairmount Water Works has historically been among the most important tourist attractions (and utilities) in the city: during the mid-to-late 1800s, the Water Works was popular for its gardens, saloon, and waterfront views. After closing in 1909, the city tried to redevelop the area again into a tourist attraction, with the Philadelphia Aquarium (closed in 1962) and Olympic-sized pools (closed since 1973) that can still be found in the catacombs. Sadly, the pools, a gift from the Kelly family (of Kelly Drive), have been completely abandoned.
The city briefly (and somewhat seriously) considered tearing down city hall
Judging by your friends’ Facebook pages, it wouldn’t be a Philly wedding without a photo overlooking city hall. But if the city planners during the 1950s had their way, we might be looking at a giant traffic circle (or the city's most annoying traffic light) in the center of town. Thankfully, any conversations surrounding demolition of city hall were grounded because of the immense cost to remove a structure of that size.
There's a particularly sad statue in Laurel Hill Cemetery
Of the many striking monuments found throughout Laurel Hill Cemetery, there is one statue overlooking the Schuylkill River that has a particularly sad backstory. In the 1850s, a famous Polish sculptor carved the monument as a testament to his late wife and twins, the latter of which tragically drowned in the Schuylkill River. Shortly after completion, the sculptor left for Europe to never return. The statue, now faded and worn down by weather, is one of the many hidden stories that can be found in what is one of the nation's oldest cemeteries.
There is an abandoned tunnel under the parkway
Stretching from Broad Street to 27th is a large stretch of abandoned railway that once served as an important industrial artery through the heart of the city. Following their closure in 1992, the tracks are barely noticeable anymore and there is a large portion of underground tunnel that’s only visited by urban explorers. While plans have been discussed about turning it into a high-speed thruway, which would open up the parkway into some more tourist-friendly options, we have our doubts; one thing that isn’t a secret is Philly’s ability to underutilize public space in favor of congested roadways.
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In West Philadelphia born and raised, on the playground is where Dan McKay spends most of his days, but it’s no secret that you can also follow him on Instagram or Twitter: @dannypageviews.