William Penn had a distaste for cities. His colony, Pennsylvania, would need a capital that would not bring the horrors of European urban life to the shores of his New World experiment. Penn determined to design and to administer the city himself to prevent such an occurrence. He looked with disdain on London’s crowded conditions and sought to prevent this by designing a city plan with streets wider than any major thoroughfare in London. Five major squares dotted the cityscape, and Penn hoped that each dweller would have a family garden. He distributed land in large plots to encourage a low population density. This, he thought, would be the perfect combination of city and country. In 1681, he made it happen.
Within twenty years, it was the third largest city, behind Boston and New York. A century later it would emerge as the new nation’s largest city, first capital, and cradle of the Liberty Bell, Declaration of Independence, and Constitution.