Philly's Rittenhouse Square's Story

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Rittenhouse Square - One of William Penn's original five squares, Rittenhouse Square was known as the southwest square until 1825 when it was named for the astronomer-clockmaker, David Rittenhouse (1732-96).


One of many in 18th century Philadelphia, this amazing man of universal talents,  was a descendant of William Rittenhouse, who built the first paper mill in America in Germantown. David Rittenhouse was at various times a member of the General Assembly and the State Constitutional Convention, president of the Council of Safety, president of the American Philosophical Society, and the first director of the United States Mint. He was also a Professor of Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania and inventor of the collimating telescope.

Since the first house facing the square was erected in 1840, Rittenhouse Square has always denoted quality. The Square kept its residential quality during the next century. In 1913, the architect Paul Cret, one of the men responsible for Benjamin Franklin Parkway and many of its buildings, designed the Square's entrances, a central plaza with the stone railings, pool, and fountain. To have lived near or on the Square was a mark of prestige.

Even though almost all private homes are gone today, it is still a thing of prestige to live in one of Rittenhouse Square's many high-rise Condominiums. Several houses are still standing in the area, but many have been converted into apartments and Brownstone-style Condo Buildings. Even though cooperative apartments and Philadelphia condominiums displaced private dwellings in the last three decades, some of the Old Guard still live here  in Center City condos in the sky rather than family mansions.

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