Independence Mall: Philadelphia’s Gateway to History and its Future

Weekend Tour

Independence Mall, also known as “America’s Most Historic Square Mile,” is a three-block section of the Independence National Historic Park administered by the National Park Service. This tour will present a history of how Independence Mall’s design and use have evolved over time in response to changing attitudes toward the purpose and promise of urban parks. The tour will highlight the important historic and modern architecture and landscape architecture of the mall and the surrounding land uses. As both a gateway to historic Independence Hall and a hallmark of 20th-century urban landscape design, Philadelphia’s Independence Mall represents nearly a century of public planning efforts. The Mall has undergone two major redesigns, each intended to showcase the city’s internationally significant historic buildings while providing open green space for public enjoyment. Design efforts have shaped the Mall as a place for recreation, education, and activism. 

Following the tour, we will explore some lesser-known cultural landscapes built during the development of the park in the mid-20th Century, including the Magnolia Garden, Rose Garden, and 18th-century Garden. Following the Mall and Garden tour, we’ll explore some green spaces in the surrounding neighborhood. This portion of the tour will be led by Darren Fava, a planner with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and volunteer guide with the Greater Philadelphia Preservation Alliance tour program. Highlights will include the system of pedestrian-only landscaped walkways created by city planners in the mid-20th century; the beloved Three Bears Park on quaint Delancey Street; Headhouse Square a public space and market dating to 1745; and “cover parks” created alongside and atop I-95 including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  

Please note: While Independence Mall is universally accessible, the gardens explored during the second part of the tour are not wheelchair accessible. Attendees are encouraged to bring water and wear comfortable shoes and attire for the 2.5-mile walking tour.

Tour Leaders

Darren Fava

Communications Content Manager, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Stefan Kosovych

Historian, Independence National Historical Park

Liam Cleary

Landscape Architect, Independence National Historical Park