Gallery is less positive about the developments that occurred beyond Penn’s grid, where no guidance was given to settlers and roads radiated out from the hub like spokes on a wheel. The extension of the grid following the consolidation of county and city in 1854 created awkward intersections between the planned and unplanned, and older commercial areas declined as development followed the grid rather than the earlier streets. Yet as Gallery acknowledges, it is perhaps unfair to blame Penn for his failure to foresee a city covering 125 square miles.
Most Philadelphia city dwellers have had that conversation with a tourist, but thanks to the vision of William Penn and his grid system, it’s really no trouble at all to explain to a newbie how to get from Independence Hall to Jim’s for a cheesesteak or anywhere else they want to go. But, as soon as you pluck us from the grid, we’re a complete mess. Turns out that’s less to do with our ability to navigate and more to do with the willy nilly nature of development in what were the early suburbs of Philly.
That quote is from a recent article in The Guardian detailing Penn’s original plan for Philadelphia and its continued impact on the city’s development for the foreseeable future. The whole piece is definitely worth a read, so check it out.