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Our Nation’s First World Heritage City

On November 6, 2015, Philadelphia proudly became a full member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC). The City of Philadelphia is the first World Heritage City in the United States. After three years, the Global Philadelphia Association and the City of Philadelphia have succeeded in their effort to make Philadelphia an official member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities.

This prized status recognizes Philadelphia’s unique history and will unlock opportunities for the entire region.




Why we are a World Heritage City

On November 6, 2015, Philadelphia made a compelling case to become a full member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities in Arequipa, Peru at the XIII OWHC World Congress.

Every World Heritage City must have a UNESCO site, recognized for its outstanding, universal value. Independence Hall is the foundation stone of our OWHC membership.

In 1979...

Philadelphia’s iconic Independence Hall was inscribed by the United Nations educational, scientific, and cultural organization (UNESCO) on its world heritage list.

As UNESCO has stated:

“The Declaration of Independence was adopted and the Constitution of the United States of America framed in this fine early 18th-century building in Philadelphia. These events, which took place respectively in 1776 and 1787, were conceived in a national context, but the universal principles of freedom and democracy set forth in these two documents have had a profound impact on lawmakers and political thinkers around the world. They became the models for similar charters of other nations, and may be considered to have heralded the modern era of government.”


Colonial City founded
on new principles

Philadelphia is a physical manifestation of the principles of freedom and tolerance that were novel in the 17th century and remain critically relevant in the 21st century.


Enlightenment City of Freedom
and Popular Sovereignty

The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution have served as an innovative foundation for governance and model for founders of other nations.


Evolution from industrial
to post-industrial

Philadelphia has provided global leadership in giving shape to the post-industrial city by re-imagining the pillars of a 21st century Philadelphia to include learning and culture, education, healthcare, research and life science as well as new forms of manufacturing activity.


City of Re-use
& Re-invention

Philadelphia has developed innovative ways to re-use and re-invent its historical and cultural assets to preserve and protect the heritage they represent.


The Philadelphia World Heritage City film is a 28-minute documentary written and narrated by University of Pennsylvania Professor of History of Art, Dr. David Brownlee, Ph.D., FSAH, and produced and directed by filmmaker Sam Katz. Created to commemorate the historic designation of Philadelphia as the First World Heritage City in the United States, the film offers an exceptional glimpse into the formation and development of Philadelphia, illustrating the city’s leadership role in the fields of art, transportation, urban planning, medicine and more. The film spans centuries, touching upon the formation of some of Philadelphia’s unique neighborhoods and how far Philadelphia has come from the idealistic plan envisioned by William Penn in the 17th century. Now, with a World Heritage City designation by the Organization of World Heritage Cities, Philadelphia should fully embrace its rich heritage as Dr. Brownlee so eloquently reminds viewers.

Click for subtitles: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, ItalianJapanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Vietnamese.

The World Heritage Project


Philadelphia has joined a prestigious company of 300 international cities as a World Heritage City – the first in the United States!

Philly is uniquely positioned to take advantage of many new opportunities for economic growth, international relationships, historic preservation, and increased tourism.

The strategic plan summarizes a series of bold aspirations that come with our new status. This plan is for all Philadelphians!


Promote preservation and appreciation of our geographical, historical and cultural heritage through WHC designation and continued education.


Provide a powerful economic and cultural stimulus to the region.


Inspire citizens to feel pride in their World Heritage City.

We intend to accomplish these goals through the following strategies:


Implement a public engagement campaign to inform the regional population about Philadelphia’s status as a World Heritage City and activate a discussion of the resulting opportunities.


Partner with existing organizations to facilitate brand recognition of Philadelphia as a World Heritage City in the region, nation, and world.


Champion the education of all Philadelphians about our diverse and interconnected histories and cultures.


Participate in a broad range of activities with OWHC and its global member cities, increasing Philadelphia’s international presence.


Advocate and support an International Department within the City of Philadelphia to focus on global opportunities and support brand recognition.


Support and draw attention to the many diverse heritages of communities throughout the Greater Philadelphia area.

What has been done to carry out Philadelphia’s World Heritage Strategic Plan so far? Discover our First Year Review video:

10 Benefits of the World Heritage City Designation

In becoming a World Heritage City, Philadelphia aims to preserve its unique historic assets while also invigorating the city’s culture and economy.

Considerable research documents the benefits enjoyed by other cities as a result of their World Heritage City status.

We anticipate similar results for Philadelphia.


Increased Global Competitiveness


Enhanced stature of Philadelphia brand


New Business Attraction


Increase in tourism & conferences


Higher revenue for arts & culture


Increased land & property values


Attraction of grants & investments


Promotion of sustainable practice


Global Network & Accessibility


Heightened Awareness of City’s Cultural Heritage


Philadelphia World Heritage Founding Committee

Jim Kenney
City of Philadelphia
Christer Andresen
Senior Vice President
Bank Hapoalim
Madeline Bell
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Edward D’Alba
Board Member
Urban Engineers
Nicholas DeBenedictis
Aqua America, Inc.
Romulo l. Diaz, Jr.
VP & General Counsel
Harold Epps
Director of Commerce
City of Philadelphia
John Fry
Drexel University
Deborah R. Gross
Philadelphia Bar Association
Amy Gutmann, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania
Stephen Harmelin
Vice Chairman, Executive Committee
Dilworth Paxson
Gail Harrity
President & COO
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Stephen k. Klasko, M.D.
Thomas Jefferson University
Charisse Lillie
Vice President, Community Investment
Comcast Corporation
Matthew Loden
Executive Vice President
Philadelphia Orchestra
Chris Matthews
Hardball with Chris Matthews MSNBC
Joseph McLaughlin
Founder & CEO
Haverford Quality Investing
Robert J. McNeill
Managing Partner
Greater Philadelphia Region, Deloitte LLP
Tom Scannapieco
President & CEO
Scannapieco Development Corporation
John F. Smith, III
Board Chair
Global Philadelphia Association
Manuel N. Stamatakis
President & CEO
Capital Management Enterprises
Gerard H. Sweeney
President & CEO
Brandywine Realty Trust
Stephen s. Tang, Ph.D.
President & CEO
University City Science Center
Judith von Seldeneck
Founder, Chairman & CEO
Diversified Search
Rob Wonderling
President & CEO
Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
The Dental Spa
Mario Zacharjasz
PZS Architects LLC

World Heritage City Implementation Group

Barry Eiswerth, RA NA
Email Barry
Harold T. Epps
City of Philadelphia
Nina Ahmad
City of Philadelphia
David Brownlee
University of Pennsylvania
Email David
Matt Cabrey
Select Greater Philadelphia
Chellie Cameron
PHL Airport
Julie Coker Graham
James J. Cuorato
President and CEO
Independence Visitor Center Corporation
Leah Douglas
PHL Airport
Miriam Enriquez
City of Philadelphia
Martha Falcon
Sylvie Gallier Howard
City of Philadelphia
Email Sylvie
Sheila Hess
City of Philadelphia
Margaret Hughes
City of Philadelphia
Kelly Lee
City of Philadelphia
Meryl Levitz
Visit Philadelphia
Peter Longstreth
Consular Corps Association of Philadelphia
Siobhan Lyons
Citizen Diplomacy International
Cara Schneider
Visit Philadelphia
John Smith
Board Chair
Global Philadelphia Association
Email John
Paul Steinke
Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia
Zabeth Teelucksingh
Executive Director
Global Philadelphia Association
Email Zabeth

Corporate Sponsors

The following have generously contributed to Philadelphia World Heritage Initiative.

The Philadelphia World Heritage Project would also like to acknowledge the pioneering contributions of the original Project Team, some of whom no longer hold office with the City of Philadelphia.  These include:

Alan Greenberger, formerly Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Director of Commerce,

Sapna Bhatt, formerly Director of International Investment in the Commerce Department, and

Fernando Trevino, formerly Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

Support World Heritage PHL

There are numerous ways that you can support
the World Heritage Philadelphia effort.


Become a member of the Global Philadelphia Association.

Learn Moreand become a member

Join the Philadelphia World Heritage Society.

Learn Moreand become a member

Interested in getting involved as a volunteer?

Learn Moreand become a member


Zabeth Teelucksingh
Executive Director of Global Philadelphia Association