Welcome to Philadelphia, Legal Historians! (“The Place That Loves You Back”)

Few U.S. cities wear their national history with greater pride than Philadelphia. From Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell; to grand remnants of the Centennial Exhibition along the Ben Franklin Parkway and Logan Circle; to William Penn’s aspirationally peacemaking image atop City Hall; to the 76ers NBA team. Less celebrated are the dispossessions, exploitations, and violence that are equally part of this history. But one can easily find evidence of them in Philadelphia’s remarkable collections of historical materials, as well as in place-names and scattered monuments (such as the Presidents’ House exhibit at Independence Hall).

Philadelphia is also home to many educational institutions, including Drexel University, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Penn Carey Law at the University of Pennsylvania will host the conference’s plenary lecture and reception. The Temple University Beasley School of Law will host the Student Research Colloquium and the Wallace Johnson First Book Program.

View the Final Program Here!

Hotel Information

This year’s conference hotel, the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown, is located in Philadelphia’s “Center City” neighborhood—near public transit, countless shops and restaurants, and excellent walking paths and public spaces.

As of Oct 1, rooms at the Sheraton at the group rate are now sold out.

Travel Tips

The Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is ten miles from the hotel, or roughly a 20-to-30-minute drive (with pertinent caveats about city traffic).  There is a $32 flat rate for taxis from the airport to Center City destinations, including the Sheraton, and vice versa. Second and additional passengers will result in an additional charge of $1 per passenger for rides from the airport into the city. Rideshare services (Lyft, Uber) are also available.

Another good transportation option to and from the airport is the “regional rail” train operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).  The Airport Line runs every half hour, and the Suburban Station stop is a short walk to the Sheraton. The ride is roughly forty minutes (with some variance depending on which terminal you’re coming from). The cost is $6.75 with a prepaid fare, or $8 cash or credit if paid aboard the train.

For conference attendees arriving by train, Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station is less than a mile from the Sheraton (a roughly 20-minute walk or a short ride via taxi, rideshare, or public transportation).

Philadelphia’s public transportation system (part of SEPTA) includes numerous bus routes, as well as a subway/trolley system. The “blue line” subway runs east and west, connecting Center City and the University of Pennsylvania by a distance of three stops. The closest “blue line” station to the Sheraton is at the intersection of 15th Street and Market Street. Convenient bus lines include the 42 and the 21. The cost in each direction is $2.50. To map out other trips via public transportation, we recommend SEPTA’s “trip planner” feature.

Weather (“It’s Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia”)

Average annual temperatures in Philadelphia range from the middle or low 60s to the middle 40s (Fahrenheit). Late October temperatures have tended to fall within that range.

Sites and Archives:

Many of the City’s most famous sights and attractions are within just a few miles of the conference hotel. Of particular note: the National Constitution Center, the Museum of the American Revolution, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the Science History Museum, Eastern State Penitentiary, the Philadelphia Mint, the Rosenbach Museum and Library, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (site of the famous “Rocky” steps and sculpture), and the medicine/disease-focused Mütter Museum (currently reckoning with the ethics of its collection of nineteenth-century human remains). Follow the link for a fuller list of history-themed local attractions.

There are also a number of lovely public spaces within easy reach from the conference hotel, including Sister Cities Park, Dilworth Park, LOVE Park (named for the famous LOVE sculpture), the Parkway Central Library, and Rittenhouse Square. Slightly farther afield, but also reachable on foot: Philadelphia’s vast Fairmount Park, the historic Washington Square Park, and – a lovely indoor option – the Dream Garden mural in the lobby of the Curtis Building (one of many murals that form part of Philadelphia’s civic landscape).

For those hoping to do some research while in town, a compilation of Philadelphia-area archives is available here. It includes the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the renowned Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University, as well as special collections at a host of other nearby colleges, universities, museums, and other institutions.

Food and Drink

This year’s meeting takes place in close proximity to a range of outstanding restaurants.

The Sheraton is a few blocks west of Chinatown. Nom Wah Dim Sum, Sang Kee Peking Duck, and Terakawa Ramen are just three recommendations among many.

A few blocks south of Chinatown is “WashWest,” a notable center for Philly’s LGBTQ communities and home to many excellent dining options. El Vez, Barbuzzo, Little Nonnas, Bud & Marilyn, Winkel, Kinme, and Middle Child are among the notables. Good options for vegetarian and vegan eaters include Charlie Was a Sinner, Monster Vegan, and Hip City Veg. Less price-sensitive eaters might consider highlights at Vedge or Vetri Cucina, and, somewhat farther east, at Talula’s Garden or Zahav.

In between Chinatown and WashWest are the bustling crowds of Reading (“redding”) Terminal Market. This large, indoor space houses numerous stalls and restaurants, including Amish and Mennonite vendors, excellent produce and cheese, fresh-made pretzels and cheesesteaks, outrageous chocolates, and locally made alcohol, along with many other goodies. (If market experiences appeal, you might also consider a field trip to South Philadelphia, home of the famous Italian Market.)

Walking south or southwest from the Sheraton, toward Rittenhouse Square, one can find dozens of other good (but sometimes pricier) dining options. Di Bruno Bros., Dizengoff, and Goldie are excellent choices for a quick bite. Reliable sit-down options include Parc, Giuseppe and Sons, The Dandelion, Melograno, and Wilder.

For coffee drinkers, there are many choices. Elixr, La Colombe, the Green Line Café, Vernick Coffee Bar (in the Comcast Center), Konditori, Gran Caffe L’Aquila, and Starbucks (multiple locations) are all walking distance from the conference hotel.

Sweet-tooth partisans might choose between the exceptional donuts at either Beiler’s Bakery (in Reading Terminal Market) or Federal Donuts (very nearby the Sheraton), and between ice cream at either Bassetts (in Reading Terminal Market) or the unironically nostalgic Franklin Fountain in the “Old City” neighborhood.

For post-conference adult beverages, one could recommend a wide range of options, including Andra Hem, Writer’s Block Rehab, and Fergie’s Pub. Dirty Frank’s is a low-cost (cash-only) option. Higher-priced notables include JG Skyhigh at the Four Seasons (known for its stunning views) and the Library Bar at the Rittenhouse Hotel.  For those seeking non-alcoholic options, local food writers have compiled some standout “mocktails” here and here.

Live Activities

Runners or walkers could head east from the Sheraton for a good (relatively short) running path along the Delaware River, but the better option is probably to travel northwest on the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Schuylkill River Trail (pronounced “skoo-kuhl”). The trail is wide and well-traveled, with a good rest and refreshment option (Cosmic Cafe) along the way.

For those interested in live music and shows, Philly offers many options. Reliable venues include the Fillmore, the World Cafe Live, Johhny Brendas, and the Kimmel Center.


Host an ASLH Conference

The American Society for Legal History’s Standing Committee on Annual Meetings invites proposals to host or sponsor (in full or in part) a future Annual Meeting. Interesting venues, affordable hotel rates, tax exemption for out-of-state non-profits and reasonable funding support for meeting events are highly favored in site selection.

Upcoming Conference

October 24–26, 2024

The next ASLH Annual Meeting will be held in San Francisco, CA

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