Great cities and neighborhoods rise and fall, yet Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia has seized the imagination and envy of social climbers, urban planners, and novelists alike for two centuries. In The Perfect Square, Nancy Heinzen—a resident of Rittenhouse Square for over 40 years and an activist committed to its preservation—provides the first full-length social history of this public urban space.
One of the five squares William Penn established when he founded the city, the southwest-situated Rittenhouse Square has transformed from a marshy plot surrounded by brickyards and workers’ shanties into the epicenter of Philadelphia high society. A keystone of center city Philadelphia, it was once home to great dynasties, elegant mansions, and grand dames of the Victorian era. Today it is lined with million-dollar high-rise condominiums, where nouveau-riche entrepreneurs and descendants of ethnic immigrants live side-by-side.
Heinzen lovingly chronicles this urban space’s development and growth, illustrating that not only is Rittenhouse Square unique, but so is the combination of human events and relationships that have created and sustained it.
Painstakingly researched and generously illustrated with black-and-white photos from public archives, The Perfect Square will appeal to lay readers interested in history, to professional historians and urban planners, and to the thousands of new residents who have settled on or near Rittenhouse Square since the dawn of the 21st century.