Philadelphia Named First World Heritage City in the United States

by Navy Yard
November 9, 2015

Categories: Community, Fun, History,

Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Alan Greenberger, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Commerce Director, and the Global Philadelphia Association announced that the City of Philadelphia has become the first World Heritage City in the United States, formally receiving the designation this evening through a vote taken by the XIII World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities in Arequipa, Peru.  The designation comes as the result of a two-year campaign and is expected to enhance the City’s international stature and provide a new growth engine to drive tourism and commerce in the region. 

“Today marks the start of a new and exciting chapter in the history of Philadelphia, which is proud to become the first World Heritage City in the United States,” said Mayor Nutter.  “As a World Heritage City, Philadelphia is being officially recognized on the global stage for its wealth of contributions to the world as the epicenter of American democracy and for its enduring commitment to preserving the unique historical and cultural assets in our diverse community.  As we celebrate this milestone, the next step is to focus on the future and how we can optimize this World Heritage City recognition to attract more people to visit, invest, work, study and live in Philadelphia.”

Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger and John F. Smith, III, Chair of the Global Philadelphia Association, led a delegation of Philadelphia officials to the World Congress that included Sylvie Gallier-Howard, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Deputy Mayor; Fernando Trevino, Deputy Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs; and Zabeth Teelucksingh, Executive Director of the Global Philadelphia Association.

From its Colonial history to the present day, Philadelphia has rightfully earned its place as one of greatest cities in the world,” said Deputy Mayor Greenberger.  “Becoming a World Heritage City is a reflection of all that we have accomplished and a confirmation of the fact that the best is yet to come as Philadelphia continues to evolve and transform itself.”

John F. Smith III, whose organization, the Global Philadelphia Association, has worked with Mayor Nutter’s Administration on the joint initiative since 2013, said, “Philadelphia is adding another ‘first’ to its distinguished resume as the first World Heritage City in our nation.  This opens new doors of opportunity for Philadelphia while raising awareness of the City’s importance in today’s highly competitive global arena.”

Philadelphia’s strong case to become the first World Heritage City in the U.S. began with a revolutionary foundation – the fact that the City is the home of Independence Hall, where America’s Founding Fathers forged democratic ideals into the Declaration of Independence and changed the course of history to give birth to a nation in 1776.  It is also where the United States Constitution was written and signed.  Independence Hall became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.  In 2013, Philadelphia was approved as an Observer Member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities. Earlier this year, the World Heritage Philadelphia Executive Committee submitted an application to become a Full Member.  Philadelphia, the fifth-largest U.S. city, joins 266 other World Heritage Cities in the Organization of World Heritage Cities.

“I am thrilled to welcome Philadelphia into the Organization of World Heritage Cities. Over the last two years, Philadelphia has made an excellent case and is very deserving of becoming the first U.S. City to become a full member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities,” said Denis Ricard, Secretary General of the Organization of World Heritage Cities.

At a symposium in Philadelphia last month, the Global Philadelphia Association and the City of Philadelphia invited more than one hundred leaders in the public and private sectors to discuss ideas and strategies that could be implemented following the World Heritage City designation.  Now, these partners will develop and coordinate a plan of action in the months to come.

Mayor Nutter and the delegation will celebrate this historic designation with a Toast to World Heritage PHL at the Independence Visitors Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday, November 11that 4pm.

For information about the Organization of World Heritage Cities, visit

About the Global Philadelphia Association

The Global Philadelphia Association (GPA) was founded in 2010 by leading international organizations in the Greater Philadelphia region. Its mission is to assist – and encourage greater interaction among – the many organizations and people who are engaged in international activity within the Greater Philadelphia region; promote the development of an international consciousness within the region; and enhance the region’s global profile. GPA is a nonprofit organization with more than 190 members, including businesses, organizations and internationally-minded individuals.  For more information, visit