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Philadelphia Bourse

Posted on Monday, August 3, 2015
The Bourse Building, opened in 1895, was the first Commodities Exchange in the United States. The Bourse Building was the first in the world to simultaneously house a stock exchange, maritime exchange and grain-trading center.

The History

In 1890, influential Philadelphian businessman George E. Bartol visited the Bourse of Hamburg, Germany.  The historic German merchant exchange offered a forum for those in the grain trade to conduct business.  Impressed by the economic might of the Hamburg Bourse, Bartol set about creating a Philadelphia Bourse upon his return to the city.  Many of the most influential businessmen and merchants in Philadelphia at the time became involved in the project and moved quickly to raise funding.  Founded in 1891, the Philadelphia Bourse Corporation championed the motto “buy, sell, ship via Philadelphia.”
The Philadelphia Bourse as viewed from Independence Mall
After the formation of Philadelphia Bourse Company, work began on constructing their headquarters.  The renowned architectural firm of G.W. & W.D. Hewitt, which would go on to design the famous Bellevue-Stratford Hotel at Broad & Walnut Streets in Philadelphia, were chosen to design the building. The Philadelphia Bourse building would utilize a novel new construction method by utilizing a steel frame to support the building, making it one of the first steel frame buildings constructed in the entire world.  The façade was sheathed in Carlisle redstone, Pompeian buff brick and terra cotta, and it was designed in the Beaux-Arts style. The building was also extremely technologically advanced for its era. The latest financial news from across the globe was received via telegraph and pneumatic tubes that connected the Bourse directly with the United States Post Office. Construction on the Philadelphia Bourse was completed in 1895, making the Philadelphia Bourse the first commodities exchange in the United States.  
While the Bourse ceased function as a commodities exchange in the 1960s, its location on the then newly created Independence Mall made the building an attractive location for tourism related businesses.  Known today as simply “The Bourse,” the historic building houses office space on the upper levels while the ground level of the building has over 20 retail and food service stores dedicated to serving the millions of visitors to Independence National Historical Park every year.

What to See

For tourists in the vicinity of Independence National Historic Park, the Bourse can serve as your one stop shop for nearly all of your needs.  Multiple shops and newsstands sell all the essentials that you may have forgotten to pack before your trip including batteries for your camera, maps of Philadelphia, or ponchos and umbrellas for those unexpectedly wet and rainy summer days.
Philadelphia Bourse Interior
The Bourse is also home to half dozen shops that sell all kinds of souvenirs.  Some souvenir shops cater to the history buffs offering replica Liberty Bells and Constitutions.  Other shops sell souvenirs that have a more modern angle, whether it be a poster depicting Philadelphia’s skyline or a “Rocky” t-shirt.  The Bourse is also a great place for sports fans as apparel for all of Philadelphia’s major pro teams can found inside.
Perhaps the most popular reason to visit the Bourse however, is the many dining options.  Located just steps away from Independence Hall, The Bourse provides a culinary option that is to easy to reach and won't break the bank.  The Bourse carries all types of fast meal options with a wide variety of cuisines, from Chinese to Mexican fare and everything in between.  The Bourse also offers a number of unique Philadelphia dining establishments that offer authentic Philadelphia cheesesteaks and hoagies.

Insider Tips

The Bourse is a great destination for school groups coming to Philadelphia to take The Constitutional Walking Tour on field trips.  Many of the restaurants in the Bourse will allow you to arrange for box lunches to prepared for your students ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about students waiting in line to get food themselves.  The lower level of the Bourse also includes seating for large groups convenient to the restrooms.  
While students eat they can also entertain themselves with “Benjamin Franklin’s Ghost,” a unique attraction where guests are welcomed to participate in a free interactive experience.  Benjamin Franklin’s Ghost is capable of answering hundreds of questions relating to numerous historical and comical themes.  In order to make lunch at the Bourse even easier you can also arrange to have The Constitutional Walking Tour tailored to end directly at the Bourse so students can enjoy lunch directly following our tours!
Benjamin Franklin's Ghost a free interactive experience at the Bourse

How to Get There

The Philadelphia Bourse is conveniently located for guests of The Constitutional Walking Tour, located just a block and a half south of the National Constitution Center, where all of our tours begin and end.  Aside from walking, you can also easily access the Bourse by taking the Market-Frankford Line to 5th Street Station which is just steps away from the Bourse. There is also a parking garage located next to the Bourse which makes driving easy as well.

Additional Information

111 South Independence Mall East
Philadelphia, PA 19106

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