The Continental Congress first met in Philadelphia in 1774. Its members represented the colonies that would rise against Great Britain in theAmerican Revolution. In 1775, the city was the seat of the Second Continental Congress, which named George Washington Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. The Declaration of Independence was signed in Independence Hall on July4, 1776. When the British occupied Philadelphia between December, 1776, and February, 1777, Congress was forced to move briefly to Baltimore. In 1783, the Third Continental Congress approved a proposal by Oliver Pollock that a portrait of Bernardo de Gálvez be hung in its chamber, in recognition of the assistance afforded by the one-time governor of Spanish Louisiana.
The city has been the focus of several films, among them The PhiladelphiaStory (1940), the celebrated comedy starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, and the deeply moving film Philadelphia (1993), with Tom Hanks andAntonio Banderas in the leading roles.
The historical Spanish protagonist of the city would be Diego de Gardoqui, envoy of Carlos III, whose mission was to arrange for the transfer of money and supplies to the North Americans. His statue, the work of the sculptor Luis Antonio Sanguino, now stands in Sister Cities Park, a gift to the city by the Spanish king, Juan Carlos I, in 1976.
The Old City district of Philadelphia preserves its pleasant colonial atmosphere, with trees, traditional streetlamps, and gardens, as well as beautiful brick buildings. A significant historic cluster of buildings from the Revolutionary period, which is run by the National Park Service, includes the recently opened and independently run Museum of the American Revolution. One can also visit the tomb of Benjamin Franklin, the Liberty Bell, or the home of Betsy Ross, who, it is believed, hand-sewed the first North American flag.
The house where Juan de Miralles, first Spanish representative to the Congress, lived still stands on 3rd South Street, beside the Powel House. Aplaque memorializing his role was installed in the house at the initiative of the Spanish government in 1967. The house was later occupied by his successor, Francisco Rendón, who, interestingly, rented it to George and MarthaWashington in the winter of 1781-1782.