Holidays in Philly

Throwback Philly Christmas: 13 historical photos of celebrations in the city

Philadelphians have been going all out with light displays for decades.

Chestnut Street in 1977

Chestnut Street in 1977

George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection / TEMPLE UNIVERSITY
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The holiday season almost begs us to be sentimental, to remember things as they once were. But some things haven’t changed much over the years.

Philly streets have been going all out with light displays for decades, photo ops with Santa have been around since the advent of cameras, and the crowds enthralled by the light display inside Wanamaker’s — now Macy’s — are as robust as ever.

There’s still a tree at Philadelphia City Hall. Today, it’s on the north side, facing Broad Street and positioned next to a 65-foot Ferris wheel. Back then, it was in the courtyard, which is now home to a holiday carousel.

Want more memories? Scroll through these pics to get all the throwback Philly Christmas vibes.

christmashistory-09
George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection / TEMPLE UNIVERSITY

Gimbels at 8th and Market, which was the world’s largest department store in the early 1900s, touted itself as “The store of a million Christmas gifts.”

1920

1920

Philadelphia Inquirer / Free Library Digital Archives

Santa handed out goodies to children in need, as captured in the 1920 Christmas Eve edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, which mentions the recent end of World War I.

1956

1956

George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection / TEMPLE UNIVERSITY

Looks like the 1700 block of Cleveland Street was the place to be for holiday lights in 1956.

1954

1958

George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection / TEMPLE UNIVERSITY

Like they do today, crowds gathered in 1958 to watch the annual tree lighting at City Hall.

1959

1959

CITY OF PHILADELPHIA DEPARTMENT OF RECORDS / PHILLYHISTORY.ORG

A festive “Seasons Greetings” display in 1959 adorns a building at North 29th and West Cambria streets in Allegheny West. The location is now home to a Philadelphia Water Department field office.

1960

1960

George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection / TEMPLE UNIVERSITY

The tree-adorned headquarters of the Philadelphia Bulletin (RIP), circa 1960.

christmashistory-11
George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection / TEMPLE UNIVERSITY

“Nearly 100,000 lights” sparkle at a home in the Northeast Philly neighborhood of Tacony.

1964 and 1977

1964 and 1977

George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection / TEMPLE UNIVERSITY

Just over a decade separates these pics of lit-up Chestnut Street in 1964 and 1977.

1970

1970

George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection / TEMPLE UNIVERSITY

Kensington’s Silver Street strung up with lights in 1970.

1976

1976

George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection

Shoppers risk strained necks to watch the light show inside Wanamaker’s in 1976.

1981

1981

City of Philadelphia / Phillyhistory.org

Christmas lights adorn Dilworth Plaza in 1981.

christmashistory-10
George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection / TEMPLE UNIVERSITY

Two Temple medical students take advantage of the picturesque message on the Girard Avenue Bridge over the Schuylkill River.

 

 

 

Want some more? Explore other Holidays in Philly stories.

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