Finding the Hidden City

Joseph E. B. Elliott, Nathaniel Popkin, and Peter Woodall
Book Cover

HC: $40.00
EAN: 978-1-4399-1300-0
Publication: Nov 17

192 pages
7.875 x 10.5
102 color photos, 8 halftones

Revealing the physical and cultural intricacies of Philadelphia, from the intimate to the monumental

Read an excerpt from the Introduction (pdf).


Philadelphia possesses an exceptionally large number of places that have almost disappeared—from workshops and factories to sporting clubs and societies, synagogues, churches, theaters, and railroad lines. In Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City, urban observers Nathaniel Popkin and Peter Woodall uncover the contemporary essence of one of America’s oldest cities. Working with accomplished architectural photographer Joseph Elliott, they explore secret places in familiar locations, such as the Metropolitan Opera House on North Broad Street, the Divine Lorraine Hotel, Reading Railroad, Disston Saw Works in Tacony, and mysterious parts of City Hall.

Much of the real Philadelphia is concealed behind facades. Philadelphia artfully reveals its urban secrets. Rather than a nostalgic elegy to loss and urban decline, Philadelphia exposes the city’s vivid layers and living ruins. The authors connect Philadelphia’s idiosyncratic history, culture, and people to develop an alternative theory of American urbanism, and place the city in American urban history. The journey here is as much visual as it is literary; Joseph Elliott’s sumptuous photographs reveal the city's elemental beauty.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Markers of the Hidden City

Part 1. City of Infinite Layers
Part 2. City of Living Ruins

List of Plates
Appendix: Places Photographed
Author Biographies

About the Author(s)

Joseph E. B. Elliott is a Professor of Art at Muhlenberg College and an Instructor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. He is the author of The Steel: Photographs of the Bethlehem Steel Plant, 1989–1996 and (with Aaron V. Wunsch) Palazzos of Power: Central Stations of the Philadelphia Electric Company, 1900–1930.

Nathaniel Popkin is co-founder of the web magazine Hidden City Daily and senior writer for the documentary film Philadelphia: The Great Experiment. He is the author of Song of the City: An Intimate History of the American Urban Landscape and The Possible City: Exercises in Dreaming Philadelphia, as well as the novel Lion and Leopard. His literary criticism appears in the Wall Street Journal and other publications.

Peter Woodall is a former newspaper reporter and producer for public radio. He co-founded the web magazine Hidden City Daily and is the project director of its parent organization, Hidden City Philadelphia.