It was sunny in Philadelphia today (it was actually cloudy and a bit drizzly out). In my heart it was sunny, though, because I was taking a special someone by the name of Sam there for the first time in his life, and it was my first time during the holidays.
We started our day bright and early with Free Tours by Foot for a two and a half hour walking tour of the historic section of Philly. I had booked the tour the night before, so I was a bit wary of whether there would be enough people on it, considering the weather was gloomy. However, I was surprised by our peppy and not college-aged (a few times that) tour guide and a group of about a dozen. Here are a few things we saw and learned about on the tour:
- Betsy Ross’s house – She is credited for sewing together the first American flag. However, there is no proof that she in fact did it. There is also no proof that the gravesite located at her house contain her bones, which have been moved several times.
- Elfreth’s Alley – This is the oldest continuously occupied street in America. The townhouses were first rented by merchants and artisans, and the earliest home is dated to around 1703. If you want to live in history, it comes at a cost: A house just went up for sale for $900,000.
- If you notice in the below slideshow, there are mirrors on the one house. They are called “busy bodies” or “gossip mirrors,” which would work together to show the refection of anyone trying to get into the house. You may also notice a plaque on each house, which signaled which fire company was supposed to help if needed.
- Christ Church- An Episcopal church founded in 1695 as part of the Church of England, its construction did not begin until 1727. It played a huge role in founding the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, and anyone important in the founding of America was probably there at one point. While it has been redesigned since the days when the Washingtons and Adams would sit in its pews, the 274-year-old chandelier and the graves that date between 1700 and 1796 in its floors uncover the true history of it. Between the graves on site and the graveyard around the corner from it, which is considered Christ Church property, about an eighth of the Constitution signers are buried there.
- Merchants’ Exchange Building- This significant building served as a commercial and financial center in Philadelphia, as well as a post office.
A few other notable places we saw were the site of William Penn’s home, the site of one of Ben Franklin’s residences, complete with an outline to represent the structure as well as minimal ruins of it protected and showcased by viewing boxes, the first national bank (we found the second on our own), a replica of Ben Franklin’s print shop which was demonstrated by people in period clothing, Ben Franklin’s grave site (on Christ Church property) and City Tavern.
Speaking of the City Tavern, we actually ended up eating there once learning about it on our tour. It is a recreation of the original tavern which opened in 1773 and was a popular spot among America’s founding fathers. It had to be re-erected due to a fire that destroyed it in 1834, and the replacement opened just in time for its bicentennial anniversary. Sam and I had a lovely candle-lit late lunch complete with Thomas Jefferson’s “favorite bread” and bulky metal drinking vessels. I had a hearty lobster pie and Sam had tasty beef tenderloins. You can see the menu here.
The second part of our historic adventured included a tour through Independence Hall, which is where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were both debated and adopted as well as where the Second Continental Congress was held, and a self-guided tour of Liberty Bell Center. As far as I can remember, I had never been in Independence Hall, and it felt so special being in a building that houses such important American history. To my surprise, it was smaller than I imagined and although almost everything in there is original, it seemed like it could have been staged.
Once our brains were full of history, Sam and I spent the rest of the day getting into the Christmas spirit by visiting four different holiday markets/squares/centers. First on our list was Philadelphia City Hall, which boasts a beautiful Christmas tree, a Merry-Go-Round and some shopping stalls. While not as tall as the tree in NYC’s Rockefeller Center, City Hall’s tree embodies Christmas with large ornaments and random things seemingly thrown on it such as a sled. Plus, City Hall is a gorgeous building, and walking through its outside corridors felt Hogwarts-esque.
Across the street from City Hall is Love Park, which bears the famous “LOVE” sign and had many boutique shops. We then strolled back down Broad Street and headed to the Franklin Square light show, where we enjoyed some spiked drinks and warmed up a bit.
We ended the night at Penn’s landing, which is lined with many Christmas trees covered in colorful lights, has an ice skating rink, an arcade and a cute little snack hut. We sat by a fire as the sky released some raindrops, and honesty, I could have sat there all night.