Historical Philadelphia Walk

This Tour Comes From...
National Geographic Guide to America's Historic Places
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Stops on This Tour
1.  Independence National Historical Park Visitor Center
2.  Bishop William White House
3.  Todd House
4.  Carpenters' Hall
5.  New Hall Military Museum
6.  Franklin Court
7.  Second Bank of the United States
8.  Old City Hall
9.  Independence Hall
10.  Congress Hall
11.  Liberty Bell Pavilion
12.  Declaration House
13.  Atwater Kent Museum
14.  Free Quaker Meeting House
15.  Christ Church Burial Ground
16.  Betsy Ross House
17.  Elfreth's Alley
18.  Christ Church
William Penn's "greene Countrie towne" gained fame early on, for it was here that the Colonists decided to break their ties with England and create a new nation based on freedom and equality. The momentous events—proclamation of war against the English, signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, inauguration of two Presidents, drafting of the U.S. Constitution—unfolded in the few square miles now preserved as Independence National Historical Park. After independence, the prosperous city served as the nation's capital from 1790 to 1800, when the government moved to Washington.
Begin at the (1) Independence National Historical Park Visitor Center. (6th and Market Sts. +1 215 597 8974. Adm. fee, same-day tickets required for tours of Bishop White and Todd houses, arrive early; free tickets required for Independence Hall.) This new 50,000-square-foot [4,600-square-meter] facility is the first building to open as part of the Independence Mall refurbishment. In this modern building, you can pick up maps and tour tickets, learn about daily park activities, enjoy the video theater, relax in the Old Capital coffee bar, and make reservations for area restaurants and lodging.
(2) Bishop William White House (309 Walnut St. +1 215 597 8974) The revered rector of both Christ Church and St. Peter's Church, Bishop William White built and lived in this elegant federal town house between 1786 and 1836. A simple Georgian structure, (3) Todd House (4th and Walnut Sts. +1 215 597 8974) typifies the middle-class Quaker lifestyle of colonial Philadelphia. Dolley Todd (who later married James Madison) resided here with her first husband, John Todd.
(4) Carpenters' Hall (320 Chestnut St. +1 215 925 0167. Closed Mon. year-round and Tues. Jan.-Feb.) The Carpenters' Company of Philadelphia—the country's oldest crafts guild (founded 1724)—built this Georgian structure in 1770 and uses it to this day. The First Continental Congress convened here in September 1774 to air grievances against England. A small display includes Windsor chairs used by the delegates and early carpentry tools.
Nearby, the (5) New Hall Military Museum (Chestnut St. between 3rd and 4th Sts. +1 215 597 8974) recounts the histories of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps between 1775 and 1800 with weapons, scale models, and a slide show.
(6) Franklin Court (Between 3rd, 4th, Chestnut, and Market Sts. +1 215 597 8974) Don't miss this celebration of Benjamin Franklin, tucked unexpectedly behind Chestnut Street's commercial buildings. In the courtyard, a house-shaped steel frame hovers over the remains of the residence that the inventor and statesman owned from 1763 to 1790; glass portals let you peer into the original foundations. The state-of-the-art Franklin Museum has samples of Franklin's inventions, plus interactive exhibits and a film on his life. Several row houses, once rented out by Franklin, contain exhibits on architecture and 18th-century printmaking.
The Greek Revival (7) Second Bank of the United States (420 Chestnut St. +1 215 597 8974) ranked as one of the world's most important financial institutions when it was chartered in 1816. The beautifully restored interior houses the National Portrait Gallery (Adm. fee), featuring more than 185 works of art (many by Charles Willson Peale).
(8) Old City Hall (5th and Chestnut Sts. +1 215 597 8974) John Jay presided over the U.S. Supreme Court in a stately chamber here between 1791 and 1800. The restored building contains exhibits on early courts and late 18th-century Philadelphia.
(9) Independence Hall (Chestnut St. between 5th and 6th Sts. +1 215 597 8974. Tour lines can be long in summer. Beginning June 1, 2002, all visitors will need a free ticket for the Independence Hall tour during peak visitation seasons—March 1 to October 31, Thanksgiving weekend, and the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. Walk-up tickets for same-day tours are available at the Independence visitor center. Tickets may be reserved in advance through Spherix for a handling fee at 800 967 2283 or The United States of America was born in this beautiful marble-trimmed Georgian, originally constructed between 1732 and 1756 as the State House of the Province of Pennsylvania. The centerpiece is the stately Assembly Room, where delegates from the 13 Colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The guided tour also includes the Pennsylvania Supreme Court chamber, the governor's council chamber, the long room, and the committee room.
(10) Congress Hall (6th and Chestnut Sts. +1 215 597 8974) The Congress met in the federal-style Philadelphia Court House from 1790 to 1800, and both George Washington (second term) and John Adams took their presidential oaths of office here.
Philadelphia's most visited site, the (11) Liberty Bell Pavilion (Market St. between 5th and 6th Sts. +1 215 597 8974), enshrines America's most cherished emblem of liberty. Cast in 1753, the bell's ringing called the town's citizens for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776. The venerable bell, cracked from decades of use, rang for the last time on George Washington's birthday in 1846. It was moved from Independence Hall to this brick-and-glass pavilion in 1976, where it can be viewed 24 hours a day. In the spring of 2003 the Liberty Bell is scheduled to move to its future home on 6th Street between Market and Chestnut Streets. The existing pavilion will remain open during construction and is to be demolished when the new site is completed.
(12) Declaration House (Graff House) (7th and Market Sts. +1 215 597 8974) In 1776, 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson rented rooms in this reconstructed Georgian house and penned the Declaration of Independence. The first floor contains exhibits and a short film on the drafting of the document. The parlor and bedroom have been re-created with period furnishings.
(13) Atwater Kent Museum (15 S. 7th St. +1 215 922 3031. Closed Tues.) Toys and other everyday objects recall Philadelphia's history from its 1682 founding to the nation's 1876 centennial celebration.
(14) Free Quaker Meeting House (5th and Arch Sts. +1 215 597 8974. Open Memorial Day-Labor Day Tues.-Sun.) Declaring their support for the Revolutionary cause, the Free Quakers splintered from the pacifist Quakers and built their own meeting house in 1783. The brick structure has been restored to its appearance in 1784.
Five signers of the Declaration of Independence, including Benjamin Franklin, are buried in moss-covered (15) Christ Church Burial Ground (5th and Arch Sts. +1 215 922 1695). You can see Franklin's penny-covered grave through the fence on Arch Street.
(16) Betsy Ross House (239 Arch St. +1 215 686 1252. Open daily Memorial Day to Labor Day, closed Mon. the rest of the year. Donations) Whether Betsy Ross designed the first American flag or simply sewed an early one is widely disputed. But this dimly lit brick house (which may or may not be hers) portrays the 1740s lifestyle of a seamstress, Quaker, and patriot. Rooms seen on the short, self-guided tour include a restored upholstery shop.
Thirty colonial and federal houses line charming (17) Elfreth’s Alley (2nd between Arch and Race Sts. +1 215 574 0560), considered the country's oldest, continuously inhabited residential street. Elfreth's Alley Museum (No. 126. Adm. fee), housed in a 1750s brick row house, belonged to a mantuamaker and now contains period furnishings.
(18) Christ Church (2nd between Arch and Market Sts. +1 215 922 1695. Closed Mon.-Tues. Jan.–mid-March) One of North America's largest buildings when completed in 1754, this lovely Georgian church, with its wine-glass pulpit, served a venerable congregation of patriots.

This partial listing is an excerpt from the National Geographic Guide to America's Historic Places.
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