Philadelphia Road Scholar Trip – Day 2

I awoke Monday eager and ready for the first full Philadelphia tour day. Excited to see another of the oldest cities in America.

But first here’s a few facts for you about early Philly‘s importance. It was centrally located within the original 13 colonies. An ideal location for the American leaders meeting to discuss the colonies’ future. Those talks eventually led to the revolt against England and USA’s founding.

But the city’s history goes back even further. Charles II of England in 1681 granted William Penn a charter for what would become the Pennsylvania colony. Penn’s plan created a port city on the Delaware River and a place for religious tolerance. He named the city Philadelphia, Greek for “brotherly love” and as tour leader Tish always added “sisterly affection.”

Philadelphia was the location for the First Continental Congress held before the Revolutionary War. The Second Continental Congress during that war. And the Constitutional Convention held after it. The tour this day would include those historic sites.

I admit due to my recent health issue I was concerned about the walking requirement. According to Road Scholar this was a “keep the pace” tour. That meant walking two miles, standing on field trips and getting on and off buses. Exactly what our day’s adventure described.

My roommate and new friend Virginia ate an overfull American breakfast in the hotel’s Balcony Cafe buffet. Then we boarded a Global bus to the Colonial City area, America’s most historic square mile. We didn’t cover all of this in one day. Tomorrow we’d see more.

Independence National Historic Park

Liberty Bell

First we went to Independence National Historic Park part our National Park Service. There was so much to see here.

Of course there was the Liberty Bell originally known as the “State House Bell”. But there was more just in the bell’s area. I’m only giving you the highlights.

Before the entrance is Presidents Washington and Adams “ghost house”. That’s what Tish called it. The original house was demolished in 1832 but the foundations remain. Written records and artifacts provide the details for this unique exhibit and video on liberty and enslavement in the colony.

Independence Hall

After seeing what you know as the Liberty Bell we went outside to see Independence Hall. This was the birthplace of our nation originally built and used as the Pennsylvania State House. It is where the Declaration of Independence was first adopted, and the U.S. Constitution written.

We entered through the West Wing of Independence Hall to see The Great Essentials display showing surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution of the United States. Many copies of these iconic documents were made at the time. There’s also a silver inkstand that’s believed used for signing both the Declaration and Constitution.

Next we were guided through the Independence Hall’s various rooms.

Guide in the Supreme Court Room
The Supreme Court Room
The Assembly Room where the iconic documents were signed.

We walked up the steep, worn-wood Tower Hall steps to see more rooms used by committees and the Pennsylvania Governor. The interesting thing is Independence Hall was only used by our nation’s government part time. It was sorta loaned by Pennsylvania for set times. Then in 1800 Philly lost it to Washington, D. C and the capital was moved.

The Museum of the American Revolution

After Independence Hall we walked to the now two-year-old Museum of the American Revolution. Although a new endeavor it began more than a century ago. The museum has a huge, impressive collection of relevant art works, artifacts, manuscripts and printed books spanning the war’s diverse scope. If you’re interested you can take a virtual tour by clicking here.

Sadly the museum’s most interesting parts to me can’t be photographed for fear of them being damaged. Especially its big deal – George Washington’s tent. His Revolutionary war headquarters!

Washington’s Tent. Photo as is by GordonMakryllos, licensed under the Creative Commons.

Now if you’re in the SCA as I am Washington’s tent isn’t that amazing. Many of us regularly camp in canvas tents without floors. The exciting thing is it still exists. And remember it was not sewn by machine as ours are. The sewing machine wasn’t invented until 1876. All that canvas was stitched together by hand. Just thinking about it makes my fingers hurt. And the troupes had hand-sewn tents too.

After seeing Washington’s tent and exhibition as a group, I ambled down to the cafe for lunch with Virginia and other Road Scholars. We were each provided a $12 voucher to choose whatever we wanted to eat.

By far the most interesting exhibit was Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier. A special display telling the story of the Irish soldier and artist Richard St. George. His art and artifacts were united from across the world describing his life and death.

My favorite items in the Irish Soldier exhibit were the extant military uniforms. I had my nose pressed to each enclosure’s glass mentally measuring the length of the teeny hand-sewn stitches. Looking how the buttons were applied. Comparing the various uniform’s cotton, “denim” and wool fabrics. So thrilling for any history costumer which I am not. But I have an acquired taste.

City Tavern

Our tour group viewing the City Tavern

And last but definitely not least was dinner at the City Tavern. A historically accurate replication of the original Tavern completed in 1975. The chef is Walter Staib whose fresh, from scratch cuisine is created with local ingredients and period flare. I had the Chicken Breast Madeira with a mushroom demi-glaze. Like I know what a “demi-glaze” is. I do know it was scrumptious.

Note the wood grill to protect the bar offerings.

At the City Tavern I also learned what a “bar and grill” really was. It doesn’t mean booze and food. Of course a tavern has a bar with alcoholic beverages, but when over-served or obnoxious, rowdy sorts got out of hand the grill was lowered to protect the stock-in-trade.

After dinner some of the group went on to a free chamber music concert. Two walked to our Double Tree City Center Hotel. Virginia and I were pleased to climb the SEPTA bus and go back with others.

My step tracker disclosed I’d had a full day walking 10,000+ steps. I was thankful it included some breaks. Even so I was ready for rest and sleep. Tomorrow would be another busy tour day.

Categories: Travel

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  1. Well written. Thanks for posting. I have been to Independence Park 3 times, so far. Philadelphia is about a 1 hr. drive away for me. This Spring I plan to return there since I have never gotten to see or photograph the inside of Independence Hall. Just way too many people in line! Visit Elferems Alley just down the street. The oldest street in Philly that is still used today. Don’t forget the famous Philly Cheese Steak! They are the best!


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