Wanderlusting: Old City
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust
Philly is a delightful smorgasbord of old and new which is shown in the stunning melding of it’s architecture. Since I had explored the commercial side of Philly the day before, I could not wait to visit the Historical District which houses many of the famous Revolutionary War buildings that we have grown up learning about in school.
Much like New York, Philly is set up in a grid. It was easy to find my way around, especially since I had been there before. It also has many characteristics of Paris which is why it is considered a sister city.
While Philly is prorated into large neighborhoods, many of them are subsequently split into smaller sections. One of my favorites and what was the original footprint of Philadelphia, is Center City. The name alone, reminds me of something out of Marvel Comics. (Nerd moment alert!) It is in Center City where Old City is located.
Philly is also a World heritage City due in part to its many historical landmarks. Aside from the more visited Independence Hall, and Liberty Bell, it is also home to the first stock exchange, first bank, second bank, first library, first medical AND business school, as well as the birth place of the Marine corp. It also has the oldest residential street in the country.
In this country’s infancy it was one of the most, if not the most influential cities of the time.
In the morning my cousin and I rallied from our night out, and made our way into Philly. The streets which had been filled with raucous rivalry the night before was quiet, and we walked along the cobblestone looking for a place to eat.
We paused outside what looked like a dive bar, debating going in, until I heard a waitress mention their extensive coffee list.
Much like New York, you can not tell a restaurant by it’s exterior. The narrow entrance opened up into a gorgeous updated black and white colonial style restaurant with high ceilings and a second floor. I immediately fell in love with the place and that was before I had even looked at the coffee list!
The menu was extensive offering true Southern comfort with an old fashioned spin. I decided to have a Philly cheese steak omelet that is just a signature of the city but hit the spot and sustained me for a fun day of exploration.
And the coffee! They offered lattes that were truly delectable works of art, more caffeinated deserts, then actual cups, but that was alright with me! I settled on a honeyed maple latte that was served with whipped cream and maple drizzled on top. It was the perfect way to start the day!
Independence National Historical Park
Part of the National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park is 55 acres of sites that have meaning to the Revolutionary War. It is a History Text book come to life.
Paved with cobblestone and lined with trees and grass, it is a peaceful blend of nature ad history as you explore the area. Many of the buildings are open to the public free of charge. I literally could have spent hours if not days there.
Having seen Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell a couple years ago, I chose to skip it. instead exploring Carpenter Hall, The Benjamin Franklin Museum and the Second Bank.
The Benjamin Franklin Museum was interesting, especially when we saw this.
I am not sure I want to know what an unexcavated privy is.
After that puzzlement we stumbled upon something much more pleasant.
Nestled between historical buildings is the Eighteenth Century Garden, a portrayal of what English gardening was at the time. Complete with a gorgeous pergola, it was the perfect place to sit for a few moments just absorbing the history.
And of course take a couple pictures.
But just a couple…..
The Second Bank
One of my favorite parts of my trip was the Second Bank. Built in 1816, it handled all fiscal transactions for the United States which was the bank’s largest stockholder.
While usually I shy away from anything banking since it usually translates to math, which we won’t even delve into the many ways I suck at it, I happily made an exception when the architecture literally caught my eye.
Designed by architect William Strickland who was a disciple of and founder of the Greek Revival movement in the United States. With eight Doric columns framing the front, the Second Bank is the perfect example of that style. Based on the Parthenon, it is a striking contradiction to the buildings that surround it.
Architecture and Elfreth’s Alley
I couldn’t come to Philly and NOT see the oldest street in America. With a name sounding like something out of Harry Potter, Elfreth’s Alley was a must and it did not disappoint.
With 32 houses on the street it is a historical landmark. The houses built with Georgian and Federal styles consistent with the time, have withstood industry change, demolition, and ever changing architecture to be restored to the quaint colonial street it was in its hey day.
You can still see the old horse posts outside many of the houses. It only enlivens the imagination to the days of our fore fathers. It was easy to picture them walking along the narrow streets plotting against the king. It really was and is a writer’s paradise.
I spent the majority of the day walking, snapping pictures, and even doing a little posing in front of a house or two. Thankfully, no one was home…I think.
The Franklin Fountain and Shane Candies
A trip would not be complete without going to The Franklin Fountain. An old fashioned ice cream shop named after one of Philly’s most famous residents, Benjamin Franklin. Opened in 2004, the Berley Brother’s have built a Philly staple. With lines usually out the door, we lucked out, not having to wait to long.
The decor inside is eighteenth century retro, and everything is homemade, from the ice cream to their sauces.
Served in Chinese takeout containers, I settled on traditional vanilla bean with caramel sauce, whipped cream, and a cherry. It really was some of the best ice cream I have ever had. And as an ice cream connoisseur, I do not say that lightly.
The Berley Brother’s also bought Shane’s Candies which is not just another Philly staple, but also eighteenth century old fashioned, and equally adorable!
After ice cream it was time to say good-bye to the whirl wind 27 hours I spent in Philly. But they were DARN good hours.
Not going to lie, I haven’t always been a fan of Philly, but on this trip, she really stole my heart. From the moment my feet hit the cobblestone streets in Old City, I was swept up in an idyllic journey that took me back to simpler but no less tumultuous times. Where the imagination did not have to work THAT hard to picture colonial times, and it would gaze wistfully at the historical architecture, that beckoned you in so they could tell tales.
Oh the tales they would tell if walls could talk!
It was truly an adventure one I can not wait to go back and experience in the Fall!
Have you been to any of the historical spots in Philly? What is your favorite? What place is on your bucket list to visit this fall?