Another hot day in Philadelphia. We truly think we brought the heat with us and it decided to stay. Today’s heat was close to 100 degrees. We traveled by bus to the Visitor’s Center where we picked up our tickets for Independence Hall, the place where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. Before we went there, we visited the President’s House.
We were all surprised to find the President’s House was merely a virtual house where the original house had once stood. No walls were there, but we could read about the inhabitants of the house as well as the slaves who were brought there from Mount Vernon by George Washington. Apparently at the time of Washington’s presidency, slavery was abolished, or done away with, in Pennsylvania, but George Washington brought his slaves with him. According to the law, if a slave resides in Pennsylvania for more than 6 months, he becomes free. To keep this from happening, Washington would rotate the slaves out – he would send some back to Mt. Vernon and bring different ones back. At the site of the President’s House, there is a memorial for the slaves who served Washington during his tenure, or time as president. They are currently excavating the slave quarters which they found beneath the location for the President’s House.
From here we visited the Liberty Bell. A pavilion or large building was constructed to hold the Liberty Bell and other artifacts that document the bell’s history for our nation. We were able to read information about how the bell was made, how it cracked and how they tried to fix it, as well as information about how the bell traveled around the country for people to see it. Now, instead of the Liberty Bell traveling around the country, people from all over the country and the world, travel to see it. The Liberty Bell is made of copper and just as legend states it has a huge crack down it. On the bell is inscribed the words “Let Freedom Ring”. The room was filled with people from all over the world taking their pictures in front of the bell. Park Rangers stand on guard to make sure no one touches it or does any harm to the bell. This national symbol not only impressed us, but made us realize how important freedom was to the people who fought to secure it.
Our next stop was Independence Hall. The main tower is under construction so the front and back façades are covered with scaffolds as workmen fix it. Built between 1732 and 1756, it was originally known as the Pennsylvania State house. The delegates from each colony arrived in Philadelphia and met here to sign the Declaration of Independence and late the Constitution. We were led on the tour by a fabulous park ranger who got everyone excited about where we were and why it was important. Over 100 delegates from the colonies arrived to vote on the declaration. It was fascinating to see the original seats where George Washington and the other Founding Fathers sat as they discussed our freedom from Great Britain. Another part of Independence Hall was Congress Hall where the Senate and Congress met. We sat in the same room where George Washington and John Adams were sworn in as presidents of the new United States. Thousands of people came to witness the events, many certain George Washington would fight when John Adams was sworn in. As the park ranger stated, “it was a true testament to our constitution to see how well it worked when there was no bloodshed when Adams became president”.
One of Mrs. Cochrane’s favorite parts of our day was the “Once Upon a Nation” storytellers. In 13 different locations throughout the historic district we found these storytellers. These men and women told stories no one knows about our country as it was starting. One story was about Jean Baptiste Blanchard - a French balloonist. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin saw him in France and the man came to the new country. While here, he took a letter from President Washington in his balloon and traveled over the Delaware River where he delivered it to a delegate in New Jersey. The first airmail occurred here! Another fascinating story was about the first bank robbery in our country’s history in 1798. We have only visited 6 so far and hope to visit the rest tomorrow. Luckily the storytellers were located in shaded locations in lovely parks.
Carpenter’s Hall was an interesting building. Built in 1774 by a group of master builders, the First Continental Congress met here the same year. The building changed hands several times. For a while it was owned by an auction house and they sold all of the belongings, even the chairs. When it was purchased by the city, the items needed to be located. Carpenter’s Hall was opened to the public in 1857. Part of the wall truss is exposed to show the original construction was still there. The inside is used to house a few artifacts – chairs, a desk, and other knickknacks from the 18th century as well as small store.
The First and Second Banks were Greco-Roman structures with Doric columns. Impressive buildings in white - one was closed to the public, but the second one is the home to an extensive collection of portraits by the famous artist Peale. An enormous statue of George Washington and a bust of Benjamin Franklin are in the center exhibit. The rest of the exhibit includes founding fathers, important soldiers, and other people who helped the USA get their freedom. For us it was exciting to see Baron Von Steuben because we have a high school named after him. His knowledge of military strategy helped the soldiers win the war for George Washington.
After a very stirring reading/interpretation of the Declaration of Independence at the rear of Independence Hall, we hopped on our bus and traveled back to our hotel to rest our weary toes