Another hot day in Philadelphia – high 90s with a heat index in the 100s. Our goal was to visit the remaining historic buildings and listen to the second half of the stories by the Once Upon a Nation interpreters.
Our first stop was Christ Church. When we reached the church a volunteer was already describing the church. There are seven signers of the Declaration of Independence buried here. The ones we saw at this graveyard were Robert Morris and James Wilson. The church has held services for over 300 years. All the signers of the declaration of independence attended services there at one time or another. The church began as an Anglican church, or church of England, but once the patriots declared their independence, the church changed. Several pews belonged to specific people. Pew 58 belonged to George Washington and John Adams. Pew 70 belonged to Benjamin Franklin. Other pews belonged to members of the Penn family. Two of the original bells, made by the same foundry as the Liberty Bell are still in the church and are still used for church services. The baptismal font is over 600 years old and William Penn was baptized in it in Ireland. It is still used today to baptize babies in the congregation. Later in the day we walked to the second graveyard and found Benjamin Franklin’s grave site.
Our next stop was Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest street in the United States. Many of the homes are historic landmarks because more than 80% of the home is original with no changes being made. People still live in most of the homes on this street. We were able to go inside one and saw how narrow the rooms were. One home was only 9 ½ feet wide. Each home was built separately but they are exactly next to each other. The cobblestone walkway is not the original walk but is made the same way as the original street, sloped toward the middle and on an angle toward the river to wash away everything tossed out of the homes.
Our next stop was the Fireman museum. After Lefty and Righty got their pictures taken we went into the main room where a beautiful tribute to the fireman who lost their lives in 9/11 at the World Trade Center. We spent several minutes reading the wall and remembering that day. Not only did we get a chance to see several fire engines, but we got to sit on one with FF Magee, also known as the mayor of 2nd Street. The second floor had memorabilia that spanned over 300 years. They even had a fireman pole, but even though Mrs. Cochrane wanted to slide down it, she couldn’t because it was sealed off.
From the Fireman Museum we headed to Betsey Ross’ house. Unlike all the other historic places, we could not take pictures inside her home. Betsey Ross was only 24 years old when George Washington and two other members of the Continental Congress came into her upholstery shop to ask her to make a flag for our new nation. We got to see the upstairs’ bedrooms, her kitchen and the front room where she did her sewing. Because sewing the flag was considered a treasonous act against England, she had to do it in secret. Once we reached the front room, we met Betsey Ross who spoke to us about her duty to General Washington and showed us how to make a five point star.
Once we left there, we headed to the Quaker meeting house which has the original benches where members sit. William Penn was a Quaker who believed in peace. He negotiated peace with the Native Americans and even purchased the land from them even though he was given a land grant by the king in payment of debts owed to his father. While all those years ago, thousands of people would show up, today only around 50 people meet there.
Of course with the heat scorching us, we decided to go to Franklin’s Fountain for hand-made ice cream. The old fashioned ice cream shop still makes ice cream on the premises. Unfortunately just like over a hundred years ago, there was no air conditioning; there was none to be found inside the shop so we ate our ice cream outside in the shade. The ice cream was yummy but we all decided it was too hot to really enjoy it as much as we wanted. One of my favorite signs read “There are three faithful friends – an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.”
From there we headed to the First Post Office created by Benjamin Franklin. The museum was closed but we got to go inside a working post office housed inside the building and next to the remains of Benjamin Franklin’s home. His print shop and house was basically just the shell but we were able to see where each level was and some artifacts discovered by archeologists who excavated the site. Lefty and Righty got to sit inside the chair Ben was carried around in when he got older.
Our last visit today was the US Mint where coins are made – pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. We were able to see the process from long sheets that are punched full of holes and those pieces are pressed to make coins. We also saw how they made special medals – like the Congressional Medal of Honor which is given out to people who have done something extraordinary – like Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, General Gates, and many others. Because we ran out of time, we did not get to see everything, and just like the Betsy Ross house, we could not take pictures. Sorry guys!
We went back the Betsy Ross house and picked up a fabulous book Patriots, Pirates, Heroes, and Spies: Stories from Historic Philadelphia. We also found a friend for Lefty and Righty – American. He’s an American Bald Eagle who we decided can help Lefty and Righty solve their disputes.
Totally exhausted and dripping wet, we decided it was time to return back out hotel so we could see more tomorrow. Our plan for tomorrow is to visit the National Constitution Center, the Declaration House, and the Franklin Institute. With heat expected to be around 110 degrees, we’re glad these places are indoors.
Mrs. Hoffman, Mrs. Cochrane, and Mrs. Gibson - try to stay cool!!