By Kathryn Varnes
Philadelphia really is the “City of Brotherly Love.” On a recent visit, I was struck by the genuine friendliness of the people, Uber drivers, hotel employees, historic area workers and people on the street. My husband even witnessed citizens dash into the road and in front of oncoming traffic to shield a Yorkie that, leash and all, was running down Broad Street near City Hall.
The focus of this trip was to freshen up on my U.S. history knowledge, and I was not disappointed. Philadelphia has a safe and very walkable downtown, and we began our journey at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall area and museum. The complete story and what the revolutionary actions that took place there mean to American history is told in a fun and easy-to-understand format.
Independence Hall is where our nation’s brilliant Founding Fathers wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Our National Park Service guides – it is all managed by the Park Service – were fantastic in their telling of the accounts of Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and all of the others. Their presentations were so riveting that, standing in the same room where these tremendous events occurred, we felt as if were reliving them some 242 years later.
Next to Independence Hall is the building where our nation’s first Congress and Senate met. Much of the furnishings there are original, as is the flooring and art. I was surprised to see large portraits of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI of France in the building’s chambers, but then recalled France was instrumental to the U.S. Colonies winning the Revolutionary War.
From there it was off a couple short blocks to Christ Church burial ground where Ben Franklin. The top of the tomb sprinkled in pennies as an homage to his famous quote, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Ironically, the U.S. Mint and its coin production factory is directly across the street. With no admission fee and a self-guided tour, the U.S. Mint was a great impromptu stop for us and very cool to see how they design, strike, mint and disburse currency and medals, such as pennies, Sacagawea dollars and collectible coins and medals such as the U.S. Medal of Honor.
Up the street and around the way from the mint is Elfreth’s Street, a charming and tiny alleyway that boasts the title of America’s oldest continuous residential street. Flanked between a row of brownstones dating to 1702, Elfreth’s Street is definitely worth a peek if only for the few minutes it takes to walk up, down and around it.
Running is one of my favorite ways to see any city. My daughter and husband joined me for a morning run from our hotel up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, past the Rodin Museum (largest collection of Rodin art outside of Paris), towards Logan Circle and to the Philadelphia Art Museum. Did we make the museum our destination in order to see the Chinese Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit? Heck no! We went there to run up and down the building’s steps immortalized in the movie Rocky and for my husband to shout out, “Adrian!” ◆