Friday Explorations (part 2)

To continue describing my awesome audio walking tour of the most historic square mile in the United States….
After leaving the Second National Bank (stop 12), I headed to…
Stop 13: Carpenter’s Hall
I actually don’t remember much about Carpenter Hall from my tour, except that I loved the setting and look of the building. This was one of the few sites that actually had a small grounds, with gardens and walkways, etc. It was beautiful, and refreshing to sit in the shade for a bit.

While I sat, I also got to listen to a fantastic storyteller recount the days before the Declaration was signed, which might be why I liked this stop so much. Because this weekend contained the Fourth of July, all the historical sites in Philly had something fun for families to do as they wandered through, and any sight with that circular sign (forget what it said) meant that there was someone there to tell you a story. So cool.

Stop 14: New Hall Military Museum
Stop 15: The First Bank of the United States
Not as pretty as the Second Bank of the United States, in my opinion. But on my little walking map below the picture, it said “Sparked the first great Constitutional debate.” And while GPS Gina had lots of things to say about it (she mentioned Alexander Hamilton, I believe), I was too busy trying to take creatively-angled pictures to really listen.
Stop 16: Franklin Court and the B. Free Franklin Post Office
The B. Free Franklin Post Office is the only colonial themed post office in the United States and the only one not required to fly the American flag. Very cool.
Franklin Court is the site of Benjamin Franklin’s home, which was demolished in the early 1800s (so unfortunate). However, in the 70s a world-famous architect by the name of Robert Venturi designed a “ghost structure” to stand where Franklin’s home once stood. It was actually pretty neat.
Also, around the court (and I guess beneath it as well) is a museum dedicated to Franklin’s many inventions and such. By this time on the tour, I was pretty tired and hot so I wasn’t in the mood to stop in and look around. But if I go on the tour again, this is one place that I’d like to take some time to explore inside (especially his print shop).
Stop 18: Betsy Ross House
One of the last stops on my tour, the Betsy Ross House was wonderfully tucked back in a shaded courtyard (or so I thought), and before wandering around, I took a moment to just sit and relax in the shade. I guess almost two hours on your feet in the sun really is tiring. Weird how that works.

After munching on an apple that I, with remarkable wisdom and foresight (a.k.a. luck), had packed for my trip, I was ready to walk around the Betsy Ross House. As I approached the door, I got sidetracked and stood watching a guy with an awesome mustache carve Betsy Ross’ face out of soap for a few seconds. That was fun. But he was just shaping the head and wasn’t getting into detail yet, so I got bored rather quickly.

I entered the house. Or what I had thought was the house. It was actually just the gift shop. I got sidetracked yet again and looked for a bit at the postcard options available. I guess I have a short attention span when I get tired. But that was actually to my advantage this time, because while internally debating whether 50 cents was worth it for a postcard or not, I overheard the woman at the counter tell an approaching family that the tour of the Betsy Ross House costs $10 per person. Hawhat?!
I guess the free historic square mile can get rather expensive if you let it. I wasn’t really in the market for those kinds of expenditures, so I just set down the postcard quietly (50 cents is too expensive, I decided) and left.
Oddly enough (does ironically work here?), I never actually saw the Betsy Ross House. At all. What I’d thought was the front of the house was really just the gift shop, and I never looked up or went around to the proper side of the building or something, because when I saw the Betsy Ross House in a postcard I bought later, that’s not what I saw on my stop. Woops. Put that on the growing list for next time as well.
The gift shop. Not her house.
Stop 20: Christ Church Burial Ground
My map reads: “The final resting place of Benjamin Franklin.”
The cemetery was my last official stop of the tour. I’d been here once before, when my family came to Philadelphia for a day way back in 2004 (or so), and it was exactly as I remembered it. This time I took some time to explore the rest of the grounds, instead of just heading straight to Franklin’s grave. This was also the first stop on my tour that I paid money for. It was only two dollars to get in, and the funds go towards maintaining the grounds, so it didn’t bother me to spend it (being the last stop on my trip might have had something to do with it as well).
It is a really beautiful, interesting place. There are over 1,400 markers on just two acres, shaded by large leafy trees. Most of the markers are so old that all engravings have been completely wiped away by time and weather, though some have newer plaques that have been put in place over the decades by their descendants.
Also, did you know that there are also four other signers of the Declaration of Independence buried here? They are Francis Hopkinson, Joseph Hewes, Dr. Benjamin Rush, and George Ross.

And Franklin’s grave…
I remembered the grave so clearly from the last time I visited. So much so that I know this time around, I did exactly the same thing as I did before. I took pictures of the entertaining epitaph that Franklin wrote for himself as a young man. I admired that Franklin was buried with his wife. And I pulled out a penny, made a wish, and flipped it onto his grave (for good luck).
But this time, I think he laughed at me. Maybe he thought, you’ve had a pretty lucky run for the last five years. Too lucky. Because when I held my penny intently, took that wish veeeery seriously, and flipped it onto the grave… it rolled……. off.
My penny rolled off the grave!!!
I stood there, paralyzed. Then I laughed and shrugged. I‘m not superstitious, I tell myself. But I pull out another penny anyway.
Well, maybe I’ll toss just one more penny. More money for them to upkeep the park, I reason.
Made a wish. Flipped the penny. And it rolled off. Again.
Well, someone is having a joke at my expense. I’ve run out of pennies.
Franklin and his wife Deborah’s grave
Franklin’s Epitaph, which was written by himself
as a young man and was not intended to be at his grave.
His gravestone itself was prepared exactly to his
specifications. But then someone had the brilliant
idea of posting this plaque with the epitaph on a nearby
wall, and I am very happy they did.
The epitaph reads:

The Body of
B. Franklin. Printer.
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be lost,
For it will as he believ’d,
appear once more
In a new and more elegant Edition
Corrected and improved
By the Author.

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