Art and Music Delight Visitors to Philadelphia, as the city continues to honor Benjamin Franklin's 300th birthday, at the National Constitution Center on Indpendence Mall, Independence Hall and Franklin Court.
The National Constitution Center, www.constitutioncenter.org, showcases the American march to freedom.
Franklin’s importance in the canon of Founding Fathers ranks supreme as he was the only founding father to sign all four historical American revolutionary documents -- the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty with France, the Treaty with England and the US Constitution. He invented the lightening rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove and the “busy body".
Franklin not only was a scientific and engineering genius, but a diplomat, citizen par excellence, world traveler, representative of Colonial colonies at the courts of London and later Paris. Pennsylvania’s Delegate to the 1776 Constitutional Convention, he and John Adams edited the Declaration of Independence.
The Colonial historic Society Hill District, and Colonial Franklin sites, parks, house museums and Delaware River waterfront provide hours of wonderful strolling, learning and a chance to “feel” history spring to life. Exploring the mansions which leaders like General George Washington, later President Washington, seeing the house where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and touring Carpenter's Hall put American history into a unique perspective. For more information, visit gophila.
While taking a break from traipsing around the storied streets, I again enjoyed a break at my favorite day spa -- the Terme Di Aroma, a holistic day spa at 32 North Third Street, 215-829-9769. The spa is just a few blocks from the center of the historic Society Hill District, and Colonial Franklin sites.
In addition to its Franklin legacy, Philadelphia is a fun city, set between two rivers, with world-class art museums, theatre, and cultural centers like the Kimmel Center, www.kimmelcenter.com, 300 S Broad Street on the Avenue of the Arts., (215) 670-2300. Since 2001, the famed Philadelphia Orchestra has been based at the Kimmel Center.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is at the end of the Ben Franklin Parkway (remember Rocky running up the steps?), at 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy; check www.philamuseum.org for current art shows. “Gilding the Lotus: Enriching the Himalayan Collection” is on view through November 26, 2006. Close to the Phila Art Museum is the elegant Rodin Museum with a fine collection of Rodin sculptures. Walk or take a bus from one museum to the other. Or stroll Franklin Parkway, enjoy the Logan Sculputres and Fountain, the Museum of Art Fountain and climb the regal stairs the Museum.
Travelers to Philly can “survive” a spooky Halloween experience in Eastern State Penitentiary, a restored 19th century prison. Tour “Terror Inside the Walls,” a horror experience that includes a bus ride, visit with the warden and prison doctor. The Pen is now an historical landmark, complete with crenellated walls and mysteries. Visit easternstate.org for details; no kids under seven years of age. before it closes on October 31, 2006.
Another new aid for self-guided stores is an iPod podcast that discusses thirteen sites, including Betsy Ross’ house and the National Constitution Center. The 75-minute tour costs $14.99, from the constitutional.com; a map can be printed out here, too.
After hours walking and touring museums, homes, Independence Hall, the Constitution Museum and other historic mansions figuring in Revolutionary and Colonial times, enjoy lunch in Cuba Libre or one of the excellent restaurants in the area. (215) 627-0666, www.cubalibrerestaurant.com, at 10 S 2nd St., between Market & Chestnut Streets. It’s a colorful place with that features a contemporary interpretation of traditional Cuban cuisine. For a real Philly treat, head to South Street for a Philly cheese steak!
Franklin fanataics can spend days touring Benjamin Franklin sites. In the warmer months, a reenactor can answer questions a la Franklin. Ben was born on January 17, 1705, on Milk Street, Boston and ran away to Philadelphia when he was 17 years old, unhappy in his apprentice to his printer older brother. Arriving in Philadelphia as a penniless printer, he achieved the pinnacle of greatness through his diplomatic skills, his inherent genius, his hard work, leadership and his brilliant personality. When he was buried at the age of 84, in St. Peter’s graveyard on 5th and Arch Streets, he was revered in Philadelphia, American and Europe for his inventions, diplomacy, philanthropy, and humanity.
Another way to learn about Ben Franklin’s 18th century Philadelphia history is on a walking tour with Ed Mauger, leader of the Philadelphia on Foot Historic Center. It’s much more fun listening to this amiable, knowledgeable guide then reading plaques; his wit, stories, and tremendous grasp of history made me feel as if I were in a living history neighborhood. I could almost picture Franklin hustling through Second Street, or picture Jefferson riding into town into with his entourage.
Thriving in this Quaker city on the banks of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, Ben Franklin was a genius, a true American original.
Largely self-educated and self-made, unlike most of the other Founding Fathers, he became a major player on the world stage, and a sage.
A handsome, thin and athletic in younger years, Ben was a popular, energetic civic leader. President of the Pennsylvania Assembly, delegate to the Continental Congress, then the Constitutional Convention that created the Constitution, he was revered as a sage in his own era.
Begin at 2nd and Market Street -- My walking tour began from Chestnut and 4th Street, just behind Independence Hall. It’s only a block from Carpenters Hall, around the corner from historic rebuilt City Tavern, and Franklin’s Court with a framework reconstruction of his last home where he lived with wife Debbie and their children. Franklin’s Court Museum and Fireman’s Hall Museum. Reading the time line, looking at some of his actual inventions -- from bifocals, to the Franklin stove, to the lightning rod, to the glass harmonium -- and his desk, visitors begin to gauge the depth of his genius and generosity.
During my walking tour, horse drawn carriages trotted by the redbrick town houses. On foot or by carriage, finish a tour with history and dinner at City Tavern, 138 S. 2nd Street, in an authentic recreation of City Tavern that stood on this site. In 1994, restaurateur Walter Staib refurbished the restaurant to the specification of the original 1773 tavern under the supervision of the National Park Service. The food is prepared from historic recipes and served on colonial style dishware by servers in period dress. Visit Independence National Historic Park -- This red brick building, constructed in 1756 as the Pennsylvania State House, is the birthplace of the United States.
To reach Ed Mauger, email him at Philaonfoot@cs.com, or call 800-340-9869. For more information on Franklin events, visit www.benfranklin300.org.
For up-to-the-minute Philadelphia news, visit the Official Visitor Site, gophila.