Okay, admittedly there’s a lot wrong with that blog post title. First of all, the lyrics to “Spanish Rose” say that she’s from Allentown, PA or Pittsburg, PA, depending on whether or not you’re talking about the Broadway production or that version starring Jason Alexander that was on TV when I was in middle school. Second of all, I’m not from Philadelphia or anywhere else in Pennsylvania. But points for the Bye Bye Birdie shout out, yes? No?
Anyway, y’all may not know this about me but even though I live in New York, which besides being the biggest city in the US is also close to a lot of other cool, big cities on the eastern seaboard, I never, ever leave Manhattan, except to go to Target in the Bronx and visit my friend Cambria in Brooklyn. Why leave? I mean, everything I need is right here, right? WRONG. I need to get out of New York more, so on Saturday Cambria and I took the train to Philadelphia, a city neither of us had ever been to. And guess what I did? That’s right! Took a lot of pictures of buildings from Revolutionary War-era America. Oh, and I ate a cheesesteak. Yeeeeah!
Independence Hall. This was especially cool because I’ve seen National Treasure like a frillion times, and they find the glasses used to read the map at Independence Hall.
The B. Free Franklin post office. Unlike every other post office in the US, this one doesn’t have an American flag flying over it because it was established before the United States actually existed. Ben Franklin was the post master of Philadelphia, and as such he had franking privileges, so he used to sign “B. Free Franklin” on his letters and not have to put postage on them.
This arch leads to a courtyard where Ben Franklin’s home and printing shop once stood. That little sign affixed to the brick with the black tree on a cream colored crest is actually a fire insurance symbol. It turns out that Ben Franklin invented fire insurance (that man invented A LOT of stuff), except that fire insurance back then meant that you paid a certain amount of money and if your building ever caught on fire, a local volunteer fire company (also invented by Ben Franklin) would be sure to come put it out. These are all over the historic buildings in Philadelphia, and there are many different kinds because there were several different fire companies.
This is a picture of a house in Elfreth’s Alley, which is the oldest street in America. Built in 1702, people still live here. It’s short and tiny and full of these super adorable historic houses and I’m sure it’s a pain to live there because tourists are constantly walking up and down it day and night, but wouldn’t it be sort of awesome to live in a house that is older than the country you live in? I think so. That’s Cambria standing in the sun with the black sunglasses and the pensive expression.
This is the First Bank of America. I think. Did you know that Ben Franklin wanted the national bird to be the wild turkey? He felt that the eagle, which was both a predator and a scavenger (i.e. it’ll eat dead things it didn’t kill itself), wasn’t very representative of the country. When our tour guide said that, I turned to Cambria and said, “You know, Val [my dog] hunts wild turkeys in my parents’ neighborhood.” Which is true, because she’s a beagle and her father was a champion hunting dog, but she’s never caught one, or gotten near one. They’re all over my parents’ neighborhood in California, though, and they’re pretty terrifying, so even though it sounds kind of silly to have a wild turkey as a national bird, I can think of other birds that I’d rather meet in a dark alley.
Betcha can’t guess what this is! Oh, you’re right, it’s the Liberty Bell. Did you know that the famous crack, when they found it originally, was actually just a hairline fracture, but they drilled it even more so that the two sides wouldn’t rub together and vibrate irritatingly, and then they screwed two bolts in to keep it together, and that totally didn’t work? So they retired it and now the Centennial Bell hangs in the bell tower of Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell apparently became a symbol of the abolitionist movement before and during the Civil War, because the inscription says “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10) and, duh, because of slavery and the subjugation of women that wasn’t entirely correct. Also, the Civil War was a scar on the liberty of the nation, so that’s what the crack represented. Heavy stuff.
I don’t…remember what this is, except that it’s called the Philadelphia Exchange.
Ben Franklin’s tomb. According to legend, if you toss a penny onto the grave (that’s what all those shiny copper things are), and it lands heads-up, it’s good luck or some such. I try not to indulge my incredibly superstitious mind, but I wanted to do this, except I did not have a single penny, not a single coin in fact, in my wallet. So my luck is just ordinary I guess.
Okay, forget history, on to the good stuff. Cheesesteaks! Philadelphia’s famous for them, and we went to the most famous place to get them, Jim’s Steaks on 4th and South. This place was recommended by my friend Sunil, who is from Philly, and boy was it good. We did wait in line for like an hour, though, which was rough. But worth it. SO WORTH IT.
New Facebook photo? Don’t mind if I do!
Filed under: random | Tagged: American history, Bye Bye Birdie, cheesesteaks, musicals, Philadelphia, pictures | 1 Comment »