Old City History Walk (Self Guided), Philadelphia

Let Philadelphia tell you about the great history of the United States through its outstanding historic places. Learn more about America’s founding fathers, key events during the 18th century, the country’s long-awaited independence and its glorious attainment of liberty. Take the following tour to discover Philadelphia’s history.
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Old City History Walk Map

Guide Name: Old City History Walk
Guide Location: USA » Philadelphia (See other walking tours in Philadelphia)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 17
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Benjamin Franklin Bridge
  • Elfreth's Alley
  • Betsy Ross House
  • Arch Street Friends Meeting House
  • Christ Church Burial Ground
  • National Constitution Center
  • Declaration House (Graff House)
  • Liberty Bell
  • Congress Hall
  • Independence Hall
  • Philosophical Hall
  • Carpenters' Hall
  • Franklin Court
  • City Tavern
  • Bishop White House
  • Powel House
  • Physick House
Benjamin Franklin Bridge

1) Benjamin Franklin Bridge

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge (also known as the Ben Franklin Bridge), originally named the Delaware River Bridge, is a suspension bridge across the Delaware River connecting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Camden, New Jersey. Named for American statesman Benjamin Franklin, the bridge is owned and operated by the Delaware River Port Authority. At its completion on July 1 1926, its 533-metre span made it the world's largest suspension bridge, a distinction it would hold until the opening of the Ambassador Bridge in 1929. The bridge is one of the landmarks seen in the opening credits of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Elfreth's Alley

2) Elfreth's Alley (must see)

Elfreth's Alley is a residential alley located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited residential streets in the United States, dating back to the early 18th century. It is a National Historic Landmark. The alley is located off Second Street between Arch and Race Streets in Philadelphia's Old City Neighborhood. Elfreth's Alley is named for Jeremiah Elfreth, an 18th-century blacksmith and property owner. Among the alley's residents were tradesmen and their families, including shipwrights, silver and pewter smiths, glassblowers, and furniture builders. In the 1770s, one-third of the households were headed by women. The Georgian and Federal-style houses and cobblestone pavement of the alley were common in Philadelphia during this time.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Betsy Ross House

3) Betsy Ross House (must see)

A long-standing myth about the first American flag being made by Betsy Ross, albeit a myth, still makes a great story. The house of Betsy Ross is nonetheless important as a vivid demonstration of Colonial living. The owner used it primarily to let rooms to travelers and wayfarers. It is situated in the Old City district within proximity to many shops and restaurants. As per the Philadelphia Historic Society, the Ross house enjoys more visitors than any other historic attraction in the city.
Arch Street Friends Meeting House

4) Arch Street Friends Meeting House

Arch Street Friends Meeting House is the oldest operating Quaker (the Religious Society of Friends) meetinghouse in the United States, and the largest in the world. The land was alloted to a Quaker burial ground by Philadelphia’s founder, William Penn, at the end of the 17th century. The house was built in 1804; today it features an exhibit on the life of Penn and holds meetings for its congregation. The available guides present a fifteen minute slideshow and can walk you to a variety of Quaker artifacts and dioramas, illustrating William Penn's contributions and significance to the development of the region.
Christ Church Burial Ground

5) Christ Church Burial Ground (must see)

The Christ Church Burial Ground was founded by the Christ Church as a supplementary burying ground in 1719. Located right in the heart of the historic Old City, this is one of the most significant American cemeteries, holding 1,400 markers on two beautiful acres. Some of the United States' historic leaders, including Benjamin Franklin and four other signers of the Declaration of Independence, have found their final resting place here.
National Constitution Center

6) National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center is an organization that seeks to expand awareness and understanding of the United States Constitution and operates a museum to advance those purposes. A groundbreaking ceremony for the museum was held on September 17, 2000–213 years after the original Constitution was signed. On July 4, 2003, it was opened and the National Constitution Center joined other notable sites and iconic exhibits in what has been called "America's most historical square mile" because of the proximity of historic landmarks such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Declaration House (Graff House)

7) Declaration House (Graff House)

Bricklayer Jacob Graff built this modest three-floor house in the 1770s, with the intention to have its second floor let for extra income. The Second Continental Congress soon brought to the house a slim, ginger-haired lodger named Thomas Jefferson, who looked for a quiet room away from city noise. His search must have been successful, given the fact that he drafted here the Declaration of Independence in just a few weeks of staying in late spring 1776. Many things that would have been around the house in the 1770s were used at reconstruction 200 years later, including Flemish Bond brick checkerboard pattern (on visible walls), windows with paneled shutters, and various knickknacks. Unlike Society Hill homes, this house is quite small and asymmetrical, with a front door way off center. Preceding the entrance is a small garden. Visitors are shown a short film about Jefferson and a copy of his Independence draft.
Liberty Bell

8) Liberty Bell (must see)

The Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of American Independence, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Formerly placed in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House (now renamed Independence Hall), the bell was commissioned from the London firm of Lester and Pack in 1752, and was cast with the lettering "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." It originally cracked when first rung after arrival in Philadelphia, and was twice recast by local workmen John Pass and John Stow, whose last names appear on the bell. In its early years, the Liberty Bell was used to summon lawmakers to legislative sessions and to alert citizens to public meetings and proclamations.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Congress Hall

9) Congress Hall (must see)

Congress Hall is a building near the intersection of Chestnut and 6th Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that served as the seat of the United States Congress from December 6, 1790 to May 14, 1800. During Congress Hall's duration as the capitol of the United States, the country admitted three new states, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee; ratified the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution; and oversaw the Presidential inaugurations of both George Washington (his second) and John Adams. Congress Hall was restored throughout the 20th century to its original appearance in 1796. The building is now managed by the National Park Service within the Independence National Historical Park and is open for tours by the public. Congress Hall should not be confused with Independence Hall, which is located next door.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Independence Hall

10) Independence Hall (must see)

Independence Hall is an American national landmark, located on Chestnut Street. It is world famous for being the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were discussed and adopted. It is now the centerpiece of the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This listed World Heritage Site was completed in 1753. Independence Hall touts a red brick facade, designed in Georgian style. It consists of a central building with belltower and steeple, attached to two smaller wings via arcaded hyphens. In 1753 Thomas Stretch erected a giant clock at the building's west end that resembled a tall clock (grandfather clock).
Sight description based on wikipedia
Philosophical Hall

11) Philosophical Hall

Philosophical Hall is a historic building in Philadelphia. Located near Independence Hall, the building has, for over 200 years, been the headquarters of the American Philosophical Society. For twenty years after its founding, the American Philosophical Society (APS) had no home of its own, and met in different locations in Philadelphia. In 1783, APS members voted to construct a building in which meetings could be held. The society originally considered a lot near Arch Street, but a lot became available in the State House yard (today, Independence Square and the State House is known as Independence Hall), and the Pennsylvania Legislative Assembly voted to give the lot to the Society in 1785. The Society immediately began the excavation of the cellar of the new building. However, fundraising proceeded slowly, and the building took four years to construct, the final money needed to complete it coming by way of a loan from Society member Benjamin Franklin.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Carpenters' Hall

12) Carpenters' Hall (must see)

Carpenters' Hall is a two-story brick building in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that was a key meeting place in the early history of the United States. Completed in 1773 and set back from Chestnut Street, the meeting hall was built for and is still owned by the Carpenters' Company of the City and County of Philadelphia, the country's oldest extant trade guild. The First Continental Congress met here. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on 15 April 1970 and is part of Independence National Historical Park.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Franklin Court

13) Franklin Court (must see)

Benjamin Franklin is probably the most interesting personality in American history. Standing on the site of his former house, this court features seven museums which allow visitors to learn more about his life as a publisher, author, statesman, diplomat, politician, postmaster, printer and inventor. The court's highlight is a 54-foot-tall steel skeleton, known as "ghost sculpture," created by architect Robert Venturi, and covering the footprint of Franklin's house torn down in 1812. Remnants of the original foundation, privy pits and wells can be seen through portholes.
City Tavern

14) City Tavern

The City Tavern is a historic building located at 138 South 2nd Street, at the intersection of Second and Walnut Streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Called the "most genteel tavern in America" by John Adams, it was the favorite meeting place of many of the Founding Fathers and was the unofficial site of the First Continental Congress. The City Tavern was built in 1773 and was partially destroyed by fire on March 22, 1834. It was rebuilt in the 1970s as a functioning tavern and restaurant. City Tavern was featured in The "Riddle of Penncroft Farm" by Dorothea Jensen. In it, it was the place where Will spied on the British during their occupation of Philadelphia in 1777 while pretending to be an apprentice of Little Smith. Little Smith was, in real life, the name of its first owner.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Bishop White House

15) Bishop White House

Constructed in 1786, this renovated upper-class house epitomizes Colonial and Federal elegance. The house was the home of Bishop William White, rector of Christ Church, the first Episcopal bishop of the state and spiritual leader of Philadelphia for many years. After the break with England, White founded the Episcopal Church and served as chaplain to the Continental Congress. He also entertained many of America's first families, such as Washington and Franklin. The bishop had big library; much of it is stored in the second-floor study. The unique feature of White's house, as compared to most houses of that period, is an early form of flush toilet. The house tour doesn't suit small children. Free tickets for one-hour tours (also valid for the Todd House) are available at the visitor center.
Powel House

16) Powel House

Powel House is a historic mansion in the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. This elegant Georgian brick mansion was built in 1765 by merchant and shipmaster Charles Stedman. During the early 20th century, the house served as a warehouse and office for a business that imported and exported Russian and Siberian horse hair and bristles. The owners had sold much of the interior architectural detail to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over the next decade, Wister and the Society restored the house to its appearance during Powel's residency, interpreting the daily lives of wealthy Philadelphians at the time of the American Revolution. Today, the rich history of the Powel House may be seen in its decorative arts collection, its portraits of Powels and Willings, and its formal, walled garden so typical of Colonial Philadelphia.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Physick House

17) Physick House

Physick House is the former residence of the wealthy physician and “Father of American Surgery”, Dr. Philip Syng Physick. Constructed in 1786, this is one of the last two freestanding 18th century houses in Society Hill. It is also one of the country's most beautiful homes, with masterly restored, elegant interiors featuring some of the finest Federal and Empire furniture in the city. Touches of Napoléonic France are felt all over the place: in the upholstery golden bee motif; the magenta-hue Aubusson rug (Bonaparte's favorite color); and Pompei-style stools (the remains of this Roman city were discovered at the time the house was built). In the parlor upstairs there is inkstand holding fingerprints of Benjamin Franklin. The garden laid out on three sides of the house features plants widespread during the 19th century, alongside an Etruscan sarcophagus, a natural grotto, and ancient cannon, which many believe make this garden one of the loveliest in Philadelphia.

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