A Visit to Philadelphia

         Lila and I just returned from attending an Elderhostel in Philadelphia.  For those of you who do not know what an Elderhostel is…. Well, if you are old enough (and some of you are), then you should know.  It is a program where elders (that are older people like me) can attend a learning experience without having to take a test.  In other words, we can fall asleep in class and it just does not matter.

             The program for this learning experience (and I love to use that term since it would be an eating experience, normally) was the history of Philadelphia and visiting some of the historic sights in this city.  We planned to attend this session with three other couples that we met on an earlier Elderhostel and with whom we have been getting together on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, one of the couples was ill and could not make it and we sorely missed them as we have a great deal of fun when we get together …sort of like a bunch of kids just kidding around and laughing.

             Now this Elderhostel was at the Best Western Center City…it really should have been called the Worst Western, because it was certainly not the Best Western.  The food was extremely poor and forced us to go visit some really neat restaurants in the city (was that ever a hardship.  The location of the hotel was very good…but that was its claim to fame.   The lectures provided a great deal of history concerning the city, but I either forgot what I learned or I was sleeping during the briefings or both.

            This is one of the few or maybe only cities that have retained a significant number of buildings dating back at least three hundred years and many have now been restored for all to see. The picture to the left is the First Bank, which was set up by the colonists but did not survive for very long.   As the city evolved over time, the city center moved north leaving the streets and buildings in old town relatively intact.  There is a significant historical presence in this city, especially because of the years dating back to the time when the Continental Congress met there and it was the first capital of the country.  Much work has gone into the redevelopment of the Old City, which needed it as it had been referred to earlier as Filthadelphia.  This is the Second Bank was set up by the colonists to handle the financial needs of the new state.  But progress is being made and the National Park Service is firmly entrenched there with the many historical sites that mark the Philadelphia landscape.

            Philadelphia lives on with much tradition and it shows in the people when they talk of their time of growing up there.  On the other hand, it is also a city that had two million people some years ago, but recent surveys indicate a total of only 1.4 million people.  They have lost many people to the suburbs and other cities, as this rust belt city has not been able to attract the new industries, such as information technology companies.  They work hard to attract the convention crowd, but there is stiff competition in that arena. 

            The have some wonderful museums and while we were there attending the Franklin Institute, found many school groups visiting from New York area schools.  Their art museum is quite extensive and has some great exhibits.  The Rodin Museum just in front of our hotel is quite special, but was closed for alterations.  The city is getting all gussied up for the National Republican Convention coming up this summer.  In Old City, the houses have been restored and now demand significant dollars to purchase (even with the small and narrow streets) because they have the atmosphere and location to Center City.  Other redeveloped and desirable locations are Society Hill and around Rittenhouse Square.

           By the way, the city was designed by William Penn as a Quaker village and has almost all streets crossing at right angles.  They city is bounded by the Delaware River on the East and by the Schuykill River with numbered streets starting at the Delaware River and the crossing streets being given names of long living plants or trees.   There are four squares designed into the original city plan and these squares remain as a living part of the city.   This picture is of the Philadelphia Skyline as taken from our hotel room.   I could go on talking for minutes but there is just too much more to tell.

              We visited some six houses and I could have even toured through many more.  The Grumblethorpe Home, pictured to the left, was in Germantown section of Philadelphia and is one of the oldest in the city.  I yearned to learn more about another chest in the upper bedroom in the first house or a table in the dining room in the second house, but I soon became saturated with all this information.  In fact, I became saturated in the first room of the first house.  Which means that I received too much information, I have a limited capacity to retain or I just didn’t get excited about old furniture.   In any event if you would like more information about these wonderful restorations you better ask Lila before she forgets all the details…oops, I think she forgot. 

             Did you know that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 2nd …not on July 4th.  It was approved on July 4th, but not celebrated until July 8th.  So why do we celebrate on July 4th?  It seems that many years ago, some obscure writer wrote a truly fictional story about the independence movement ……on the fourth of July 1776, a little boy was listening at the door of the Independence Hall room (shown to the right) where the delegates were meeting.  When he heard they passed the Declaration of Independence he ran up to the bell tower where they were waiting to ring the bell.  NOT TRUE!  The story talked about the great celebration planned for the fourth, and back in the 1800s all the newspapers picked it up and it became the gospel…so there. 

            Anyway, it was a fun trip.  We had some great fun with our friends and learned a little history as we went along.  I know that this is probably more information than you thought you needed about Philadelphia, but you got more than you wanted.