Sunday, April 19, 2009

Past History, Present Fun

It's not hard to get a history lesson and have fun at the same time when you live, work, and play in Philadelphia. Here's a smattering of significant sights from just one 8-hour stretch on a Saturday:

* 9a - We ride the Market-Frankford El downtown. The line opened in 1907 and cost a nickel at the time.

* 9:30a - We had gotten off @ 2nd Street because it had an elevator, so headed straight north and decided to walk down Elfreth's Alley, the oldest continuously inhabited street in America. One of the houses had a placard that said it was built in 1703. (Oh, by the way, on the way we passed by Christ Church, which was only founded in 1695 and was attended by George Washington and John Adams when they were President.)

* 10a - We bide our time at the playground in Franklin Square until the carousel opens and the kids and I go for a spin. Franklin Square is one of the original five parks planned by William Penn in the late 17th century. Philadelphia was also once the carousel making capital of the world.

* 10:30a - We hoof it to lunch at Reading Terminal Market, which opened in 1892 and is housed in Reading Railroad's old train shed. The fact that there are 80+ merchants offering food from all corners of the world is why it's Philadelphia's third most popular Philadelphia tourist destination, after the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

* 2:30p - Sufficiently recharged after naps back at home, we head out again to the Please Touch Museum for the rest of the afternoon. Its new home in Memorial Hall was the location of the nation's Centennial Exposition, which was attended by 10 million people (the US population at the time was 40 million!), and which was our introduction to such commonplace items as the telephone, popcorn, bananas, and root beer.

That's a lot of old places for a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old to see in one day of fun! Hopefully, our kids will grow up with a healthy appreciation for history, and for Philadelphia's role in it.



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