Archive for the ‘History’ Category

The Constitution…and all that jazz

Monday afternoon was the closing luncheon for the Peter Jenning’s Project for Journalists and the Constitution at the National Constitution Center. “The Constitution in Our Midst” was the overall theme of the three day event.

An informal buffet and a sit where you want format seemed to have everyone in a relaxed mood. Up on a small stage was a trio lead by Philly born pianist, Eric Reed, along with David Wong on bass and Obed Calvaire on drums.

I took a seat off to the side at an empty table where I could see the band and not be in anyone’s way, as I was the guest of a friend.

Philly Myth: Betsy Ross

Betsy Ross is a myth. OK so not really Betsy Ross the woman but the fact that she sewed the first flag and that she sewed the first flag over at 239 Arch Street is. While the Betsy Ross House has stuck by the claim that she did in fact live in the house the Joint State Government Commission of Pennsylvania concluded in 1949 that there was no proof Betsy Ross lived in that house.

But surely you now ask Betsy Ross designed the flag, I mean there is the whole George Washington wanted six point stars but Betsy said that five point stars would be easier to cut and stich and GW relented. Right? Well not exactly it seems the first flag was designed by Frances Hopkins, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, in 1780.

But she at least sewed the flag, right? There is that historic depiction in the house with Betsy sewing the flag in the Betsy Ross House. Certainly the city wouldn’t facilitate a lie to gain more tourism dollars would they? Well actually they would. It can not be proven that Betsy Ross actually sewed anything in that house let alone the flag.

Sorry myth, you’ve been busted.

An outsider’s view of Philly

So often I forget that I live in one of the most history-rich cities in the country. It’s hard to walk a block in Philly without passing some site of significance, or a museum or historic site but when you walk those blocks regularly, you stop seeing so much of it. I was searching online tonight for little snippets of Philly history when I stumbled across an editorial that a writer and history teacher from Georgia wrote in the Gwinnet Daily Post about a recent trip he took to our city. He says,

We saw the Liberty Bell, which is just a symbol — and a cracked one at that. Yet I had tears in my eyes as I stood and contemplated the rejoicing that must have greeted its boisterous pealing 231 years ago.
We saw the very chair in which George Washington sat as he presided over the Constitutional Convention, the one with the “rising, not setting sun,” as the aforementioned Dr. Franklin affirmed after our new Constitution was adopted, and we saw the encampment at Valley Forge where Washington and his tattered army hunkered down and stayed the course during those hard times — the ones that Thomas Paine said “tried men’s souls.”

Sometimes it nice to have an opportunity to see the place where you live through the eye’s of a visitor.

National Preservation Awards

Every time you turn around in Philly, someone is turning an old warehouse into condos, or a row of beautiful rowhomes is becoming the front for a highrise. I often find myself mourning these changes, but I also recognize that everything has a lifespan, and I’m always grateful when a building is repurposed instead of ripped down.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is now accepting nominations for the 2007 National Preservation Awards. They are looking for individuals who have been involved in an outstanding preservation project completed in the past three years, or those who know of a corporation, nonprofit organization, public agency, or individual who has helped save a part of America’s local or national heritage.

Nominations are due on March 1st, which is just one short week away, but if there’s a project you think is worthy, that’s still enough time to get the information in to them. To download the nomination form, go here.

(via UnBeige)

River Drive and Tunnel

River Drive and Tunnel, Fairmount Park

My Valentine’s Day package from my mom arrived last night, nearly two weeks after she sent it first class from Portland, OR. We can only assume that last week’s storm sent it into hiding someplace in a mail storage facility in the midwest. I am thrilled that it has finally arrived, carrying several copies of my sister’s new CD, a cute little Valentine’s Day card my mom made and the postcard you see above. It was never mailed, but it is addressed to Miss Edith L. Warner in Sunderland, Mass. I love receiving little pieces of the past like this.

28 Days

Today is the start of Black History Month.
I concede 28 days is not enough to celebrate all the ways people of color have made our lives better.
So, let me humbly begin with, the nations oldest continually running African American newspaper,
The Philadelphia Tribune.

First Wall Street: Chestnut Street

In addition to being the political headquarters of the US in the Revolutionary period, Philadelphia was also the headquarters for finance. Before Wall Street, banks on and around Chestnut Street kept the economy moving by giving loans and printing money. Young Involved Philadelphia is holding a reading group for the book The First Wall Street next Monday — I just started reading. More details.

Another pic from the past


Here’s another photograph of Philadelphia’s past, plucked from the photo archive at It’s a building that this still exists, although currently it sits empty and unused. I’ve driven by it many times, always wishing that it would be restored to it’s former beauty. Anyone have any thoughts as to where it might be?

Pictures of Philadelphia’s Past


I’ve just fallen in love with a new website, thanks to a story suggestion that Amy left in our online suggestion box. She thought we should check out the photo archive at, a website run by the City Department of Records. You can search by neighborhood or by street address and it will pull up a slew of historical pictures of that area or location. I’ve spent at least an hour playing around there today, when I should have been doing other things. It is a seriously fantastic website.

The building pictured above is still standing, can anyone tell me what it is now?

Excellent Funsaver

Well, at least it’s excellent if you are like me, a dork who loves Philadelphia history. The Landmark Tours 2 pm walking tour of the exterior of City Hall and Center Square is half price this Saturday. The tour runs rain or shine and lasts about two hours.

City hall

If you are interested, follow this link to buy tickets.

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