Road Trip! Destination: Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia
Everybody knows a little something about Benjamin Franklin: his risky experiments with kites and lightning; his witty maxims about being early to bed and early to rise or his invention of bifocal lenses.
But there's far more we don't know about this famous Philadelphian who was an innovator, an inventor, a statesman and something of a maverick.
According to the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, the region boasts enough interesting landmarks, museums and activities connected to Franklin to fill a long weekend.
In honor of last fall's re-opening of the Benjamin Franklin Museum, the promoters have put together the brochure “Discovering Ben Franklin's Legacy in Philadelphia” and a three-day itinerary to encourage tourists to follow in Franklin's footsteps.
Fortunately for visitors, Franklin lived between 1706 and 1790, when Philadelphia was much smaller than today's sprawling metropolis, home to 1,556,600 people.
Most of the significant sites are within easy walking distance of each other in Downtown Philadelphia. The seven locations highlighted here are more than enough to get you started.
Details: The Independence Visitors Center, 800-537-7676, www.visitphilly.com
Alice T. Carter is a features writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Ben Franklin
Start your visit with big Ben at the Benjamin Franklin Museum, which reopened in August 2013 after a two-year renovation.
Located in Independence National Park, the underground museum is next to the site where Franklin lived in the mid-1700s.
Dedicated to the legacy of Benjamin Franklin is a 20,000-square-foot museum with a collection of personal artifacts. Computer animations introduce youngsters and novices to this legendary man while supplying dedicated history buffs with new insights and information about his life and character.
Visitors can use technology to examine Franklin's views and actions regarding slavery and race, eavesdrop on Franklin as he writes his autobiography and see examples of his scientific equipment and his many civic improvements.
Details: 215-965-2305 or www.nps.gov
Printing with Ben
Before he was 30, Franklin was literally making his mark as a printer and publisher. He was among the first to publish cartoons and maps to accompany and illustrate his articles. But his most popular work, “Poor Richard's Almanac,” which was published yearly through 1758, had witty and wise sayings, such as “He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals,” sprinkled throughout.
Within steps of the Benjamin Franklin Museum, you'll find the Franklin Court Printing Office, where National Park Service rangers demonstrate the 18th century techniques and machinery Franklin would have used as a printer and newspaper publisher.
Adjacent to the printing office is the house Franklin built for his grandson, printer and newspaper owner Benjamin Franklin Bache. Bache's newspaper office provides a glimpse into the newspaper culture of the 1790s.
Details: 215-965-2305 or www.nps.gov
Salute the signers
As a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a framer of the U.S. Constitution, Franklin spent many hours as a Pennsylvania delegate in the Assembly Hall at Independence Hall.
After a number of alternate uses, the room has been returned to its 18th-century appearance, making it easy to imagine Franklin there using his wit to debate the issues of the day with his allies and adversaries.
Entry to the building is for tours only. Tickets may be arranged at the Independence Visitor Center or on the Internet.
Details: 215-965-2305 or www.nps.gov
Dine like a colonist
Without City Tavern, there might not have been a Declaration of Independence or a U.S. Constitution. The framers of those documents voted and signed them at Independence Hall. But many of the deals and arguments that made them a reality took place over a pint of ale or a glass of Madeira at the original City Tavern that opened in 1773.
That building was demolished in 1854. But in 1976, an historically accurate reconstruction opened on the same site.
Contemporary guests can dine on 18th-century dishes, such as West Indies Pepperpot Soup and Tavern Lobster Pie, or salute Franklin and his fellow Founding Fathers with a glass of Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce ale that Yards Brewing Co. produces from a recipe written by Franklin.
Details: 215-413-1443 or www.citytavern.com
Stroll Elfreth's Alley
Skyscrapers and car-clogged asphalt streets have replaced many of the streets and homes that Franklin would have been familiar with.
To get a sense of the scale and look of Franklin's Philadelphia, visit Elfreth's Alley, between Front and Second streets just north of Arch Street.
Elfreth's Alley was home to some of colonial Philadelphia's 18th-century artisans and trades-people.
The houses on this narrow, cobblestone street were built between 1755 and 1830 and retain the shutters, flower boxes and Flemish-bond brickwork of Franklin's era.
To learn more about the buildings and its early residents, visit the Elfreth's Alley Museum inside the two adjacent houses at 124 and 126 that were built in 1755, where you can also purchase a copy of “Inside These Doors,” the self-guided walking tour of the exteriors of the alley's private homes.
Details: 215-574-0560 or www.elfrethsalley.org
Worship where he did
The view from Christ Church's pew 70 has changed little since Franklin and his wife, Deborah, sat there while attending services along with Betsy Ross, George Washington and John Adams.
The church's Georgian decor, its pulpit, built in 1769, and the chandelier that was installed in 1740 are the same as they were in Franklin's day, as is the building's steeple, which was financed by a lottery that Franklin organized.
A national landmark, but not a museum, Christ Church is an active Episcopal parish. Visitors are welcome to explore the church, attend daily talks about the church's history and take part in its religious services.
Details: 215-922-1695 or ww.christchurchphila.org
Pay your respects
Franklin's grave can be found in Christ Church's two-acre cemetery, five blocks from the church. He was buried in his family plot in the northwest corner of the burial ground along with his wife and two of their children, Francis Folger Franklin and Sarah Franklin Bache.
Four other signers of the Declaration of Independence and several centuries of prominent lawyers, founders and military heroes are buried in the cemetery, which is open March through November.
A brick wall surrounds most of the cemetery. But Franklin's grave is always on view from the street near the intersection of Fifth and Arch streets through a section of fence erected in the mid-1800s.
That opening also makes it easier for Franklin's fans to pay their respects by tossing a penny onto his grave, an homage to his saying “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Details: 215-922-1695 or www.christchurchphila.org
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