Philadelphia - The home of history

Philadelphia Travel Blog

 › entry 22 of 26 › view all entries
The house Washington used to live in

Philadelphia may not be the oldest city in the USA. It is not the biggest anymore it actually went through a long decline during a large part of the 20th century. But it got more history than any other American city - and most European or Asian cities as well for that matter. Hence there is a bit more to the city than just the place the first Rocky movie was filmed.

 

The city is pretty old though founded by William Penn who is also towering on top of the top of the City Hall - the tallest structure in the world which does not contain a steel frame inside.

The street down to the City Hall
But it is not the fact that Penn used this city as the capital of his colony which had an unusual religious freedom for its time. It is a lot more famous for its role in American history. It used to be the capital of USA before it was moved to Washington and Philadelphia is also the home of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the US constitution and a big bell.

 

I start the day trying to drive to the centre but I make a wrong turn somewhere and end up a bit of my preferred path. As I drive towards the centre I see the houses along the small streets. They are pretty different to the tall apartment blocks you will find in New York. Instead there is one row of low houses after the other - some of them are very well kept while others look somewhat rundown. Then I get to a place on a street and I start searching - supposedly there should be the old residence of George Washington somewhere around here.

The street down to the City Hall
He used to live here during the congress in Philadelphia. You would imagine a place like this would be well marked - but no. The reason might be that the house was under renovation so you could not go and visit the house.

 

One thing I noticed while I looked around for Washington’s old house was - all the people in the neighbourhood seemed to be blacks - with me as the only exception from this. I suppose this is sort of a legacy from the old days when Pennsylvania used to be home to some of the most active abolitionist during the struggle about slavery. Pennsylvania were one of the easiest places for slaves to get there freedom if they managed to escape from there slave lords in the south.

 

After my short visit to the old house of Washington I start driving towards the centre of town. On the way I see the big city hall like a giant landmark of the centre - and old William is standing tall on the top of the building.

Liberty Bell
Traditionally no other house were allowed to be taller than the tip of Williams hat - but things are changing in Philadelphia - and today many houses is taller that Williams hat.

 

After I spotted the City Hall was pretty straight forward to navigate towards the centre of the town. Just drive towards the hat. When I got to the centre the first stop was the parking garage under the Independence National park visitor centre. From the garage the trip goes out to the most historic area in all of the USA - and actually one of the most historic areas in the entire world. First stop after the visitor centre is a small plot where the first home of the president of the USA used to be. It has been demolished years ago but it is marked today. Washington and Adams both lived in the house before Adams moving into the White House in Washington DC as the first ever resident.

 

The first occupant of the Philadelphia White house George lived there with a large household including a number of slaves.

Independence Hall
Back at that time Pennsylvania had introduced a law which meant any slave living in Pennsylvania for at least 6 month would automatically get his or her freedom.  Washington was not sure if this rule applied to him as well - so to make sure he rotated his slaves in such a way none of them ever stayed in Pennsylvania more than 6 month - he just had to ship them a couple of ours across the state border to either New Jersey or Maryland and the clock would start over on a new 6 month period before his slaves would get there freedom. What charming behaviour for a champion of liberty.

 

Just next to the plot marking the old house is a building containing one of the most treasured symbols of the USA - the Liberty Bell. The bell which ring out the signing of the Declarations of Independence - well ups no it did not. Actually the bell did not play any part in the independence of the USA - and all the stories about the bell are of a much later date.

Backside of Independence Hall
But nobody seems to care - and it is a big bell anyways.

 

The Independence National Park is a very small area hence the next attraction is really close by less than two minutes by foot - actually that is the only way you can get around the area anyways. Just after the Liberty Bell building is Independence Hall - and right next to it the old US congress.

 

The Independence Hall is sort of the birthplace of the USA. Inside this building the continental congress met to debate the Declaration of Independence and right outside was it first read out loud to the public. The building might be small and look a bit insignificant and it was almost demolished years ago when the city planners of Philadelphia wanted to improve the city - but fortunately they ended up saving the building making it the most important attraction in Philadelphia.

Inside the Independence Hall

 

After visiting Independence Hall it is natural to go and see the first congress building in the US where the House of Representatives and the US Senate met from 1790 to 1800. In this building one very important event took place in the room which used to house the House of Representatives. One thing that may seem insignificant today. George Washington stepped down as president leaving John Adams in charge of the country. I guess my first thought was - what else should have happened? But I guess it was far from natural back then - after all the world had never really seen a peaceful transition of power from one man to another before. I guess one have to think what the time were like back in 1797 when Washington stepped down. The French Revolution had failed miserably under Robespierre reign of terror and Napoleon had risen to power pushing Europe out to what was the most destructive war ever seen.

The old us house of representatives
Hence the concept of stepping down peacefully was unprecedented.

 

Hence the world was waiting during the whole inauguration process - what would George Washington do? Would he at the last minute stand up and say - forget all this democracy nonsense and call me King George the Great instead. At this time Washington’s power were enormous he was the only president ever to be elected unanimously by the electoral college - and not only one time but twice. But during the entire process Washington were quite and let things pass. Then at the end what should they do after the proceedings? Nobody knew there was no precedence for this sort of things.

 

Then Adams stood up and walked out the room. Then the new vice president Thomas Jefferson wanted to let Washington go next - could have been an interesting setting first the new president - then the former president who nobody knew if he would have any power - then the new vice president.

The old us senate
A seen which could indicate Washington was still the go to guy in the middle of everything controlling the government without an official post. What was Washington’s response to Jefferson’s gesture? He said no - you go first I am only a private citizen now. And just right at that moment the people in the room knew they had witnessed a historic event. The very first peaceful transition of power from one man to the next in any major country. Everybody in the room stood up and applauded Washington for his service and his example in how you could actually run a democracy. Just at that moment the people in the room realized the ideas they had all had about how to run America might actually work.

 

Upstairs from the House of Representatives is the old Senate room. It is a fairly small room because back then there were only 34 senators. The room is a lot more impressive than the House of Representatives. One feature you will see when you look in the room is the throne in the middle - the chair which was the seat of the vice president when he used to run the senate.

The old us senate
On the sealing just over the throne is picture of an eagle holding a couple of arrows and an olive branch. This means that the USA has always two options to go with war or peace. But the eagle is looking towards the olive branch which is supposed to mean the USA should always look to the peaceful solution first. Hmm I wonder of present day president got the same eagle in the White House or if the painter may a mistake drawing the eagle?

 

The eagle on the roof today is actually the original eagle - but this eagle has been painted over because the old congress did not really like the eagle. Because the eagle is painted with a seal with 13 stars - representing the 13 states - but one of the stars is bigger. The star for Pennsylvania the home of the building. The other states did not like this eagle - because all the states were supposed to be equal - hence they did a new painting of the eagle.

 

If you walk out of the old congress you can go down to other parts of this historic park which contains several other historic building - like the first bank of the USA which had an important role during the revolutionary war in financing the war effort.

The museum in Philadelphia - aka Rocky steps museum

 

The last attraction you sort of have to see is the Rocky museum - erh the Philadelphia modern art museum. Well sort of the second most important monument in Philadelphia - just after Independence Hall I guess.

 

Then it is of I need to go to Washington tonight. I drive down the interstate - and wuhu - just on the road is Wilmington Delaware. I can easily put down another state on my Travelbody map after all I spend more time in this state than I spent in West Virginia.

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
The house Washington used to live …
The house Washington used to live…
Church in the same neighbourhood a…
Church in the same neighbourhood …
The street down to the City Hall
The street down to the City Hall
The street down to the City Hall
The street down to the City Hall
Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell
Independence Hall
Independence Hall
Backside of Independence Hall
Backside of Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
The old us house of representatives
The old us house of representatives
The old us senate
The old us senate
The old us senate
The old us senate
The museum in Philadelphia - aka R…
The museum in Philadelphia - aka …
Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell
Independence Hall
Independence Hall
The old congress building
The old congress building
First Bank of the USA
First Bank of the USA
The old financier who created the …
The old financier who created the…
Backside of Independence Hall
Backside of Independence Hall
Building next to Independence Hall
Building next to Independence Hall
Building next to Independence Hall
Building next to Independence Hall
The people who signed the declarat…
The people who signed the declara…
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
Inside the Independence Hall
The pen used to sign the declarati…
The pen used to sign the declarat…
The old us house of representatives
The old us house of representatives
The old us senate
The old us senate
The old us senate
The old us senate
The old us senate
The old us senate
The old us senate
The old us senate
The queen of france in the old con…
The queen of france in the old co…
The king of france in the old cong…
The king of france in the old con…
The stairs in the congress buildin…
The stairs in the congress buildi…
Senate secretary office
Senate secretary office
Senate secretary office
Senate secretary office
Joint commitee room
Joint commitee room
The Federal Reserve Building in Ph…
The Federal Reserve Building in P…
Something is above old Penn these …
Something is above old Penn these…
Gate to Chinatown
Gate to Chinatown
Gate to Chinatown
Gate to Chinatown
The City Hall
The City Hall
Old William Penn on top of City Ha…
Old William Penn on top of City H…
Old William Penn on top of City Ha…
Old William Penn on top of City H…
The city hall
The city hall
The city hall
The city hall
The city hall
The city hall
The city hall
The city hall
The eternal flame at the memorial …
The eternal flame at the memorial…
Only 13 stars on the flag
Only 13 stars on the flag
Looking at City Hall from the muse…
Looking at City Hall from the mus…
The museum in Philadelphia - aka R…
The museum in Philadelphia - aka …
The museum in Philadelphia - aka R…
The museum in Philadelphia - aka …
Row houses in Philadelphia
Row houses in Philadelphia
Row houses in Philadelphia
Row houses in Philadelphia
Row houses in Philadelphia
Row houses in Philadelphia
Philadelphia Sights & Attractions review
Most historic building in North America
Few buildings in the world is of more historic importance than Independence Hall in Philadelphia - and no building in North America can boost of such … read entire review
Philadelphia
photo by: Ann_Hells