PJ and I got back from Philadelphia yesterday evening. Since he was busy at his conference most of the time we were there, my goal was to check out a few museums and other attractions around the city.

This was the fourth time I’ve visited Philadelphia since 2000. My first visit was to present a paper at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. The conference organizers emphasized how many eighteenth-century-related sites there are to see in Philly, but I didn’t actually see many of them while I was at that conference. In 2003, PJ and I went to Philly for vacation. We spent most of that trip seeing Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin sites, and the Philadelphia Art Museum. In 2004, we went back for a meeting of the North American Conference for British Studies. We were there with a couple of friends, so we spent most of our time on that trip hanging out with them.

So, I wanted to take the opportunity to see more of the eighteenth-century sites and to learn more about eighteenth-century Philadelphia on this trip. I didn’t get to see everything I wanted — I had a habit of showing up when things were closed or when a long line of school children had just lined up at the door. But I go a little taste of eighteenth-century Philadelphia, and I know what I want to see when I go back.

Benjamin Franklin (1785)One of my first stops was the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which has a very good, if small, museum. I especially enjoyed seeing works by members of the Peale family. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) and his brother James Peale (1749-1831) were painters. Charles Willson Peale studied under British painter Benjamin West and then taught his brother and several of his children to paint. These children included Raphaelle Peale, Rembrandt Peale, Rubens Peale, Titian Peale, and Angelica Kauffman Peale. His portrait of Benjamin Franklin in 1785 (right) is just one of his famous portraits, a genre in which he excelled. This painting is on display at the PAFA. Rembrandt Peale become one of the most important American painters of the early nineteenth century.

Tomb of the Unknown SoldierI also walked to Washington Square, one of the original five parks laid out by William Penn. It contains the tomb of the unknown soldier, which commemorates the men who were buried here in 1778 during the British occupation. Washington SquareWashington Square is a beautiful little park. The weather was great while I was there, and it was a great place to sit and hang out for a little while. It’s obviously a place where people like to bring a picnic lunch and spend their lunch hour. To the left is the picture I took of the monument. On the right is a picture I took of the square,

I enjoy looking at churches too while on vacation, so I walked by two in the historical district: St. Peter’s Church, which opened in 1761, and the Old Pine Street Church, which was established as the third Presbyterian church in Philadelphia in 1768. My pictures of these two churches didn’t turn out that well, so I’ll refer anyone who’s interested in them to their respective web pages.

Powell HouseI walked by, but did not go into, a few eighteenth-century houses. The most notable of these was the Powell House, which was built in 1765. Samuel Powell and his wife entertained such dignitaries as George Washington and General Lafayette here. Since my guidebook says that the house still has many of its original furnishings, I had really hoped to see the inside, but the house was closed when I got there, presumably so that the tour guides could eat lunch (it was about 11:30). Powell House is on “mansion row,” which includes several eighteenth- and nineteenth-century houses. This is definitely one of the sites I want to see more of next time I’m in Philadelphia.

I’m sure there were many other eighteenth-century sites to see. I look forward to visit number 5. In the coming days, I’ll also post about some of the other things we did in Philly, including a visit to the African American Museum and a second visit to the Philadelphia Art Museum.

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