After a hearty breakfast with Susan this morning, we set off for Philadelphia by train to do some sightseeing. Philadelphia is second-to-none when it comes to early American history, and I wanted Alan to see a little bit of the city and some of its historical highlights. We rode the West Trenton SEPTA line from Yardley to the Market East Station in Center City Philadelphia. We first had lunch at Reading Terminal Market, which is one of my favorite places to visit when I’m in Philadelphia. The market is filled with food vendors, and its hard to decide what to eat given all the variety. Asian, seafood, Pennsylvania Dutch, bakeries, candy, delis; Reading Terminal Market has a LOT to choose from. We settled on crepes from Profi’s and then walked several blocks over to Independence Mall.
If you enjoy American history, Philadelphia is second-to-none for museums and sites related to the founding of the United States. The centerpiece of it all is Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Unfortunately, since it was a nice summer Friday, it was crowded with long lines to see the Liberty Bell. No ticket is required for the Liberty Bell, but the line was too long for us to wait in. Fortunately, you can get a good look at it through the window, if you are willing to forgo the interpretive stuff in the Liberty Bell Center. During the tourist season you have to get a free ticket for the tour of Independence Hall, and they were all gone by the time we arrived, so we enjoyed it from the outside.
We visited the historic Free Quaker Meeting House on Arch St. I never knew that there were some Quakers who “could not reconcile themselves to the Quaker principle of pacifism when it came to defending their country.” These Quakers were “read out” of their congregations, and so banded together to form a new meeting where they could worship and continue to contribute to the Revolutionary War effort. We also paid a visit to the Christ Church Burial ground where Benjamin Franklin is buried, along with a number of other folks from the Revolutionary War era. Faded with time, Franklin’s grave bears an epitaph that amused me a bit:
B. Franklin, printer;
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be whlly lost:
For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more,
In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended
By the Author.
My favorite part of the day, though, was the portrait gallery at the Second Bank of the United States. The Second Bank is a worn Greek revival style building that houses many portraits of the founders of our country, most by Charles Wilson Peale. Although these portraits are over 200 years old, so many of the faces look like men and women you might see on the street today. I’m not sure why I was surprised by this, but Peale’s style is very photographic and the gallery is well curated with descriptions of each of the subjects of the paintings.
We returned to Reading Terminal Market for an afternoon snack before returning to Yardley on the train. We had plans to meet up with my friend Nancy in Lawrenceville, NJ at 6:00 for dinner. I couldn’t resist swinging around Princeton to see if it still looked the same since I was a post-doc there in 2007. Not too much has changed there, as far as I could tell. Dinner at Fedora Cafe in Lawrenceville was delicious, and it was great to catch up with Nancy in person.
Note from Alan: Apparently the town of “Reading” is pronounced like “Redding”. So my joke about how the city of Reading should have a newspaper called “The Rainbow” fell flat due to my mispronunciation. Darn it.