May 16, 2012

Philadelphia Trip, Day 1

It's been about a month since my last post and we've been busy!

A couple of weeks ago, Casia and I spent two days in Philadelphia visiting historic and cultural attractions. We had our first 'girls' road trip and stayed with my cousin, Emily, who lives outside the city.

As preparation for the trip, I had Casia research historic sites she wanted to view and I also gave her some maps and internet access and had her plan the route. She did an excellent job with both aspects and I got to pat myself on the back for turning a tedious task on my part into an important life-skills lesson for Casia.

Since we had recently finished our history unit on the American Revolution, Philadelphia was the perfect locale. We started off in Independence Center, where we got our tickets to the must-see attractions and then wandered over to take a quick look at the Liberty Bell. 

Casia taking pictures of the Liberty Bell

Me and Casia in front of the Liberty Bell

Casia and Emily in front of Independence Hall.
We ended up back here later for our tour.

Casia making friends.

Casia really wanted to visit the Graff House, the location where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. I learned only after our return home that the original building, built in 1775, had been torn down but a replica was built two hundred years later on the same spot. From the outside, it looked like a centuries-old residence; inside, it looked as though it were designed by someone under the influence of a mind altering drug. Aside from the two upstairs rooms, that you could view through plexiglass, designed to look as Thomas Jefferson's rooms might have looked during his stay two hundred years earlier, the rest of the was house a tragic disappointment. It had a room with giant multi-colored blocks, some covered in mirrors, a stairwell that looked like it belonged in a parking garage, a small auditorium and a very modern, curvy display room. There was cement were there should have been antique character and it was a travesty that the preservation of such a historical location was done so poorly. Fortunately, this was the only disappointment of the trip.

A recreation of the room where Thomas Jefferson 
wrote the Declaration of Independence.

A very unusual room with big blocks and lots of mirrors.

Casia had also discovered that Philly has a Polish-American museum, and even though it wasn't relevant to the history course, we decided that we would make a little time in our schedule for it. Since Emily is on the Polish side of my family, she was as excited about it as we were. It was a cute little place that sold some Polish souvenirs and had displays recounting the lives of famous Poles throughout history, aspects of Polish history to make one proud and little-know facts to fascinate. Before leaving, Casia got a pin with both the American and Polish flags on it.

Afterward, we had a great lunch at a little restaurant that served panini. Casia had her first panini and now she's hooked!

Casia and Emily in front of the Polish American museum.

The best part of the trip came when we took the tours of the Bishop White and Todd houses. It was a very small tour group, just one extra person along with us. We had a great guide who not only really knew his stuff, his enthusiasm was contagious. When it had started, the first question Casia asked our guide was whether or not we would get to see upstairs. She was so excited when he answered in the affirmative and then she explained that in Colonial Willimsburg, so many of the buidlings didn't allow the tours to view the upstairs. 

We enjoyed the tour through the Todd house and learned that Mrs. Todd, after becoming a widow, caught the eye James Madison. They married and she eventually became the famous First Lady, Dolly Madison. The house had a lot of the charm and character you would expect in a 300 year-old house. But it paled in comparison to the next house on the tour, the Bishop White House.

Garden behind the Todd House

Casia in front of the Todd House

Kitchen in the Todd House

Bedroom int he Todd House

Kitchen in the Todd House

In the Bishop White House, not only did we tour the first and second floors, but we got to go up to the third floor, where the children would have slept. Because of the small group size, and I believe because of Casia's enthusiasm, the guide decided to also include the attic in the tour. It isn't normally shown to the public and it's not furnished, but it has an amazing view of the city from up there. It was huge, with high ceilings even on the 4th floor. And he showed us the stairs to yet another attic. They were too treacherous, however, for us to venture up, so Casia had to content herself with just peeking up there.

As we decended the stairs, the guide announced that we still had a little more time, would we be as interested in seeing the basement as we were the attic? Would we ever! So down to the basement we went. There we saw a second kitchen, though much smaller, a wine cellar of ginormous proportions and the trap door to yet another basement. It was also unnavigable, but we got to peer down the hole to where they used to keep the ice for the old-time ice box.

Bishop White House

Casia at the front door of the Bishop White House

Foyer and Hallway of the Bishop White House



Casia in the Bishop White House Kitchen

Indoor Privy
(Casia wasn't very excited  about posing for this picture)

Emily in the Library
(She was checking out the book selection) 

When Bishop White died, his loving family had a portrait painted of his library as he had left
 it and since the house and  his belongings remained in the family for so many generations,
they were able to recreate his study with historical accuracy. 

Casia in a third story bedroom.
Even on the third floor the ceilings were at least 9 feet high.

Bedroom on Third Floor

Casia looking out a fourth floor window.

Casia picked this one as her bedroom.

One of Bishop White's grandchildren carved their initials and
the date into the fourth floor window frame.
It reads "W. W. Bronson 1834".

Stairs leading up to the 5th floor attic.

Emily and Casia taking pictures of the wine cellar.

Casia in the basement.

Door to the second basement. Here they would keep the ice to store food.

Basement kitchen.
Fire extinguisher not authentic. ;)

Casia with the awesome tour guide.

Another highlight of the trip was a tour of Independence Hall. It was thrilling to be in the same room where our nation was created. At the desks they had quills and inks, pipes, books and even a cane similar to what the Founding Fathers might have used. We got to see Washington's chair with the carved rising sun.

Clock Tower of Independence Hall

Emily and Casia by Independence Hall

Emily and Casia

Before the tour of Independence Hall, we started in this room with a
painting depicting the historical signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Court House in Independence Hall.

Independence Hall

Quills on a table in Independence Hall

Me and Casia in Independence Hall

Beautiful Staircase in Independence Hall

Casia in front of the statue of George Washington

Casia found Elfreth's Alley on a map and so we ended our visit of the city with a trip down the alley. It was tucked away and could easily have been missed if we hadn't been searching for it. It looked just like a little side street of very old homes on a cobble stone street. But when we got to the end it kept going and as we followed it around we ended up in a quaint, hidden garden. It was lovely.

Sign signaling to us that we had reached Elfreth's Alley

Casia in Elfreth's Alley

Elfreth's Alley

Casia and Emily in a little garden spot at the end of Elfreth's Alley

Emily tapping on the wall (as in Diagon Alley)

Casia knocking at the door of Betsy Ross's House.
It was too late to catch a tour,
so she settled for a posed picture outside.

Casia and I had a wonderful trip- thanks, Emily! After hitting all the great historical sites, we decided to order some Thai take-out and rent the movie National Treasure. While watching the movie, whenever we would see one of the locations we had been to that day, we'd shout out, "Hey, we were there!"