Posted in North America, Travels, United States

A Penny Saved … (in Philly)

Happy New Year! Okay, so I didn’t really save any pennies (or any money, for that matter) during my trip, but apparently it’s part of a famous Ben Franklin saying. More about how I learned that later.

It’s clear that budgeting is not my strong suit, but I still was able to visit Betsy Ross’s home, Franklin’s grave, the U.S. Mint, and Elfreth’s Alley.

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Sign marking the house. It never occurred to me to take a picture of the actual house.

The Betsy Ross house is in the historic district of Philadelphia, about a 10-15 minute walk from Independence Hall. The Sibling and I arrived early enough for opening ceremonies, which consisted of a solemn flag raising by two actors in period dress. If you are military (whether active or retired), you may be asked to participate in the flag raising ceremony, which one man in our group did.

You can choose to do the audio tour, or just wing it yourself, and we chose the latter. I’m thinking people from Revolutionary times were shorter and MUCH thinner than us present-day folks. My BMI is 28, and while I know that is not Victoria’s Secret-thin, I felt humongous walking around this house. I went through stairways and doorways sideways. It’s also crazy dark inside for a house, in my opinion. I would have loved to see how this place was lit at night. The rooms inside are decorated as they would have been when Ross and her family occupied the house, which I thought was a nice touch. Actors/historians stand in certain rooms and give information on what each room was used for and who may have occupied it. Watch your head: the Sibling is over 6’1″ and almost slammed his head on some of the doorframes.

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Plaque marking the site of Franklin’s grave

We walked down the street to Christ Church Burial Ground and came upon the grave of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. His grave was surprisingly simple — I don’t know, I just always thought that famous people had garishly decorated grave markers. It’s a simple gray/white slab of stone with Franklin and his wife’s names engraved on it. I noticed people leaving pennies on the site, and the Sibling scoffed at my confusion.

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Speaking of currency, we walked across the street from the cemetery to the U.S. Mint. The U.S. Mint in Philadelphia makes coins (and medals), and yes, security is strict upon entering the building. The mint wasn’t operational on the day we went, but they play the sound of jingling coins as you walk past the windows that would show active workers, but displays along the windows play videos of what a working day at the mint looks like. At the end, you can buy U.S. Mint-themed items, as well as collectible coins in the gift shop before you leave.

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Elfreth’s Alley

Elfreth’s Alley is apparently the oldest residential street in the U.S. It’s a really cute cobblestone street (alley, excuse me), and it looks like it has been pretty well kept. After walking up and down the street, there isn’t too much to see. There is a museum in the alley as well. Admission is $5, but I was too cheap that day to pay it and therefore passed it up (which I regret). If you’re itching to see the inside of these homes, there are two ways to do it (both legal): know someone who lives on the street and will open their home to you, or visit the alley during one of their two open-house events (Fete Day or Deck the Alley). Check the Elfreth’s Alley website for additional details.

Any other history enthusiasts? What are your favorite historical sites in Philadelphia?

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