Visitor Center — Start your visit of Old Philadelphia at the Visitor Center. The center offers two films as well as many exhibits and a gift shop. Re-enactors can often be found in period dress demonstrating colonial America.
Declaration House (Graff House) — This is the home where Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence.
During the summer of 1776, Thomas Jefferson rented two rooms in the house that originally stood on this site to write the Declaration of Independence. In the house museum is a faithful recreation of his draft, which includes a passage that condemned the practice of slavery. The passage was eventually stricken for fear it would disunite the colonies at a time when a consensus against the British Crown was needed.
Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. By order of the assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania for the State House in Philadelphia.
Pass and Stow
(Liberty Bell Exhibit)
Liberty Bell – On the way, you will pass by the Atwater Kent Museum, Philadelphia’s museum about its 300 years of history. You will also pass the Lights of Liberty Show, a high-tech sound and light show about American independence.
The Liberty Bell Center houses the enduring symbol of American freedom, the Liberty Bell. The bell was rung on July 8, 1776 after the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. The biblical inscription on the bell, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,” is from Leviticus 25:10.
The bell was cast in England, but broke shortly after its arrival in America. It was recast in Philadelphia in 1753 and was rung on special occasions, such as the reading of the declaration, until it cracked in 1841. Today, the bell is no longer rung, but it has been struck on special occasions such as the landing of Allied forces in France on June 6, 1944.
The State House of Pennsylvania
The Birthplace of the United States of America
(Independence Hall Marker)
Independence Hall — On May 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress met at Independence Hall after England had done nothing to satisfy American complaints and the situation throughout the thirteen colonies had worsened. Armed conflict had broken out in Massachusetts and the Green Mountain Boys were in the process of taking Fort Ticonderoga from the British.
Many of the members of the Second Continental Congress included those from the First Continental Congress, which met in Carpenters’ Hall (the next site on this walking tour). Those joining the delegates included Benjamin Franklin from Pennsylvania (who at 70 years old had just returned from England), Thomas Jefferson from Virginia, John Hancock from Massachusetts, George Clinton, Robert R. Livingston and Philip Schuyler from New York and Lyman Hall from Georgia.
Congressional delegates were now called upon to direct a war that few desired. Reluctantly they moved from protest to resistance and assumed authority over provincial troops at Boston. On June 15th, 1775, they appointed George Washington commander in chief "of all continental forces, raised, or to be raised, for the defense of American liberty."
Here, the Continental Congress sat from the date it convened, May 10, 1775, until the close of the Revolution, except when in 1777-1778 in Lancaster and York due to the temporary occupation of Philadelphia by the British army.
Here, on June 16, 1775, George Washington accepted his appointment by Congress as General of the Continental Army.
Here, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted, and on July 9, 1778, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between the states were adopted and signed.
Here, on November 3, 1781, twenty-four standards, taken at the surrender of Yorktown, were laid at the feet of Congress and His Excellency, the Ambassador of France.
Here, on September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States of America, was adopted and signed.
Erected by the Society of the Descendants of the Signers, July 4, 1910.
(Independence Hall Marker)
hFor nearly a year, while fighting continued, Congress sought unsuccessfully for ways to resolve the dispute between England and the Colonies. No demand for independence was made until June 1776, when Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee offered a resolution declaring "that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States," and calling for the establishment of foreign alliances and a plan of confederation.
In response, Congress appointed a committee to draft a declaration "setting forth the causes which impelled us to this mighty resolution." Most of the work of the committee fell to Thomas Jefferson who based his draft on a broad foundation of universal human rights. On July 2nd, Congress passed the resolution proposed by Richard Henry Lee and two days later adopted the Declaration.
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government laying its foundations on such principles and organizing it powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in general congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connections between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protections of Devine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
July 5, 1776
(From a marker at the United States Military Academy West Point, NY)
In the fall of 1776, Congress began the process of adopting a constitution, but was forced to suspend their activities in Philadelphia as Washington, defeated in the battle for New York City, was chased across New Jersey to the other side of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. Washington was able to retaliate at Trenton and Princeton and return his army to the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, but in the meantime, Congress decided to move to the safety of Baltimore for four months. They returned to Philadelphia in March 1777.
On August 24, 1777, Washington paraded about 16,000 troops past Independence Hall on their way to meet the British invasion from the Chesapeake. Washington led the column on his white horse with LaFayette at his side and his mounted staff immediately behind. It was a tremendous show of American colonial power that for the time-being subdued the Loyalists of Philadelphia. The march led John Adams to send the following message to his wife, Abigail, “We have now an army well appointed between us and Mr. Howe, and this army will be immediately joined by ten thousand militia, so that I feel as secure here as if I was at Braintree.”
Meanwhile, inside Independence Hall, Congress continued to debate a draft of the first constitution. They had been debating the draft intermittently now for several months, but they would once again be forced to suspend their activities in Philadelphia. A month after Washington marched his troops by Independence Hall, General Howe marched his British forces into Philadelphia and much to the acclaim of Loyalist supporters, took possession of the city. With absolutely no reverence for Independence Hall, what-so-ever, the British used part of the building as a stable.
Congress moved once again, this time to York, Pennsylvania where they finally adopted the first constitution of the United States, "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union," on November 15, 1777. Copies were sent out to each of the states for ratification.
Although the British had succeeded in taking Philadelphia, they did not receive the American surrender they had hoped for. Washington’s army maintained the ability to severely sting them, as shown at Germantown. Furthermore, with Washington at Valley Forge, their forces were bottled-up in Philadelphia. In the meantime, Burgoyne’s three-pronged attack failed to separate the colonies along the Hudson River and ended with a surrender at Saratoga. General Howe’s attempt to end the American Revolution had failed.
The State House Yard, now known as Independent Square, was the scene of turmoil and tranquility in the late 1700’s.
On the eve of the American Revolution, Philadelphia citizens gathered here for mass meetings to protest British policies. As protests turned to war, soldiers drilled and drums echoed, disturbing the deliberations of the Continental Congress inside the State House. The most important result of those deliberations was the Declaration of Independence which was first read in public here in the State House Yard on July 8, 1776.
The scene was quite different when the Constitutional Convention convened in 1787. The sounds of war had faded, and the courtyard had become a peaceful garden. Winding walkways, grassy mounds, and a rich variety of trees and bushes provided a tranquil setting for the founding of the new government.
(Independence Hall Marker)
London recalled General Howe and put General Henry Clinton in charge. On June 18, 1778, he evacuated Philadelphia taking 3,000 Tories with him and leaving the city in shambles.
Congress returned to Philadelphia on July 2, 1778 in time to celebrate America’s independence on July 4th. However, they returned without legitimacy or authority as only three states, Virginia, New York and New Hampshire, had ratified the Articles of Confederation. And it wouldn’t be for another three years, until March 1, 1781, before they would finally be ratified. Although the Articles of Confederation were more a "league of friendship" among independent States than a true act of Union, they did govern the United States from the final years of the war, through the peace negotiations, and into the early years of nationhood. Their failure to provide for a strong central government, however, led to the calling of a "Grand Convention" in Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the document. Revision proved impossible and convention delegates set about to create an entirely new charter that would supplant the Articles as the law of the land. The result was the Constitution of the United States, formally adopted on September 17, 1787, and ratified the next year.
By this time Philadelphia was, for the third time, no longer the home of the national government. Mutinous Pennsylvania soldiers, demanding back pay, had surrounded Independence Hall in 1783, and Congress moved first to Princeton, then Annapolis and Trenton and finally to New York City where the Constitution was adopted. The U.S. Government under the Constitution began in New York City on March 4, 1789.
THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility; provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Those simple words preface the Constitution, a document that expresses the enduring values of the American people and focuses the loyalty of the Armed Forces. It is the Constitution that all military personnel pledge to “support and defend against all enemies…”
Drafted to replace the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution was signed and submitted for ratification in 1787. It establishes a government of limited and separated powers. Shared responsibility and divided authority provide safeguards against tyranny but place unusual burdens on the conduct of the affairs of the nation. As an example, the President is Commander-in-Chief but the Congress raises, supports and regulates the Armed Forces. Both the Executive and Legislative authorities are subject to the persuasive power of an independent Judiciary.
Two major omissions prejudiced popular support: protection for individual freedoms, and definition of residual power of the several states. A general commitment to rectify these shortcomings ensured ratification of the Constitution in 1788 and, three years later, the entry into force of ten amendments, collectively known as the Bill of Rights. Thus, the Republic’s framework provides for balance between liberty and equality and weighs the corporate interests of the nation and the rights of individuals and the states.
Our enlightened Founding Fathers recognized that the Constitution they designed must keep pace with the times and developments of mankind. On sixteen occasions since 1791, the American people have adjusted their frame of government to reflect the dynamic world in which it functions.
Steadfastly allegiant to our Constitution, we remain one people, one nation under God, seeking peace, freedom and opportunity for all.
(From a marker at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY)
In 1790, it came back to Philadelphia, the result of a compromise whereby Southern congressmen agreed to support Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton's financial proposals in return for locating a permanent capital somewhere on the banks of the Potomac River. From 1790-1800, Independence Hall was the capitol building once again while Washington, DC was prepared. Many important historical events occurred during that time, including the inauguration of George Washington for his second term; the formal addition of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution; the admission to the Union of the states of Vermont, Kentucky and Tennessee; the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 (America’s first internal threat); and the Franco-American alliance of 1778 (America’s first external threat).
In this building sat the first senate and the first house of representatives of the United Sates of America. Herein George Washington was inaugurated president March 4, 1793 and closed his official career when herein also John Adams was inaugurated the second president of the United Sates, March 4, 1797.
This tablet was erected by the Pennsylvania Society Daughters of the Revolution, 1908.
(Congress Hall Marker)
When Philadelphia ceased to be the capital of the United States, it moved to the background of American politics. But the events that took place here have made Philadelphia the home of American Independence. In Philadelphia, a nation was born and nurtured, and it was from here that it took its first tenuous steps toward an uncertain future.
Carpenters’ Hall, completed in 1774, was the meeting place of a group of Philadelphia master builders known as the Carpenters’ Company. The Carpenters banded together to establish architectural standards, to set prices for work, and to aid members’ families in times of need.
A visitor to Philadelphia in the 1700s would have seen many buildings designed and constructed by members of the Carpenters’ Company, including the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall), Old City Hall, the Pennsylvania Hospital, Benjamin Franklin’s mansion, and their own Carpenters’ Hall.
The Carpenters aided the leaders of the American Revolution by offering them the use of Carpenters’ Hall. It was here that the First Continental Congress gathered in 1774 to air their grievances against Great Britain.
Carpenters’ Hall is a part of Independence Historical Park, but is still owned and operated by the Carpenters’ Company. Visitors are welcome during scheduled hours.
(Carpenters’ Hall Marker)
Carpenters’ Hall — On the way, you’ll pass Library Hall, the home of the American Philosophical Society that was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743. You will also pass the Second Bank of the United States.
In September 1774, the First Continental Congress met in Carpenters’ Hall to decide ways of recovering certain colonial rights and liberties violated by various acts of the British government. The delegates chose Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia because it not only offered all the amenities the delegates needed but also a central location between North and South, a major consideration in an era of slow, tedious, and sometimes dangerous travel.
The delegation consisted of an extraordinary group of government leaders, most of whom had never met each other. They included George Washington and Richard Henry Lee from Virginia, John Adams and cousin Sam Adams from Massachusetts, John Jay from New York, John Dickinson and Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania (who was among the Loyalist supporters to welcome General Howe to Philadelphia three years later), Silas Deane from Connecticut, and Edward and John Rutledge from South Carolina.
John Adams wrote: “The magnanimity and public spirit which I see here makes me blush for the sordid, venal herd which I have seen in my province.”
The Congress addressed a declaration of rights and grievances to King George III. The delegates also agreed to boycott British goods and resolved that, unless their grievances were redressed, a second Congress should assemble the following spring.
After serving as a military engineer during the American Revolution, he later led an uprising in his native Poland. Exiled, the General resided in this house from November 1797 to May 1798.
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial – On the way you will pass the Todd House, the 1790’s home of Dolley Madison, wife to President James Madison, and Old St. Joseph’s Church, the first Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia publicly celebrating mass in the British Empire in the mid-1700’s under William Penn’s Charter of Privileges. You will also pass Old St. Mary’s Church, where Commodore John Barry is buried, “The Father of the American Navy,” and the Physick House, home of Dr. Philip Syng Physick, “the Father of American Surgery.”
Thaddeus Kosciuszko was a champion of liberty in his home country of Poland and in America. He was one of the first foreign volunteers to come to the aid of the American revolutionary army. Kosciuszko arrived in Philadelphia just a few weeks after the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.
At the age of 30, he had studied military engineering in Warsaw and Paris and applied to the Continental Congress for a commission. It was several weeks before Congress acted on his request, but finally on October 18, 1776 Congress passed a resolution that "Thaddeus Kosciuszko, Esq., be appointed an engineer in the service of the United States, with the pay of sixty dollars a month, and the rank of colonel." During the next six years Kosciuszko would make many significant contributions to the American Revolution, but his two most notable accomplishments were the fortifications at Saratoga and West Point.
Kosciuszko's selection and fortification of Bemis Heights overlooking the Hudson River in Saratoga contributed greatly to Burgoyne’s surrender. In March 1778, he was entrusted with the defense of the Hudson River at West Point. For 28 months Kosciuszko planned and built permanent fortifications at West Point, and was so successful that the British never dared attack.
In 1780, Kosciuszko’s request for a more active assignment was granted when he was assigned to the Southern Army and continued to serve until the end of the war. His service in the Continental Army ended in 1783 when Congress promoted him to Brigadier General and passed a resolution recognizing “his long, faithful, and meritorious service.” Kosciuszko remained in the United States for another year putting his affairs in order and taking leave of Washington and his comrades in arms. Finally, on July 15, 1784, Thaddeus Kosciuszko set sail from New York for his native Poland.
From 1784 through the late 1780's Kosciuszko lived the quiet life of a Polish landlord. By the 1790's, however, Kosciuszko was in the forefront of Polish resistance to Czarist Russia's domination over Poland. It was during this period that Kosciuszko wrote the Act of Insurrection, a document strongly reminiscent of the Declaration of Independence. The Insurrection, however, failed. Kosciuszko was seriously wounded in battle and imprisoned in Russia. The Polish insurrection was crushed by foreign military powers. In December 1796, Kosciuszko was freed on the condition that he never again return to Poland.
In exile, and suffering from wounds that left him partially paralyzed, Kosciuszko returned to America. He arrived to a hero's welcome in Philadelphia, the capital city of the new nation. To escape the yellow fever epidemic raging in the city he traveled north to spend several weeks visiting his old friends, General Anthony W. White in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and General Horatio Gates in New York City.
Returning to Philadelphia in November, Kosciuszko and his companion, Julian Niemcewicz, rented rooms in a this house at 3rd and Pine Streets run by Mrs. Ann Reif. In a small room on the second floor Kosciuszko spent the winter reading, sketching, and receiving distinguished visitors who came to pay tribute to "the hero of Poland."
One of his most frequent visitors was Vice President Thomas Jefferson. Kosciuszko and Jefferson shared many of the same political views and the two became close friends. Jefferson said Kosciuszko was “as pure a son of Liberty as I have ever known, and of that liberty which is to go to all, and not to the few or the rich alone." Uppermost in Kosciuszko’s mind was freedom for his native Poland, however he would never live to see Poland free. He died on October 15, 1817 in Solothurn, Switzerland.
Today, the home where Kosciuszko stayed in Philadelphia is the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial. The National Park Service has restored the outside of the house and the second floor bedroom to look much as it did in 1798 when Kosciuszko lived here. On February 4, 1976 the house was dedicated as the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial. It is the smallest unit of the National Park Service.
1. Franklin’s House — The painted steel frame marks the site of Benjamin Franklin’s “good house.” Viewing ports allow you to see surviving portions of the foundations. After Franklin’s death in 1790, his elegant house was rented. Then, in 1812, his grandchildren demolished it to make room for new construction.
2. Museum Entrance — These doors lead to the underground Franklin Court Museum containing a theater and exhibits portraying Franklin’s achievements. On display are Franklin’s desk and several of his inventions.
3. Bache’s Printing Office — A second steel frame marks the probable site of the printing office and type foundry of Benjamin Franklin Bache, Franklin’s grandson.
4. Archway — A brick archway used by Franklin leads to Market Street.
5. Aurora Newspaper Office — Here was the subscription office of Benjamin Franklin Bache’s newspaper the Aurora, noted for its fiery political editorials which often attacked President Washington.
6. Printing Office — Both Franklin and his grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache were printers when they were young. This building, although never owned by Franklin, houses an 18th century printing demonstration.
7. “Fragments of Franklin Court” — These exhibits display archeological artifacts and architectural details associated with Franklin Court.
8. B. Free Franklin Post Office — Postmaster-General was one of the many public offices held by Franklin. Today, the US Postal Service operates this branch office were you can have mail hand cancelled with a postmark reading, “B. Free Franklin.”
9. Book Store — Books about Franklin and Franklin Court are featured here.
(Franklin Court Marker)
Franklin Court – On the way you will pass by Old St. Paul’s Church, burial place of General Thomas Proctor and the site of the Common Sense print shop. You will also pass the Powel House, home Philadelphia’s last colonial mayor, and the First Bank of the United States.
Inside Franklin Court, is the site of Benjamin Franklin’s home and an underground museum dedicated to Franklin.
Benjamin Franklin’s boundless energy and firm belief in progress helped to transform Philadelphia from a simple Quaker town to one of the most advanced 18th century cities.
Among the public enterprises Franklin participated in creating include the first firefighting company, the first fire insurance company, street lighting and paving, paper currency and printing, the reorganization of the town watch, a local militia and Philadelphia's first hospital. His scientific curiosity led to great discoveries and many inventions. He was also concerned with the dissemination of "useful knowledge" and education. He participated in the founding of the Philadelphia Academy (now the University of Pennsylvania), the establishment of the first subscription library, and the inception of the American Philosophical Society.
Benjamin Franklin (1706—1790)
Printer, author, inventor, diplomat, philanthropist, statesman, and scientist. The eighteenth century’s most illustrious Pennsylvanian built a house in Franklin Court starting in 1763 and here he lived the last five years of his life.
(Franklin Court Marker)
In politics, he was an early advocate of confederation, sought to wrest control of Pennsylvania from the Penn family, and, in London, effectively represented the colonies in their growing dispute with England. In his 70s, as a member of the Second Continental Congress, Franklin drafted a Plan of Union for the Colonies, organized the Post Office, and served on commissions which sought Canadian cooperation against the British and advised General George Washington on matters of defense. He also served on the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence and helped to negotiate treaties of commerce and alliances with France.
At 81 he took part in the Constitutional Convention and urged unanimous adoption of the Constitution. Franklin spent the last five years of his life here near Market Street, now Franklin Court.
The Betsy Ross House -- Betsy Ross is credited with sewing the first flag of the United States. Inspired by oral tradition passed down by her descendants, Ross was commissioned by George Washington to make the first flag.
Completed in early 1777, the flag first flew in battle at two possible locations: Cooch’s Bridge, Delaware and Fort Ann, New York. Cooch’s Bridge was an earlier site on this Revolutionary Day. A marker at the site claims that the flag was carried into battle on September 3, 1777. However, the British recorded the capture of an American flag “consisting of thirteen alternate red and white stripes, with a field of blue, in which were encircled thirteen stars” at the Battle of Fort Ann on July 8, 1777. Fort Ann is north of Saratoga.
The Betsy Ross house was built in 1740. The house
has been restored to the period from 1773 to 1785 when Ross lived here. The
house is furnished with period antiques and some reproduction furniture.
Highlights of the collection include several objects known to have belonged to
Betsy Ross, including here eyeglasses, a family Bible and an American
Chippendale walnut chest-on-chest in the rear first floor parlor.
The City Tavern
Completed on the eve of the American Revolution to serve the elite of Philadelphia, the City Tavern soon hosted the elite of an emerging American nation.
The City Tavern, like many of the 18th Century taverns, was more than a “bar.” It was a center for political discussions, business transactions, and social events. Members of the Continental Congress lodged, dined, and celebrated here.
The building in front of you is a reconstruction of the original 1773 tavern. Today visitors from around the world may enjoy lunch or dinner here at what John Adams called “the most genteel” tavern in America.
(City Tavern Marker)
City Tavern -- On the way, you will pass Christ Church. Benjamin Franklin and other signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried in the church’s burial grounds. Your will also pass the house of Thomas Bond, who along with Benjamin Franklin founded Pennsylvania Hospital in 1751.
During the 18th century, the City Tavern was much more than a place to quench one's thirst. Of course, food and drink were served, but this tavern was also a central meeting place. Politics were debated, deals were made, stock and ship cargos were bought and sold, new companies organized, notices posted, and newspapers from home and abroad were perused.
Social functions were equally important. The City Tavern hosted dinners for fraternal societies, meetings of political friends and foes, gatherings of local military companies and even dances and musical concerts. News from afar reached the tavern more quickly than it did the newspapers, another reason for its continued popularity.
When John Adams arrived in Philadelphia in August of 1774 to attend the First Continental Congress, he was greeted by leading citizens and immediately taken to the City Tavern. At the time, the tavern was not yet a year old and was already caught in momentous events. A few months earlier Paul Revere brought news to the tavern of the closing of the port of Boston by the British government.
At the beginning of the Second Continental Congress, it became the practice of the members to dine together each Saturday at the tavern. Eight of the delegates, Randolph, Lee, Washington, Harrison of Virginia, Alsop of New York, Chase of Maryland, and Rodney and Read of Delaware chose to form a "table" and dine there daily. No doubt, matters of momentous importance were discussed and decided over a glass of madeira and a steaming roast of venison.
The war years brought change and turmoil to the City Tavern. There were grand entertainments, such as the Continental Congress' first Fourth of July celebration in 1777.
When the British captured Philadelphia in the fall of 1777, the tavern’s manager, Daniel Smith, showed himself to be a Loyalist and welcomed the British to the tavern. When the British left Philadelphia, Daniel Smith went with them and the tavern’s second manager, Gifford Dalley hosted the second Fourth of July celebration in 1778.
City Tavern Specials
Enjoy a taste of history. Come in and try our exclusive brews: George Washington’s Porter, Thomas Jefferson’s Ale, and Ben Franklin’s Special Ale.
(City Tavern Chalk Board)
After the war, the tavern settled into a more sedate existence that was not interrupted until the opening of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Once again the states sent their most able leaders to Philadelphia; and, once again, these leaders enjoyed the hospitality of the City Tavern. It was fitting that at the adjournment of the convention in September the delegates gathered for one final dinner at the City Tavern.
In the 1790's, the City Tavern began to lose its place of prominence to newer hotels. For the next half century, it underwent a number of changes, serving primarily as a merchant's exchange until 1834. In 1854 it was demolished to make way for new brownstone stores. In 1975, after painstaking research, the National Park Service rebuilt the City Tavern. Today, the tavern appears essentially as it did two hundred years ago, even down to the front awning which shields the tavern from the summer sun.
The food that was served at the original City Tavern was not that different from the present day. Many of the dishes offered then, such as duck, pork, beef, shrimp, trout and salmon would be instantly recognized today, however, preparation time was longer and presentation was different, often limiting the variety of food brought to the table.
Eating customs were different. The main meal of the day was served midway through the afternoon and business would often be conducted early in the evening. The day began with breakfast and was concluded with a simple supper in the evening. In the City Tavern, tea, coffee and soup and, of course, beer, wine and liquor were available at the bar at all times. The mid-afternoon meal generally had two courses, each of which combined meat, fish, meat and fruit pies, poultry, puddings, vegetables, preserves, salads and pickled foods.
Martha Washington Style Colonial Turkey Pot Pie — Tender chunks of turkey with mushrooms, early peas & red potatoes in a rich sherry cream sauce topped with a flaky pastry crust, baked crisp in a pewter casserole accompanied with egg noodles and fried oysters on the side. Grilled
Prime Rib of Beef — Dijon mustard sauce, pommes fritters and the Chef’s appropriate vegetable of the season.
Chicken Breast Madeira — Marinated in fresh herbs, sautéed and topped with a Madeira- mushroom sauce, colonial wild rice and the Chef’s vegetable of the day.
(Excerpts from the City Tavern Menu)
Room and Board in Philadelphia — No doubt, the City Tavern is the recommended place for dinner after this Revolutionary Day. Matters of your day can be pondered “over a glass of madeira and a steaming roast of venison.” Both can often be found on the menu. Reservations are a must and can be made at 215-413-1443.
After dinner, a great place to stay for the
evening is the Thomas Bond House. The restored 18th century home is on the
National Historic Register of Historic Places. Today, it is a bed and breakfast
that is recommended by AAA and American Historic Inns. Reservations are also a
must at 1-800-845-2663. Parking is available at a parking garage next to the
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