While the Museum of the American Revolution isn’t exactly off the beaten path, we wanted to visit before February 19 to view their latest acquisition – a newly discovered watercolor that shows the only eye-witness image of Washington’s war tent. The war tent itself is the highlight of the museum and has its own dedicated theater, but the watercolor is new and may not always be on exhibit. The tent has a fascinating story – having been handed down through Martha Washington’s family to her great granddaughter, Martha Custis Lee (wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee), and eventually sold to a collector. The story of the watercolor is even more amazing: shortly after the museum opened, the chief curator was browsing on-line auctions, when he spotted the watercolor. The location was miss-labeled and no artist was listed, so the museum was able to purchase the painting for only $13,750. After conservation and research, the staff at the museum discovered that not only is it the only surviving eye-witness picture of the tent (shown in the painting with a wooden marque in front built to impress the French), but it was painted by Pierre L’Enfant, designer of Washington D.C.. For more information: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/arts/design/washingtons-tent-a-detective-story.html
The museum itself is a great complement to the other Revolutionary War sights around Philadelphia. Filled with artifacts, hands-on exhibits and videos, it does a good job highlighting some of the lesser known stories of the war, including contributions from free blacks and slaves, women and Native Americans.
Just down Chestnut Street is a small cafe with the best European-style French fries in the city: European Republic. Thicker cut and crispier than usual, with a huge variety of sauces, a triple batch (along with a delicious rice pudding from a local bakery) made a great post-museum lunch. Tip: If you aren’t the kind of person who can eat just fries for lunch, they have a great lunch special with: wrap, fries and a drink for $8.