Mummies, Buddhas & African Masks

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While it’s not the British Museum, The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology houses an outstanding collection.  In fact, one-fifth of the objects listed in The Smithsonian’s book “History of the World in 1000 Objects” come from the collection.  Our favorites include the mummy room and the Greek pottery, but they also have great collections of African, Asian, Roman, Etruscan and Native American artifacts.

 

 

Temporary exhibits highlight current field work and past projects undertaken by the University.  They also have great special events for adults and families and a beautiful courtyard for picnics (since the museum is on the Penn campus, there are lots of food trucks within a few blocks).

 

https://www.penn.museum/

American Revolution History & European Fries

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.

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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.

http://www.amrevmuseum.org/

https://www.yelp.com/biz/european-republic-philadelphia

Mummers & Pie

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Every New Year’s Day, I wonder what the heck a “mummer” is – today we found out at the Mummer’s Museum.  This is a small museum (admission was “pay what you wish” on the cold, January day we visited) filled with videos, costumes, memorabilia and best of all… dress-ups with a video to teach the mummer’s strut.  We will definitely return for one of their (free) Thursday evening summer concerts.

Only about a mile walk from the tacky shops and restaurants on South Street, we checked out the new (tasty!) Bahn Mi & Bottles restaurant for Vietnamese street food:

And (best of all) homemade pie from Magpies (see Philly Ice Cream Treats – From Traditional To Trendy To Unusual)  for info on their yummy pie milkshakes):

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Mexican Chocolate & Oatmeal Cookie Pie

http://mummersmuseum.com/

https://www.banhmiandbottles.com/

https://www.iluvmagpie.com/

Frankenstein & Falafel

Today’s adventure included an old-school falafel joint, monster books, and a 19th century row house on one of Philly’s prettiest streets.

Trendy falafel restaurants are all over the city, but today we went old school – to the Israeli-owned (closed Friday evenings and Saturdays) – Mama’s Vegetarian.  Great (cheap) falafel with a small, but delicious, pickle bar.

Just a few blocks away, on one of the prettiest streets in the city (Delancey Place), is the Rosenbach Museum & Library.  Owned by one of the most famous rare book dealers of the 20th century, the museum houses an incredible collection of manuscripts, first editions, letters, a royal proclamation, and even the entire Greenwich Village living room of modernist poet Marianne Moore – all visible on the house tour offered hourly.

The current exhibition (through February 11, 2018), “Frankenstein & Dracula: Gothic Monsters, Modern Science,” explores the influence and evolution of literary monsters.  In addition to handwritten pages of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s personal notes for Dracula, the exhibit also has interactives and scientific & medical works from the 19th century to the present.

https://rosenbach.org/

https://www.yelp.com/biz/mamas-vegetarian-philadelphia

P.S. Philly is a great town for book lovers:

The Best Museum In Philly That No One Knows

The Advantages of Wandering: A Medieval Herbal And The Best $10 Lunch In Philadelphia

Exploring A Victorian Cemetery After Dark

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What better way to experience the Victorian’s fascination with death than to tour Laurel Hill Cemetery at night?

Built in 1836 (and still active), Laurel Hill was the second landscape garden cemetery built in the United States.  Filled with interesting funerary architecture and fascinating stories, the cemetery offers themed tours, theater, hearse shows, photography walks, ghost tours AND evening explorations. Although there are fees to attend events, visiting the cemetery is free.

https://thelaurelhillcemetery.org/

Hamilton And Hammocks

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Portrait of Alexander Hamilton hanging in the Portrait Gallery, Independence National Park

Alexander Hamilton – everyone’s favorite revolutionary singing sensation had deep connections with Philadelphia. Many of the events in the musical actually took place in Philadelphia (including the nation’s first sex scandal, his conflicts with Madison & Jefferson over the establishment of a national bank and his term as Secretary of the Treasury).  Thursday’s adventure was taking a walking tour linking songs from the musical to the historic sites where they occurred.

The app. is available to download for $4.99 (www.philly.com/philly/news/In-Philadelphia-a-walking-tour-for-the-unsung-sites-of-Hamilton.html). Twenty percent of net proceeds will be donated to the Friends of Independence National Park in support of their efforts to reopen the First National Bank to the public.

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The First National Bank – Championed by Hamilton and located across the street from his Treasury Department office.

After learning all things Hamilton, Tobey and I checked out the Spruce Street Harbor Park.  Located right on the Delaware River, the park has hammocks, floating gardens, beautiful lights, and Philly food vendors. We enjoyed a picnic and a nap in our hammock (see the post “Gourmet Picnic Supplies”).

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http://www.delawareriverwaterfront.com/places/spruce-street-harbor-park

Philly + Architecture = Art Deco

While it may not be Miami Beach (Philly doesn’t really do pastels), Philadelphia has some amazing Art Deco buildings.  These are a few of the highlights in Center City:

The former Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company, now an annex of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2525 Pennsylvania Avenue). Covered with decorations symbolizing attributes of insurance and hard work, including: the owl of wisdom, the dog of fidelity (origin of the dog name Fido – a tribute to the loyalty of dogs) , the pelican of charity, the opossum of protection, and the squirrel of frugality:

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The old WCAU radio station (1618-22 Chestnut St.). The first building in the country designed specifically for a radio station. Decorated with lots of chrome and electricity symbols:

 

 

 

 

Suburban Station (16th & JFK Boulevard). It originally served as a terminal for Pennsylvania Railroad trains (yes- the same station on the Monopoly board – Pennsylvania Rail Road was one of the stations serving Atlantic City, home of all the properties on the board when it was first published in 1938):

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The Ayer Building (210 W. Washington Square).  Originally home to one of the oldest ad agencies in the country, N.W. Ayer – established 1884 and creator of the slogan, “a diamond is forever”:

 

 

 

The former Market Street National Bank (1 East Penn Square). Covered with Mayan theme decorations – a real contrast to the ornate City Hall across the street:

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1500 & 1528 Walnut Street (interior of 1528):

 

 

 

1608 & 1616 Walnut Street (interior of 1616):

 

 

 

The Metropolitan Apartments (117 N. 15th Street):

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The Drake Hotel (1512 Spruce Street). The decorations symbolize the voyages of Sir Francis Drake – dolphins, shells, globes:

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The old Horn & Hardart Automat (818 Chestnut):

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And… the Deco  influenced Liberty 1. Viewed behind the Architects Building (117 South 17th Street):

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Putting Faces To The Revolution

My favorite site in Independence Park (Tobey says “yawn”) is the (free) Portrait Gallery.  Housed in the former Second Bank of the United States (designed to look like the Parthenon in Athens), it has over 150 portraits of Revolution-era military officers, politicians, scientists, explorers – all the people that show up in history books.

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George Washington’s face is familiar (he’s on the $1), but it’s nice to put a face to the other characters: his wife Martha (the wealthy society widow who married George and spent most winters with him during the war – including Valley Forge),

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John Adams (our brilliant but grumpy 2nd president),

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James Madison (Father of the Constitution, but “smaller than a ½ a bar of soap”),

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Meriwether Lewis (famous explorer whose mysterious death is still debated),

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Alexander Hamilton (Secretary of the Treasury who died in a duel with Aaron Burr),

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The core of the collection comes from the museum of Philadelphia painter, Charles Wilson Peale (shown in this self-portrait on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts):

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Mr. Peale’s Museum, CONTAINING the portraits of Illustrious Personages, distinguished in the late Revolution of America, and other Paintings–Also, a Collection of preserved Beasts, Birds, Fish, Reptiles, Insects, Fossils, Minerals, Petrifactions, and other curious Objects, natural and artificial.
The Pennsylvania Packet, 1788

One of the few surviving specimens from the museum, this Bald Eagle (originally a Peale family pet) is on display in the portrait gallery.

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As a follower of the enlightenment philosophers and friend of the founding fathers, Peal believed that educating the American public and increasing their understanding of the natural world would cultivate a more enlightened citizenry and advance America’s prestige around the world.  He was assisted by his family, including sons: Rembrandt, Rubens, Benjamin Franklin, and Titian (sense a theme…?). For a time, his museum was housed on the second floor of Independence Hall.

For more information on the Peale Family, you can visit the exhibit “Curious Revolutionaries” at the American Philosophical Society, located next to Independence Hall (through December 30,2017)

http://www.apsmuseum.org/curious-revolutionaries-the-peales-of-philadelphia/

https://www.nps.gov/inde/learn/historyculture/places-secondbank.htm

Photo-Op: Getting Lucky At Franklin’s Grave

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Although it’s hard to see his name, there is no missing the pennies that cover his grave.  In an ironic twist to his “A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned” proverb, tossing a penny on Ben Franklin’s grave is a Philly good luck tradition (although not for the stone, which recently required repairs to fix the pits and cracks caused by the impact of thousands of pennies each year).  Franklin was famous for the proverbs he wrote and printed in his “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” My favorite?  “Guests, Like Fish, Begin to Smell After Three Days”

Tip: You can take photographs for free from outside of the fence at the intersection of Arch Street & 5th or (from March-November) pay $2 to go inside Christ Church Burial Ground.  In addition to Franklin and his wife, you can see the graves of 4 other signers of the Declaration of Independence.

http://www.christchurchphila.org/Visiting-Us/67/