Gold Nuggets, A Stagecoach And The Latest Addition To A Philly Restaurant Empire

Just 2 blocks from City Hall is the 1928 Beaux-Arts building that houses the Wells Fargo History Museum.  This small (free) museum has videos, displays and hands-on exhibits detailing the history of Wells Fargo and Westward Expansion in the 1800’s.

Highlights include a replica stage coach (great for photo ops):

 

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Tobey and PopPop

 

And a display of gold nuggets:

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If you have any actual banking to do, the teller area in the lobby is gorgeous and has an authentic Concord city-style stagecoach:

Today’s restaurant adventure was The Rooster Soup Company – the latest addition to Michael Solomonov’s Philly restaurant empire, which includes (among others): Zahav, Federal Donuts, and Dizengoff .

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This luncheonette serves a rotating menu of soups made from spare chicken parts left over from Federal Donut’s fried chicken (we had cauliflower and smoked matzo ball with dill), sandwiches (a BLT with pickled green tomatoes and a potato pancake) and an incredible coconut cream pie (sadly, no photo – we ate it too quickly).  100% of the profits go to support vulnerable Philadelphians through the Broad Street Ministry’s Hospitality Collaborative.

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Wells Fargo History Museum: https://www.wellsfargohistory.com/museums/philadelphia/

A Room With A View And A Famous Food Market

Tobey’s favorite place to bring friends is the viewing deck at the top of Philly’s City Hall.

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For $8/adult and $4/student, a maximum of 5 people squeeze into a tiny elevator and head up to the platform just under William Penn’s feet. Enclosed by glass, but open to the elements, you get a great view of Center City Philadelphia.

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Who Knew?

*City Hall held the title of world’s tallest occupied building from 1901-1908.

*With almost 700 rooms, it is the biggest municipal building in the United States.

*Made of over 88 million bricks, marble and granite, it is the largest masonry structure in the world.

 

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*Alexander Milne Calder created over 250 sculptures that decorate the building (including the sculpture of William Penn). His son, Alexander Stirling Calder, created the fountain up the Parkway at Logan Square.  His grandson, another Alexander Calder, has one of his famous mobiles (“ghost”) hanging at the end of the Parkway inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

 

*In the 1950’s the building was considered so ugly that plans were made to tear it down.

*(X-rated) Tip: viewed from the left (north) side, William Penn’s extended hand looks like an entirely different part of his anatomy – giving the statue the nickname “Willy’s Willy.”

Just 3 blocks away, Reading Terminal Market is a great place to eat when everyone is in the mood for something different. Tobey’s favorite is a grilled cheese sandwich (with brisket and mac&cheese) at Valley Shepherd:

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My favorite is the roast pork (with provolone and hot peppers) at DiNic’s:

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And (of course) it’s required to finish up with the world’s best donuts from the Amish bakers at Beiler’s:

City Hall Tower Tour Information: http://www.visitphilly.com/history/philadelphia/city-hall/

 

Inauguration Day & A Hidden (Tiffany) Art Treasure

Sometimes, you are just in the right place at the right time.  After a bagged lunch at Philadelphia’s most amazing hidden art treasure, we walked across the street to Independence Square.  Tickets are required for a tour of Independence Hall, but not to visit the other buildings.  After passing through security, our first stop was the Great Essentials exhibit which houses a copy of the Declaration of Independence:

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and a final rough draft of the Constitution, including a correction (supposedly) made by George Washington:

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Our final stop was Congress Hall, the building that housed the U.S. Congress from 1790-1800. I hadn’t realized that this was where John Adams took the oath of office.

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After sitting us the in the chairs used by the New Jersey Congressmen (we are from NJ), the park ranger related this story:

Although many encouraged George Washington to continue as President, he felt two terms was enough for one man and wanted to return to farming.  After the election, John Adams took the oath of office as the new president of the United States here in Congress Hall, making it the first time in modern history that power was peacefully transferred between two common citizens. Afterward, as they got ready to leave, Adams stepped aside at the door to allow Washington to go through first. But Washington was well aware of the historic significance of the moment. He stopped and asked Adams to leave first. After all, he said, Adams was now president of the United States, and Washington was now just a private citizen. Adams led, followed by Jefferson (the new vice president), while Washington went last.

It was amazing to realize that we were sitting right where this extraordinary event took place – the day before our country would again, even in the current political climate, experience this peaceful transition of power for the 44th time.

Oh yeah: the hidden art treasure is located in the lobby of the Curtis Publishing Building:

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Designed by hometown artist Maxfield Parrish, the Dream Garden was created in 1916 by Louis Comfort Tiffany out of more than 100,000 pieces of glass. The best part?  It’s free and there is a bench across the lobby where you can eat your lunch.

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A Library That Houses The Best (Free) Museum In Philly That No One Knows

I’ll admit that I’m a book geek – but the Central Branch of The Free Library of Philadelphia is such a  cool place that anyone who enjoys books, history, art, or famous people will enjoy the Rare Book Department.  You can visit on your own anytime the library is open, or take a tour each day at 11:00 (which lets you get up close to important milestones in the history of books: a Book of the Dead papyrus, a page from a Gutenberg Bible, an illuminated manuscript, etc.).  Every time we bring friends or family to Philly, this is one of our stops.  The exhibits rotate, but they always have examples from their main collections:

These cuneiform tablets from Ancient Sumer are over 4,000 years old. Although most of these tablets deal with boring administrative stuff, the writing was the world’s first written language. Some of these clay tablets were enclosed in clay envelopes to safeguard the information.

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Another favorite are the Medieval illuminated manuscripts. These prayer books were copied on parchment (sheep, calf or goat skin) and hand illustrated with gold leaf and lapis lazuli. This one, from the 1400’s illustrates the legend of Three Living and Three Dead.

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In addition to writing children’s books, Beatrix Potter was also an illustrator:

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Edgar Allen Poe, who lived in Philadelphia for 6 years, had incredibly neat handwriting:

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Charles Dickens’s handwriting was messy:

dickensAlways on display is “Grip,” the raven. Grip was a beloved pet of Dickens. The author inserted the blabbing raven as a character in his 1841 mystery novel, Barnaby Rudge. We know that Poe reviewed Barnaby Rudge and commented on the use of the talking raven, feeling the bird should have loomed larger in the plot. Literary experts surmise that the talking raven of Barnaby Rudge inspired Poe’s most famous poem, The Raven, published in 1845 (the library has a handwritten copy of the poem, although it is not always on display).

When Grip died in 1841, Dickens had the bird mounted. After Dickens death, Grip was sold at auction. The mounted raven was eventually purchased by Philadelphia’s Richard Gimbel, a collector of all things Poe. In 1971, Gimbel’s Poe collection was donated to the Free Library,  where Grip holds a place of honor in the Rare Book Department. (http://www.ushistory.org/oddities/grip)

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