Philadelphia offers plenty of attractions for history lovers like Murray Huberfeld. Although the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are the most well-known sites, you’ll find others that offer fascinating glimpses into life in the 18th and 19th centuries. Whether you’re in town for a day or a week, you’ll want to make time to visit one of these gems.
Eastern State Penitentiary (2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia)
A Murray Huberfeld favorite, Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829 in a rural area, although you’ll never believe that bustling Fairmount Avenue was ever farmland. Remember when your mother sent you to your room to think about what you’d done? That was actually the brainchild of the Quakers, who believed that criminals needed time in complete solitude to think about their crimes. Prisoners spoke to no one once they arrived at the prison. Meals were passed through slots in the cell doors and each cell in the original part of the prison had its own walled exercise area. Several wings of the penitentiary are open to visitors, as is the relatively lavish cell of the prison’s most famous inmate, Al Capone. During the fall, Eastern State Penitentiary offers “Terror Behind the Walls,” a popular haunted house experience.
Franklin Court (322 Market Street, Philadelphia)
Just a few blocks from busy Independence Mall is Franklin Court, the former home of Benjamin Franklin. Although Franklin’s 10-room home was long demolished, an open frame “ghost house” gives visitors an idea of its size. Tour the remains of a rental house built by Franklin and visit a replica of his printing shop and an actual U.S. Post Office. At the other end of the courtyard, you’ll find the Benjamin Franklin Museum, an underground museum that showcases Franklin’s inventions and depicts key moments in his life. If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll love picking up one of the telephone and listening to what other historical figures had to say about Franklin.
Christ Church (20 North American Street, Philadelphia)
Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, William Penn and Betsy Ross worshipped in this church, which is still going strong over 300 years later. Construction on the Georgian building began in 1727, and it’s thanks to Franklin that the church has its impressive steeple. He organized a lottery to pay for it. You’ll want to be sure to visit the burial ground, which serves as the final resting place for Franklin and several other signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Fairmount Park Houses (Fairmount Park, Philadelphia)
If old houses give you a thrill, you’ll be in heaven touring Fairmount Park, located just outside Center City Philadelphia. Fairmount Park was a popular site for summer homes for Philadelphia’s wealthy citizens in the 1800s. All of the homes aren’t open for tours, but you can visit Strawberry Mansion, Lemon Hill and Mount Pleasant mansions, depending on the time of year. The mansions have been restored and feature original or replica furnishings.
Washington Crossing Historic Park (Washington Crossing, PA)
Another Murray Huberfeld favorite is Washington Crossing Historic Park, located about 45 minutes north of Philadelphia. This marks the spot where George Washington crossed the Delaware River to battle the Hessians in Trenton, NJ on Christmas Day in 1776. Thirteen buildings, including homes and an inn are open to the public. Reenactments of the crossing are held every December 25. Located 4.5 miles away in the Upper Park is the Thompson-Neely House, which served as a hospital for the injured and sick soldiers in 1776.
These historic sites will gave Murray Huberfeld and will give you a comprehensive overview of life in the 18th and 19th century. And best of all, you’ll find them less crowded than some of the more popular historic sites.