The House of Poe, Baltimore

”When asked about his origins, Poe was fond of saying that he was a Virginian gentleman, but it was in Baltimore that Poe sought refuge when he had feuded with his foster father, John Allan, and was compelled to leave the house. It was in Baltimore that Poe found his future wife, Virginia Eliza Clemm, and in Baltimore that he placed his feet on the first steps of what would be his career for the next 17 years. Perhaps most revealing, when asked for the place of his birth, Poe turned his back on Boston and claimed Baltimore instead.”

It is no coincidence that Edgar Allan Poe’s final resting place is also in Baltimore, not far from this tiny house, in which he lived with his aunt, grandmother and two cousins. 

The Poe House is currently closed for restoration and scheduled to re-open in April 2018. Check for updates and opening hours here: Poe in Baltimore

Visited on April 27th, 2017

Philadelphia – A City Street || An Institution

Albert Barnes taught people to look at works 
of art primarily in terms of their visual relationships.

The Barnes is home to one of the world’s greatest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern European paintings, with especially deep holdings in Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso. Assembled by Dr. Albert C. Barnes between 1912 and 1951, the collection also includes important examples of African art, Native American pottery and jewelry, Pennsylvania German furniture, American avant-garde painting, and wrought-iron metalwork.

The minute you step into the galleries of the Barnes collection, you know you’re in for an experience like no other. Masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso hang next to ordinary household objects—a door hinge, a spatula, a yarn spinner. On another wall, you might see a French medieval sculpture displayed with a Navajo textile. These dense groupings, in which objects from different cultures, time periods, and media are all mixed together, are what Dr. Barnes called his “ensembles.”

In this spirit, here is an ”ensemble” of my own, a compilation of images from the up and coming Comcast Technology Center – with its dangerous-looking platform lift – and the Barnes Foundation. Photography inside the galleries is not permitted and, for once, I understand. With its small rooms and artworks arranged over the entire length and width of the walls, the ”ensembles” are not easy to capture – at least not by the casual photographer.

The Barnes Foundation
Philadelphia

February 25th, 2017

Philadelphia – The Ben Franklin Bridge

Dear Ben is omnipresent in Philadelphia. Monuments, museums, his memorial, this bridge, they all honour one of America’s most illustrious figures.The bridge named after Benjamin Franklin spans across Delaware River and connects two Cities and two States: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Camden, New Jersey. It can be crossed by car, train, bike or, like we did, on foot.The Ben Franklin bridge spans across Delaware River and connects two Cities and two States: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Camden, New Jersey. It can be crossed by car, train, bike or, like we did, on foot. Around 1,3 miles or 30′ walk, longer if you pose to take photos, soak up the views, try to identify Philly’s tall buildings in the background or just take deep breaths of fresh air. Or maybe watch a game.Camden Waterfront, on the other side, was undergoing a major redevelopment and didn’t look too welcoming at the time so we just turned back without exiting the bridge. 

The Ben Franklin Bridge
Philadelphia

February 24th, 2017

Philadelphia – The House of Edgar Alan Poe

For all its charm and history, Elfreth’s Alley was not our destination – just a passage to Philadelphia’s most poetic home. A thirty minute walk beyond the Expressway to an area I wouldn’t like to find myself after dark, and there it was. Poe lived in different houses during his six-year residence in Philadelphia, but this is the only one still standing. Poe lived here with his beloved wife Virginia and devoted mother-in-law Maria Clemm who was an excellent housekeeper, a great help to the couple especially while Virginia was in declining health. The house is stripped bare; no objects or furniture belonging to Poe because nothing was left behind when the family moved on to their next home in the Bronx. Only drawings and period photographs indicate how it would have looked back then.  Narrow staircases and tiny rooms always make me wonder how much we and our living spaces have expanded over the years.
The cellar, that is said to have been described in “The Black Cat” (1843), a short story written here, in Philadelphia. The reading room, the only furnished one in the house and decorated according to Poe’s ”The Philosophy of furniture”. A library with the full body of Poe’s work is available and visitors are warmly encouraged to sit comfortably and indulge to their heart’s content. Plan ahead though: admission is free but the house is open only Friday through Sunday, from 9am – 12noon, and 1pm -5pm. And they do take their lunch break seriously! Edgar Allan Poe’s House
532 N. 7th Street
Philadelphia

February 24th, 2017

Betsy Ross & Elfreth’s Alley

Leaving the ”Keys to Community” in the capable hands, or should I say bust, of Mr. Franklin we followed Arch Street towards 2nd Street, finding some quaint little shops along the way.

To Betsy Ross’ House. Ms Ross was a seamstress, credited with sewing the first American flag – to Mr. Francis Hopkinson’s design, as we learned from his epitaph earlier. While no proof exists of Ms. Ross’ accomplishment, the fact remains that she is a beloved figure and her legend lives strong. And, right across her house, a giant flag. Can you get more patriotic than that? 

Yes, you can – by way of preserving your city’s history for generations to come. Like Elfreth’s Alley. Connecting N 2nd Street with N Front Street, it has been there since the 1700s – the oldest residential street in the United States, only because of the efforts of its very residents. Built by merchants and tradesmen to house their families, later welcoming working class immigrants, today impeccably preserved by its community of artists, artisans, educators and entrepreneurs. A street with its own history, its own architecture and website, a little world of its own.

With the most charming dwellers, indeed.

Philadelphia
February 24th, 2017

Philadelphia – Benjamin Franklin

Back in Philadelphia, on to more agreeable sights, starting with Benjamin Franklin’s resting place, in Christ Church Burial Ground. The great man sleeps close to other patriots and prominent figures like Francis Hopkinson, designer of the first official American flag:

And Gerald Connely, a Seaman, Soldier, Safecracker. Wait… Safecracker?!? Was Gerald Connely Philadelphia’s most prominent crook? A quick research showed that actually, Connelly was a world-class locksmith who was cooperating with the FBI whenever his expertise was needed. He was also a very funny guy who knew, when we was writing his parting words, that he would get people looking twice.

Finally, Mr. Franklin. He was just 22 when he wrote his epitaph. I wonder what made a man think about writing an epitaph at such a young age:

On the way out, a fire engine, descendant of the service that Franklin helped create in 1736, the Union Fire Company, one of the first volunteer firefighting companies in America: 

Here is Mr. Franklin again, his bust sculpted by James Peniston, covered with casts of 1.000 keys collected from local schoolchildren. ”Keys To Community” also contains several brass nameplates representing Philadelphia firefighters fallen in the line of duty since 1736: Philadelphia
February 24th, 2017

Philadelphia – The Steps, The Men, The Tune

How many times I heard the tune, I couldn’t possibly tell – I lost count halfway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It had been in my head all along and seemingly everyone – myself included – got in synch as soon as The Steps appeared on the far end of the long stretch between Logan Square and The Oval.

Everyone, except Washington that is, seeing how he faces away, his back turned to the steps.

The rest of the world goes the Rocky wayLike this Donut Man
Or this Reenactor Or the Man himself

And, finally, The Tune:

The Rocky Steps, Philadelphia
February 22nd, 2017

Philadelphia – another short walk

Through Thomas Paine Plaza, the city’s urban garden across from the City Hall.

Finding the Comcast Center Building, the tallest one in the city – at least until the other Comcast highrise, the one you see coming up on the left side, is complete. The Comcast Technology Center’s ambition is to become one of the tallest buildings in the U.S. Getting some New York vibes of steel and glass verticality? 

There’s something going on here but I’m not sure I want to find out exactly what! 

Philadelphia
February 22nd, 2017

Philadelphia – The Market

Reading Terminal Market.

Another historic feature and an integral part of the city that survived economic declines and national crises, depression years and wars and is bustling today, guaranteed to tingle your taste buds at home or on the spot. Just a few steps from the City Hall, it is an excellent remedy for those after-tour cravings.

Philadelphia
February 22nd, 2017

Macy’s Philadelphia – not just a department store

Even without a guided tour, Macy’s Philadelphia is a wonderful mix of fashion, architecture and history. And pipe organ music.

Housed in John Wanamaker’s flagship store, the first of its kind in Philadelphia, a national historic landmark since 1978.

Wanamaker Building was completed in 1911 on the site of an abandoned railroad station. Built in the Florentine style with granite walls by Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham, it had 12 floors, just enough to accommodate the pipe organ John Wanamaker bought from the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1909. With more than 10.000 pipes, the organ was so big, they needed 13 train cars to transport it and two years to install it.  

It is, by some accounts, the largest playable organ in the world and it is delighting visitors twice daily, at noon and in the afternoon Monday through Saturday. For schedule and other interesting historical and musical facts, please visit the website of The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ.

But meanwhile, enjoy a photographic behind-the-scenes historic tour of this magnificent building, which we joined by pure chance when a guide and his small group of two found us peering at the console and kindly invited us to follow them.

It was one of the highlights of our trip.

The tour includes unused spaces restricted from public view, such as this room adorned with wood and these magnificent Tiffany stained glass panels; it takes a look at the Egyptian Hall and Greek Hall auditoria, hidden behind the shop’s executive offices; walks through the organ workshop where repairs and restoration take place to this day; and, finally, to the grand Crystal Tea Room where – as expected – preparations for a wedding reception were underway.

Tours last approximately 45 minutes. For more info please check with the Visitor Center at Macy’s.

Philadelphia
February 22nd, 2017