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 – The Skywalkers

Inside the ”Winter Garden” aka main lobby of the Comcast Center. Two show-stopping public art installations.

The Comcast Experience, a 25.4ft tall, 83.3 feet, 2,000sf high-definition LED screen with incredibly clear, almost 3-D moving images, ranging from the clock wheels pictured here, to monumental natural landscapes to Betty Boop dancing.

And the permanent installation ”Humanity in Motion” by Jonathan Borofsky – 12 realistically painted life-size figures of stainless steel, walking on horizontal poles and two figures standing at ground level. Guess which ones?

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! 

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.

February 22nd, 2017

Philadelphia City Hall – The Building

Philadelphians are proud of their history and heritage, and one way to show it is by signing up as volunteer guides. Go to any site of historical or cultural interest and you can be sure to find a tour lead by a ranger or a knowledgeable docent.

Like the City Hall Interior tour we took, which includes a visit to the Tower for a panoramic view of the city. Actually, the tour starts outside, across from the Wanamaker Building, where John Wanamaker’s bronze statue commemorates him simply as ”Citizen”; then on to the inner courtyard before entering the vast City Hall – the largest municipal building in the world – and its seemingly endless corridors and offices.

See that small feature on top of the tower? This is a 27-ton, 37ft bronze statue of the city’s founder, William Penn. Created by Alexander Milne Calder, it is the tallest statue atop any building in the world.

Biggest, oldest, tallest… superlatives seem to characterize Philadelphia – and very suitably so, I might add.

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.

February 22nd, 2017

Philadelphia – Where it all began

Starting with the Congress Hall, home to the U.S. Congress from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the United States.  Presidents Washington (his second term) and Adams were both inaugurated here.

The Senate chamber was adorned with heavy red drapes. Today all the rooms are restored to their original appearance. While most of the furniture is new, 28 of the desks at Congress Hall are original. Portraits of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (pictured here) were gifts from France following the American Revolution. They can be seen in the adjoining committee rooms. 

A fresco of an American bald eagle on the ceiling holding an olive branch symbolizes peace. 

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania sat in this room in the 1700s.

And, finally, to the beginning: the Assembly Room, where both the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed – although the date of the former is debatable as, apparently, some signers were not present at the time and did not sign the Declaration of Independence until more than a month later when news of the agreement finally reached them, as explained by our lively ranger.

Up next: a chance encounter

Independence Hall tour

February 21st, 2017

Philadelphia – The Liberty Bell

It could also be referred to as ”The Cracked Bell” after its wide, vertical crack which is actually the result of repair work; or ”The Silent Bell” for it has not rung in over 170 years – at least according to The Philadelphia Public Ledger‘s February 26, 1846 publication that records:

The old Independence Bell rang its last clear note on Monday last in honor of the birthday of Washington and now hangs in the great city steeple irreparably cracked and dumb. It had been cracked before but was set in order of that day by having the edges of the fracture filed so as not to vibrate against each other … It gave out clear notes and loud, and appeared to be in excellent condition until noon, when it received a sort of compound fracture in a zig-zag direction through one of its sides which put it completely out of tune and left it a mere wreck of what it was.

The ”mere wreck” has since become a national symbol of democracy, freedom and independence. Its inscription from the Old Testament (Leviticus 25:10) “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof” has inspired civil rights movements such as suffragists who commissioned a replica and called it the Justice Bell,  and abolitionists who gave it its current name – the Liberty Bell.

Removed from the bell tower of the building we know today as Independence Hall, it is on view in the Liberty Bell Center in Independence National Historical Park.

Next stop: Congress Hall & Independence Hall

February 21st, 2017