The thing about Old City Philadelphia is that you can’t walk 10 steps before running into a historic landmark. Below is the list of historical places I ran into just today without even trying.
The US Mint
The First National Bank
Benjamin Franklin’s first post office
Benjamin Franklin’s grave
Benjamin Franklin’s first fire company
A large inexplicable bust of Benjamin Franklin gesturing toward a tavern
Alexander Hamilton’s House
This last place, Elferth’s Alley, I wasn’t even aware of until two days ago. The alley is a cobblestone street just about three meters wide and not even 100 yards long and full of brick buildings. It is the United States’ oldest continually inhabited street. The street itself was constructed in 1702; predating the country itself; Constitution, Declaration, Revolution, and all. Elferth’s Alley even predates Philadelphia’s most famous resident Benjamin Franklin.
When I walked down the alley tonight it was dusk and street lamps were just coming on. After waiting for an annoying, overly affectionate young couple on a motorcycle to leave the vicinity (and throwing down a few carpet tacks in their parking space) the view was nearly magical. Only a little imagination was necessary to block out the city sounds and momentarily suspend the 21st century in favor of the 18th. Most people don’t want to do this but it is highly valuable (and much more enjoyable) to visit historic sites early in the morning or near dusk; either before or after they’re too crowded to view, enjoy, or even take good pictures. The semi-darkness also helps the imagination. Fewer sounds and sights intrude upon the moment. You always have to come back to the present but in the half-light of dawn or sunset you can linger a little and do it on your own terms.