A Visit to Elfreth’s Alley

Years ago, I met a woman who, for a time, owned a house in Philadelphia’s Elfreth’s Alley. She liked the house she lived in but said she never got used to total strangers peering in her front windows and knocking on her door at all hours.

As the nation’s oldest, continuously occupied residential street, Elfreth’s Alley is a tourist attraction. Not a manufactured tourist attraction. Elfreth’s Alley, located in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia is the real deal. The people who live there are not historical reenactors, and the houses are privately owned, not part of the National Park Service. I’ve always wanted to explore Elfreth’s Alley more closely, (I pass by it on the way to The Clay Studio), but I am reluctant to go snapping pictures of people’s houses without an invitation. And then the invitation came. A flea market of antiques and crafts to support the Elfreth’s Alley museum, complete with guided tours.

I was pressed for time that day and didn’t have a lot of time to stick around, but I did manage to take a lot of pictures.

Plenty to do after you’ve been to Elfreth’s Alley

Fairmount Flea Market is Back

It was good to get outside last week, stretch my legs and attend the Fairmount Flea Market. Fairmount is a Philadelphia Neighborhood north of the Art Museum district. Fairmount’s distinctive landmark is Eastern State Penitentiary which sits on the neighborhood’s southern border. I used to live in Fairmount on a street right behind the prison. Of course, the prison was no longer operating by this time and the prison grounds were home to bands of feral cats who roamed the large expanse.

When they built the prison, it was located far outside the city in a cornfield. Now, it’s surrounded by busy streets and row houses. The prison was considered an improvement on crowded, violent penal conditions of the day. It was felt that giving an inmate solitude and opportunity to reflect would help rehabilitation. But the road to hell, so the saying goes, is paved with good intentions. And so it was with Eastern State. Solitary confinement proved to have a disastrous effect on inmates who it destroyed psychologically. Charles Dickens witnessed this when he visited Eastern State in 1842 and later wrote about it.

Fast forward 160 years and the inmates are gone. Eastern State has been cleaned up, is open for tours, and beautiful playgrounds and gardens cover the grounds where the feral cats roamed. Funny how these things work. Here are some pictures.

Speaking of cats, I met two of them on the way home and they graciously let me take their pictures.

Philadelphia’s Fabric Row

I feel so lucky to live in a City where I am within walking distance from wonderful shopping districts with a genuine historical significance.  Of course there’s the 9th Street (Italian) MarketJeweler’s Row, and the Reading Terminal Market.   But one of my favorite areas is Fabric Row  is located on Fourth Street below South Street. Even though  I don’t sew much,  I love window shopping on this colorful street.  There’s always something to see.

 

According to the Philadelphia History Museum’s web site, Philadelphia’s bustling fabric row on South Fourth Street ran through the heart of a Jewish immigrant neighborhood. Peddlers hawked dry goods from pushcarts and sidewalk stands. Successful vendors opened family-run shops. Dressmakers, shoppers, and tailors flocked to this area of the Queen Village neighborhood to purchase fabrics and notions for their customers and families.  

There aren’t as many fabric stores on Fourth Street as there used to be. Times change.  People are not sewing as much as they used to. (Although home sewing has moved into a new phase.)  New businesses are popping up among the fabric stores  including independent fashion stores,  shops selling hand made goods and the wonderful  Kawaii Kitty Cafe.  It is still a thriving, vibrant area.

 

 

Visit Fabric Row the next time you visit Philadelphia.  In the meantime,  here are some more pictures  I took on walk down Fabric Row when the weather was much warmer!

trimsteel ponypushcartold cash registerclearance salebarrel of fabric boltsadlers

 

To learn more about Fabric Row at Hidden City Philadelphia, the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia and the Fabric Row web site.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

 

This is the best old Mummers video I have seen to date.  It’s from 1930 but it looks contemporary.

From the website:  Old film of a New Years Day Parade in Philadelphia, USA on January 1, 1930. This is raw footage from the early Movietone sound cameras. This footage is particularly neat because most parades of the time were captured from a far distance. Worked on footage and sound a bit. Amazing!”   

I agree!

 

And do check out Guy Jones’ channel on YouTube for more incredible videos.

For more Mummers posts from this site, press here.

 

Holiday Time in Fairmount Park

It’s holiday time and if you are trolling the Internet, it is probably to do last minute shopping or find recipes.  If you want to take a break, I invite you to have a look at some pictures I took on a tour of three of the Fairmont Park Mansions.

Strawberry Mansion15-smoutside

 

Lemon Hill Mansion

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Woodford Mansion

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A couple of years ago,  Liberty Place hosted a delightful holiday exhibit of the Fairmount Park Mansions interpreted in gingerbread.  If you would like to read about the exhibit, click here.  And if you want to compare the gingerbread mansions with the real mansions, click on the links below.

Strawberry Mansion in Gingerbread

Lemon Hill in Gingerbread

Woodford Mansion in Gingerbread

Learn more about the Fairmont Park Mansions here.

Thank you to  the East Passyunk Community Recreation Center  and Councilperson Mark Squilla for organizing and sponsoring the tour.

 

 

 

Happy Second of July

I never thought twice about how the 4th of July was selected to be  Independence Day in the United States until I read the quote below:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

-John Adams

Fourth of July in Centre Square where Philadelphia City Hall stands today. 1819 painting by John Lewis Krimmel

We can’t be right all the time!    If you would like to know  why we don’t tell one another to have a happy 2nd, click on the links below:

How the Fourth of July was Designated as an “Official” Holiday

Fascinating Facts about the Declaration of Independence

More facts from the National Archives

And have a happy Fourth of July!