Weekly Photo Challenge: Chaos

November 7, 2016 — This week’s photo challenge is chaos.

Orderly chaos: a group of Mennonites visit Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
Orderly chaos: a group of Mennonites visit Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
Artistic chaos: the glory that is the Magic Garden on South Street in Philadelphia.
Artistic chaos: the unique and beautiful Magic Garden on South Street in Philadelphia.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure

June 13, 2016 — This week’s photo challenge is Pure.

The top of Independence Hall in Philadelphia; the backdrop, a pure, flawless blue sky.
The top of Independence Hall in Philadelphia; the backdrop, a pure, flawless blue sky.
The rest of Independence Hall before I zoomed in on the top.
The rest of Independence Hall before I zoomed in on the top.

Spring in Old City

April 28, 2014 — A dose of Old City Philadelphia in the spring is exactly what I needed after a long, cold, and snowy winter. My lunchtime stroll through the gardens surrounding Independence Hall offered photo opportunities and the chance to escape without leaving the city.

Close up shot of a tree on Independence Mall, across the square from Independence Hall
Close up shot of a tree on Independence Mall, across the square from Independence Hall
An Amish group takes a tour of Independence Hall.
An Amish group takes a tour of Independence Hall.
The top of Independence Hall, the birthplace of America, and the site where the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.
The top of Independence Hall, the birthplace of America, and the site where the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.
Spring daffodils bloom.
Spring daffodils in bloom.
An inviting place to sit and relax on a beautiful day.
An inviting place to sit and relax on a beautiful day.
Spring tulips in bloom!
Spring tulips in bloom.
Wide view of the garden adjacent to Independence Hall.
Wide view of the garden adjacent to Independence Hall.

The paradox of Jefferson and slavery

120510_HISTORY_Jefferson.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeApril 2, 2012 – If you live in the Philadelphia area, or are planning a trip to the region this spring or summer, be sure to stop at the National Constitution Center to experience the new exhibit on Thomas Jefferson. A visit to the Old City area is not complete without remembering one of America’s most famous forefathers.

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello organized the exhibit, “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello”, in partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Monticello was Jefferson’s Virginia home, built on land inherited from his father.

It’s difficult to believe the man who wrote, “All men are created equal,” kept slaves. We can save debating what he actually meant by that phrase for another post, but its common knowledge that Jefferson had a relationship with one of his slaves (Sally Hemmings), whose six children were likely fathered by him. It is historically recorded that he treated his slaves as he would any member of his family. Aside from free labor, he acted as a mentor in a sense, teaching his slaves trade skills so they could find work if they were freed. Historians can’t understand why Jefferson did not free his slaves, especially since he was opposed to slavery.

Susan R. Stein, vice president of museum programs, explains that the exhibit is an attempt to make slavery understandable to a modern audience. That is a challenging task, but Stein says that slavery was omnipresent in America at the time, and that the records kept by Jefferson give us a lot of information on how they lived at Monticello.

The exhibit includes several of Jefferson’s possessions, such as an inkwell in the shape of the philosopher Voltaire, his eyeglasses, and his whalebone ivory and gold walking stick.

While visiting the exhibit, be sure to walk by Graff House, a few blocks away at 7th and Market Streets, the home Jefferson rented while in Philadelphia, and the site where he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Once written, it was signed by the 56 delegates a few blocks south at 5th and Chestnut Streets, at Independence Hall.

As a resident Philadelphian, I am ashamed to admit I didn’t know about Graff House, or that Jefferson wrote the Declaration there. I thought Independence Hall was the site of both the writing and the signing. (Some of the writing also occurred at The City Tavern, at 2nd and Walnut Streets).

I found out about Graff House accidentally last week after a tourist stopped me on 6th Street and asked if I could point him in the direction of Jefferson’s Philadelphia house. Embarrassed, I had to tell him the only home I knew of was in Virginia (Monticello). Unfortunately, Graff house is not presently open to the public.

“Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello” runs from April 9 through October 19, 2014.

The streets of Philadelphia, part 2

March 17, 2014 – Last week, I displayed photos of the streets in the Rittenhouse and Fairmount neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Today, we will venture southeast, to the old city neighborhood and Elfreth’s Alley, which completes our journey in the center city area.

Old City
Old City, a neighborhood where our forefathers walked before us, is home to the historical past of the United States. East from center city towards Front Street are the quaint side streets of the Old City neighborhood where mom and pop shops reign, and residents live in the same colonial houses that once were home to the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

In the early days of the U.S., Bread Street between Second and Third Streets, was the area of the city where the flour was delivered and breads and pastries were baked for the city. Today, it houses two blocks of loft apartments for rent. The sign below shows some of the lofts’ amenities, but there is one that has been removed as you can see in the photo. Wouldn’t it have been better to pay for a new sign? It makes me wonder what they took away.

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A view down Bread Street.

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On Arch Street, between Second and Third Streets sits the home of Betsy Ross, who is designed the American flag.

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You could argue that our forefathers were unimaginative when naming the streets in the city. Or, they were just literal. Like Bread Street above, where the flour was stored, Christ Church, oldest church in the area, sits off Second Street on Church Street.

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A view down Church Street.

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The City Tavern opened in 1773, and served the likes of John Adams, Paul Revere, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the city’s most famous resident, Benjamin Franklin. It sits on Second Street between Chestnut and Walnut Streets.

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The small street that runs beside the City Tavern doesn’t officially have a name, but I’ll bet it was once known as Tavern Street.

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The Elfreth’s Alley Area
Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest residential street in the U.S. Its name came from Jeremiah Elfreth, an 18th century glass blower and merchant who lived there. The area was diverse; during the American Revolution, both patriots and loyalists lived on the street.

Nearly 3,000 residents have lived on this one block street since its beginning in 1702. Elfreth Alley is located off Second Street, between Race and Arch Streets.

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Stepping onto Elfreth Alley takes you back in time, unless there is a large truck in the middle of the road.

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The horse posts in front of each colorful home lend to its authenticity.

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Next Monday, we’ll continue with part three of the series, and visit University City, home to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, and Powelton Village.

Winter in Old City Philadelphia

February 7, 2014 — It’s been a brutally cold, snowy winter across most of the United States, but the weather has provided many opportunities to take beautiful photos of landscapes, and Old City Philadelphia is high on that list.

Independence Hall, the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed, is across the street from the building where I work.
Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, is across the street from the building where I work.
Independence Mall, the three-block area surrounding Independence Hall, is also known as Independence National Park
Independence Mall, the three-block area surrounding Independence Hall, is also known as Independence National Park.
The trees and a Colonial Street lamp covered in snow inside Independence Mall.
The trees and  Colonial street lamp make it difficult to know if this photo was taken 200 years ago or today. 
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This particular tree almost has a camouflage look, doesn’t it? 
A statue of John Barry, an officer in the Navy during the American Revolution, sits in the center of Independence Mall.
A statue of John Barry, a Naval Officer during the American Revolution, sits in the center of the park.
Washington Square, across from Independence Mall, is one of five original open space parks in center city Philadelphia, laid out by William Penn in 1682.
Washington Square, across from Independence Mall, is one of five original open space parks in center city Philadelphia laid out by William Penn in 1682.

Accidental Photography

April 27, 2012 – It’s time once again for the Penn Relays.

That means athletes from all over the world converge on my beloved city to participate in a track and field event that is the largest in the country, and a Philadelphia tradition dating back to 1895.

I’m not usually up on things of a track and field nature; the only reason I know is that while leaving City Hall last night, where I’m still serving as Juror #2 on the never-ending trial, I ran smack dab into several members of a running team from the Bahamas. And they have a memento to remember our meeting because they accidentally took a close up of me while aiming for the Comcast Building.

The boys in the Caribbean blue track suits with a yellowish orange trim were nice about our collision, and we chatted a few moments about the Comcast Building, which happens to be Philadelphia’s tallest building. And they were majorly impressed.

It’s not my first time being the accidental subject of a photograph. Since I began working in center city, I’ve literally run into several tourists who now have permanent images of me. It happens mostly in the old city area when they’re trying to snap a photo of a horse and carriage or the cobble stone streets, and instead get yours truly walking by.

I’m also a popular attraction around Independence Hall, especially while driving. If I’m stopped in traffic, or if I’m aware I’ll be in the shot, I often acknowledge the camera, and look out my window and wave and smile. That way, when the people get home and look at their photos, they may ask who the hell is this woman who ruined the photo, but at least they’ll know she’s friendly.

For someone who is actually quite camera-shy, sometimes I feel like the most photographed image in Philadelphia.