WPAMC Class of 2018 Philadelphia Trip

As part of Professor Ritchie Garrison’s course, Material Life in America, the WPAMC Class of 2018 was treated to an incredible tour of historic Philadelphia. Our tour of the city began in Welcome Park, an “open air” museum designed by architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. The site of William Penn’s former home, the park now features a grid pattern that mimics the layout of the city. Welcome Park was the perfect location for the start of the tour, as it helped situate the sites we would see later in the day in their geographic and historic contexts.


The Fellows mapped out the historic development of the city.

The next stop on our tour was Elfreth’s Alley, a street that claims to be “our nation’s oldest residential street.” With eighteenth- and nineteenth-century row houses, Elfreth’s Alley is a rare surviving example of Philadelphia’s early vernacular architecture. Elfreth’s Alley exudes charm, and it is easy to see why tourists flock here in droves. While many of us decided we would happily live here, it also forced us to reconsider life in early Philadelphia. The nineteenth-century saw significant redevelopment of the area with factories quickly surrounding the historic street. Despite all of its apparent charms, Elfreth’s Alley was historically a lower-income area. Its small houses and alleyway location meant that natural light was limited, and oftentimes multiple families would live in the same house.


Allie Cade ‘18 poses in Elfreth’s Alley


A helpful poster about Elfreth’s Alley

The rest of the morning was a whirlwind tour of some of Philadelphia’s most important landmarks including Christ Church, Independence Mall, the location of Benjamin Franklin’s former home, and the Society Hill neighborhood.


The site of Benjamin Franklin’s former home. The steel structure outlining the silhouette of Franklin’s home was designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.


The Fellows posed for a photo outside of Independence Hall.

After our morning tour of Philadelphia’s most historic neighborhoods, we headed to the Italian Market to examine Philadelphia’s historic foodways. We were joined by Tiernan Alexander, WPAMC Class of 2014, who quickly won over our class by introducing us to spectacular sandwiches from Paesano’s, a Philadelphia “foodie” destination. In between visits to Falluto’s, a store that sells fresh pasta, and Di Bruno Brothers, a high-end shop specializing in cheese, Tiernan explained the ways in which the neighborhood preserves its own history. From conducting oral interviews with store owners to publishing cookbooks of historic Italian recipes, the Italian Market keeps its 19th- and 20th-century history alive.


The Fellows sampling cheese from Di Bruno Brothers.


Tess Frydman ‘18 poses outside Falluto’s.

Our final destination for the day was Old Swedes’ Church. While we weren’t able to go inside, we enjoyed examining the grave-markers and learning about the historic landscape surrounding the church. Prior to the development of I-95, much of which was built on land that was previously underwater, Old Swedes’ Church was on the waterfront, and its congregation would have arrived by boat from the Delaware River.


Historic gravestones outside Old Swedes’ Church

The tour of Philadelphia, for many of us the first time we had visited the city, left us far more knowledgeable about the history we’ve been studying in class. One of the program’s strengths is the opportunity for such exciting field trips, and the Philadelphia trip left us looking forward to our trip to London in January, where we’ll see many of the architectural precedents for Philadelphia’s buildings. In the meantime, we’re all quite happy to have discovered Paesano’s, a new Class of ‘18 favorite.

By: Trent Rhodes, WPAMC Class of 2018

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