1 hour, 10 minutes
Outside the Science History Institute at 315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.
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Old City Philadelphia continually decays and is renewed. Why and how do we preserve it? What does its unique status mean for the people who live in, work in, and visit America’s most historical mile?
Elisabeth Berry Drago, curator of Things Fall Apart, walks you through stories of decay and preservation in Old City. Along the way you’ll spot transformations to historical buildings and learn how materials like brick and marble are kept looking like new—or why they are left to decay. Find out what happens when we preserve some stories from our past but allow others to fade from memory. Hear about early preservationists who committed to saving the stories of America’s “great men,” historians determined to unearth the mysteries that rest beneath our feet, and activists who debate the place of preservation and renewal in Philadelphia.
By tour’s end you’ll see the streets and buildings of Old City—and your own neighborhood—a little differently. You might even ask yourself, what do I want to see preserved? Why? And what can I do to make it happen?
This Detour was produced as part of the exhibition Things Fall Apart, on view in our museum from June 17, 2017, to April 7, 2018.
Read NewsWorks' review of Things Fall Apart: An Old City Walking Tour!
- Tips and Hours
- The tour can be taken during daylight hours any day of the week.
- Bring a $2 donation with you if you would like to see inside Arch Street Meeting House. During the summer the Meeting House is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- If you would like to tour Christ Church Burial Ground, bring an additional $1 for the admission fee. The Burial Ground is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Sunday 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- You do not need to visit the Science History Institute to take this walking tour, but we encourage you to do so! We're free and open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Featured Stops
John C. Haas Archives of Science and Business
The archives of the Science History Institute sit masked behind a deceptive façade on Third Street.
President’s House Site
This outdoor exhibition teaches about George Washington’s Philadelphia home, the enslaved people who also lived there, and the contradiction of liberty and enslavement in the new United States.
Efforts to preserve the site where the Declaration of Independence was signed date back to the early 19th century and continue to this day.
An iconic Philadelphia street, this block of local businesses is set to be demolished and replaced with condominiums sometime in 2017.
Society Hill Synagogue
At the heart of Philadelphia’s famed Society Hill, the synagogue is surrounded by picturesque homes that subtly reveal the neighborhood’s changing character.
- Featured Voices
Curator of Things Fall Apart at the Institute. Lisa is an art historian with an interest in what paints and pigments are made of, and what their decay over time can reveal about artists and the world they lived in.
Curator of architecture at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, a member-supported library founded in Philadelphia in 1814.
Longtime Philadelphia resident, leader in the Philadelphia arts community, and director of operations at Old City District.
Chief curator at Independence National Historical Park.
Architectural conservator at Dan Lepore and Sons, a construction firm in Philadelphia specializing in restoration.
Executive director of the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust.
Chief curator of archives and manuscripts at the Institute.
Executive director at the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.
Historical architect at Independence National Historical Park.
Oral History Supervisor
- Cover photo: Hillary Mohaupt
- Navigation photos: Samantha Blatt and Rebecca Ortenberg
- Archival photos courtesy of:
- Athenaeum of Philadelphia
- City of Philadelphia Department of Records
- Independence National Historical Park
Lynne Calamia, Arch Street Meeting House
Winston Clement, Independence National Historical Park
Karie Diethorn, Independence National Historical Park
Bruce Laverty, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia
Brett Mapp, Old City District
Lauren Shaughnessy, Dan Lepore and Sons
Patrick Shea, Science History Institute
Paul Steinke, Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia
Karie Diethorn and the staff of Independence National Historical Park