18th Century Things to Do In and Near Philadelphia, Pa.

Your author at Washington's Crossing, December 25, 2013.
No, it’s not a costume…

It’s no surprise that I love the 18th Century. However, not having a time machine, I’m stuck in modern day. Or am I…

One of the things I love about Philadelphia, and one of the reasons I haven’t moved back to New York yet, is that I think being here is the closest I’m going to get to living in the 18th Century while enjoying modern city life. I need a job that pays the bills and offers benefits and the best place for that is in a city. However, I long for a way to get away to yesterday without having to travel hours and hours. So, we’ve set up our urban homestead here, in Philadelphia, which has lots of 18th Century things to offer.

Things We’ve Done

Extra bonus! Our weekend hike around Valley Forge produced a quite unplanned for visit to George Washington’s headquarters in the Potts house. It’s a lovely, practically brand-new looking house from 1760, filled with reproductions so that it looks like everyone is still there and only stepped out for a moment or two. Naturally, I appreciate original greatly, but for the traveling in time effect things that are new, well look like you have arrived at the time and not looking back in time. No, they will not let you move in but they do let you go through all the rooms of the house, even the upstairs rooms. I have duly added Geo. Washington’s headquarters house sitter to my list of potential retirement occupations.  Also on the hike, we passed by several period home occupied by various military people of the time. I probably should have taken more photos of the informational signs because now I can’t remember. We’ll go back… it was a lovely hike and we didn’t get to climb both big hills, just Mount Misery. (4/30/16)

A year or so ago, I took the Pumpkin to a mommy-daughter afternoon tea at City Tavern. They offer a full menu but we just wanted tea in a proper colonial environment. You have to be a little creative because they don’t offer a proper tea. We improvised by taking our tea in the tavern section and enjoying a colonial bread basket, including my favorite, Thomas Jefferson’s biscuits. If you ignore all the modern people, it’s just like going back in time. (5/1/2014 – Frank and I had a chance to return for a special birthday lunch date!)

A least a few times a month, I run by (literally) Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continually-occupied residential street in America. The oldest house on the block is from 1701. They have annual events during which you can see more of the homes as well as a tour of the museum.

We just visited Washington’s Crossing for the annual re-enactment of Washington’s Delaware river crossing. We’d like to go back when it’s not so cold and some of the buildings are open. (Christmas 2014)

We can cross Fort Mifflin off our list as we visited last Thanksgiving. (Thanksgiving 2015)

Things on Our To-do List

Quite a few of these will have to wait for the spring and summer but they’re all close by.

The Peter Wentz Farm is an authentic 18th Century Pennsylvania German farmstead. During the revolutionary war, Washington stayed here and planned his maneauvers for the Battle of Germantown. Today, the farm is maintained to period specifications including the care of plants and animals that would have been there at the time.

There are several important homes in the Germantown area of Philly such as:

  • The Cliveden House, dating from 1767, hosts an extensive collection of furniture and decorative art from the colonial and early American period. Cliveden is considered one of America’s least-altered colonial houses.
  • The Wyck House, is located on a farm that dates to around 1690. Surrounded by gardens, the Wyck house also has an extensive collection of period domestic artifacts.
  • Grumblethorpe, like Cliveden and Wyck, is a very well preserved house from the colonial period.

Historic RittenhouseTown is actually a small settlement with several buildings to explore.

So a few activities to look forward to in the spring. Now, if we can just get through this winter…

April 18, 2016 Update!
We were hiking in beautiful Ridley Creek State Park and discovered the Colonial Plantation! How did I not know about this? Adding it to the list because it was too late to visit once our hike was done.

June 10, 2015 Update!
I just tripped over this – The Historic American Revolution Trail of Greater Philadelphia – on Visit Philly that is going to really round out my list. Below is an abbreviated list:

  • Hopewell Furnace, National Historic Site Elverson, Chester County
  • Brandywine Battlefield Park, Chadds Ford, Delaware County
  • Historic Houses of Chadds Ford, Chadds Ford, Delaware County
  • Waynesborough, Paoli, Chester County
  • Pennypacker Mills, Schwenksville, Montgomery County
  • Harriton House, Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County
  • Germantown White House (Deshler-Morris House), Mt. Airy, Philadelphia County
  • Hope Lodge Mather Mill, Fort Washington, Montgomery County
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