Welcome Park, an Old City Courtyard, Has a Gigantic, Walkable Philadelphia Map
A superb photo of what you'll see at Welcome Park - a unique tribute to William Penn. To better read what's on the walls and the ground, just click directly on the photo to enlarge it.
Welcome Park is a cool, highly underrated attraction, in
Old City Philadelphia.
It is located on 2nd Street, between Chestnut and Walnut Street, and its official location is 2nd Street and Samson Alley.
But a far easier way to find it, is to look across the street from
- which is located at 138 South 2nd Street. It is a very short walk from
and the other places to visit in Old City.
In addition to getting your geographical bearings, by walking upon the gigantic, marble, original street grid of Center City Philadelphia, you can also read a fascinating biography of
- which is on the surrounding walls.
This is the only place to visit in Philadelphia, which is dedicated exclusively to honoring the life and legacy of Penn, a man centuries ahead of his time.
Penn was the founder of the colony of Pennsylvania, and the city of Philadelphia, in 1682. A 37-foot, 26-ton statue of Penn sits atop City Hall, which is also worth seeing - it is the largest statue on any building, in the entire world.
Walking around the enormous street map can be a lot of fun, especially if this is your first time traveling to Philadelphia. The names on the grid are the ones first used in the original street grid in the late 17th-century, which makes them particularly interesting.
Although some of the street names have been changed over the three centuries-plus history of Philadelphia, the map can actually be enormously beneficial to you, as you seek to become familiar with the Center City street grid, and travel around the city.
The History of Welcome Park
The word "Welcome", in the courtyard's title, is a pun. It is not used just to welcome travelers to Philadelphia. Welcome was also the name of the 17th-century sailing ship, which carried William Penn to America for the first time.
William Penn himself once actually lived in a fine house on the site, known as the Slate Roof House. Originally constructed for a Quaker merchant from Barbados named Samuel Carpenter, the Slate Roof House was an elevated dwelling, that presented a scenic view of the Delaware River and what would (ironically) later become known as Penn's Landing.
Penn rented the Slate Roof House for 80 pounds a year (which is somewhat surprising, given that he was the proprietor - i.e., the owner - of the entire colony). His son John was also born in the rented house.
There were two other noteworthy historical personages, who also occupied the house. One was the British General John Forbes, who died in 1759 during the French and Indian War. The other, far more colorful, was a figure of the Revolutionary War, American General Charles Lee.
The Bizarre General Charles Lee
Lee was a former British officer, one of the few professional soldiers in the American army. But he was also an eccentric figure, whose many eccentricities included having his Pomeranian dog, named Mr. Spada, formally seated, to eat at his dinner table.
Lee also schemed to seize command of the American army from General George Washington, whom he viewed as too inexperienced to be commander-in-chief.
Just two weeks before Washington saved the American cause, by famously crossing the Delaware River to attack Trenton, Lee was eventually captured by the British, in a comical turn of events. Ironically, his capture actually aided the American cause, by getting rid of his treacherous plotting and intrigues.
Lee and his staff, for reasons not entirely clear, separated themselves from their forces by three miles, to stop at a tavern in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, for the night. The next morning, a British patrol captured them there, with Lee in his nightgown writing correspondence.
The British were elated with Lee's capture - as a former British officer, he was one of the few Americans they respected. One officer stated that "We now have the only rebel general we have to fear". They were wrong - as we all know, now.
As the centuries went by, there was an increasing desire to preserve as many of Philadelphia's historic houses as possible. It had survived the Revolutionary War, and all of America's dynamic societal changes, all the way through the Civil War. However, unfortunately, the preservation movement was not able to ultimately save the Slate Roof House, from demolition.
Perhaps Welcome Park Was the Source of the Authentic "Billy Penn's Curse"
In 1867, two years after the Civil War ended, the Slate Roof House was demolished, over the objections of conservationists. The purpose was to construct the Commercial Exchange Building, reflecting the growth of commerce in Victorian Philadelphia (and Victorian America).
Ironically, the Commercial Exchange Building didn't last long. The Slate Roof House had survived, for nearly two centuries. In marked contrast, the Commercial Exchange survived for barely two years, before being burned down.) A remarkable coincidence...
However, the owners of the Commercial Exchange Building were undaunted by either the costs of reconstruction, or ghostly vengeance from the founder of the colony, and rebuilt the building on the site.
It was eventually sold to the Keystone Telephone Company, and finally sold to Bell Telephone. In another ironic development-
In 1976, the year Philadelphia and the nation observed the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence, the structure was finally demolished.
A Map of Welcome Park and the Surrounding Area in Old City
View Welcome Park - William Penn - Philadelphia in a larger map
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