Philly Tour: Literature Edition
Philadelphia’s connection to the founding of America is well documented and a big draw for tourists. But Philly has so much more history to offer than what can be found in Independence Square! We went on a day tour of some of Philly’s less well known literary gems, and had a wonderful time!
First Stop: Walt Whitman’s Home, Camden
We decided to start on the eastern edge and work our way west. Our first stop was just over the Ben Franklin
Bridge to the only home poet Walt Whitman ever owned. He bought it just 8 years before his death with proceeds earned from the success of Leaves of Grass. He hosted literary friends like Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde in this home, as well as artist and good friend Thomas Eakins, who took the famous portrait of Whitman we’re all familiar with.
“When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love…”
Leaves of Grass
The house is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 to noon and 1 to 4 pm and Sundays from 1 to 4. It’s free to visit and tours are given by knowledgeable and friendly State Parks staff. We drove, but you can also get there via the NJT River Line. A great way to start the day.
Second Stop: Edgar Allen Poe House, Loft District
Poet, author, critic, and hero to goth kids everywhere, Poe has long been a source of friendly rivalry between two of his home towns – Baltimore and Philly. In actuality, Poe spent much of his life traveling up and down the east coast. Born in Boston, educated in Richmond, Virginia and West Point New York, eventually living in Baltimore, New York City, and Philadelphia before moving back to, and eventually being buried in, Baltimore. The six years he spent here in Philly are considered his most prolific though, giving birth to such treasures as Fall of the House of Usher, Murders in the Rue Morgue, and Mask of the Red Death. The house is only open Friday through Sunday from 9 to 5, but admission is free and the National Park Rangers are incredibly knowledgeable and willing to lead a tour on request.
Third Stop: Parkway Library, Logan Square
You could spend a month exploring all the main branch of Philadelphia’s Free Library has to offer and still not be halfway through the first floor. Today we focused on taking in the atmosphere and architecture, since we still had more ground to cover. We took a tour with an architectural docent who explained the building was opened in 1927 and designed by an African American architect. We even got to go up to the rooftop, where beer gardens and community events are hosted throughout the warm months and the view of Logan Square and Center City is not to be missed.
Fourth Stop: Shakespeare Memorial, Logan Square
A quick photo op in front of the Library, the Shakespeare Memorial statue was put into place the year after the Library opened. Fund raising began in 1892, funds secured in 1917, and the sculpture was dedicated on Shakespeare’s 363rd birthday – April 23rd 1929. Representing comedy and tragedy, Hamlet is seen leaning his head against a knife, while Touchstone, the jester, sits at his feet laughing.
Fifth Stop: Book Corner, Logan Square
Established in 1991 as an additional source of revenue for the Philadelphia Free Library, the Book Corner is a tempting, and potentially da
ngerous, spot for book lovers. Packed with well loved used books priced at between $1 and $3, you may leave with an armful. We certainly did. There are 2 cats who keep the store running smoothly, so be sure and get some cuddles to go with your Carroll. Or Card. Or Christie.
Sixth Stop: Writers Block Rehab, Washington Square West
We were torn between this new writer’s themed bar and restaurant and the quieter classic Library Bar in Rittenhouse, but we were dying to try the cocktail menu here. An exhaustive 5 “chapters” covering the truly inventive (arugula martini) to the truly rare (15 year Dalwhinne Scotch) and a selection of light bites, offer plenty of exciting choices. Walls covered in crossword-like tiles featuring author’s names, walls covered in books, and globes acting as chandeliers give you something more to stare at than your phone. It was the perfect ending to this literary day.
Additional research and writing assistance provided by: Hana Ames