Acculturating Philadelphian's on Cultural and Historical Heritage: International Day of Monuments and Sites with the GPA Team
April 18th was the International Day of Monuments & Sites and Philadelphia celebrated in style! This year was the 41st-year anniversary and this international commemoration was brought about as a way to honor heritage, diversity, community, and the environment. Pennsylvania is home to 169 national historic landmarks, with 67 of them scattered all over Philadelphia, our nation's first World Heritage City.
Most of the city’s events took place in Historic Germantown, Old City, & West Philadelphia, three of the Philly's main cultural hubs. The participating national historic landmarks this year were Reading Terminal Market, The Atheneum, Hill Physick House, The Masonic Temple, Rittenhouse Town, Cliveden, Stenton, Girard College, Wagner Free Institute, and The Tanner House.
Featured below are some of Global Philadelphia’s members who had the opportunity to visit these historic places.
Women's History Tour at Stenton with GPA President Zabeth Teelucksingh
On IDMS 2023 I was fortunate to visit Stenton in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Nestled in the hustle and bustle of that section of the city, Stenton is a colonial house originally owned by the Logan family. Several familiar Philadelphia notable names have transversed the house - Norris, Wister, Drinkle to name a few, the house is currently run by the Colonial Dames of America. It sits on a pastoral gated campus of greenery and holds several outbuildings.
Inside the house, we were treated to a special tour; Her-Story, focusing on the heritage of women in the home. The parlor has particular treasures including silver, chinese porcelain and a group of recent archaeological china findings from the grounds. We learned about the daily life of the Logan family and the foods they might have eaten.
Most interesting was Dynah's story. The Quaker Logan family was slave owning and Dynah was one such slave. She belonged to a woman of the house and was part of her dowry upon marriage. Dynah described her work at Stenton and the pattern of her daily life. She helped save Stenton from fire during the Revolutionary War but that still did not free her from slavery. Her story, one of great courage, finally ends favorably and I encourage you to visit the property to learn more. You will learn a lot about Philadelphia's foundational history.
Reconstructing Black Families: Stories from the Chew Papers at Cliveden with Kitty Shi, GPA Intern
I had the opportunity to attend an online event hosted by the Historical Society of Philadelphia about Reconstructing Black Families: Stories from the Chew Papers, a significant historical document that sheds light on the lives of African American families in the 19th century. The Chew Papers, which originated from the prominent Chew family in Philadelphia, provide a unique glimpse into the struggles and triumphs of Black families during a time of great social and political upheaval. As a hub of abolitionist activity and a major city during the Civil War, Philadelphia played an important role in Black history, making this event especially relevant to the city’s past.
The event not only aimed to preserve and share the stories of these families, but also to inspire future generations to appreciate the resilience and contributions of African Americans throughout Philadelphia’s rich history. Through attending this event, I gained a deeper understanding of the experiences of Black families during the past and the importance of using this knowledge to work towards a more just and inclusive future for all.
The Wagner Free Institute of Science seminar with Gary Wooten, GPA Events Coordinator
During International Day of Monuments and Sites (IDMS), I had the pleasure of attending the lecture and tour of The Wagner Free Institute of Science. Located in North Philadelphia on West Montgomery avenue, The Wagner is a museum filled with animal and mineral specimens for guests to explore and learn.
For IDMS, Wagner Free Institute held an informative lecture about the history of the building and William Wagner, the founder, before we took a guided tour through the museum. We sat for the seminar in the lecture hall with the original seating and observation table from the mid-1800s. We learned several amazing facts about the institute. First was that this was one of the first institutions that were offered to men and women for free. Second, the classes were held at night to accommodate the working class. Third, the Wagner was an official branch of the Free Library. It was so great to learn about the history and the landmark firsts of science that happened in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Masonic Temple Tour with Kynaat Moosvi, GPA Intern
For International Day of Monuments and Sites, I had the honor of visiting the Philadelphia Masonic Temple located in front of City Hall. I always passed by the building on my way to class, admiring its grandeur. It was my first time going inside and I was just as amazed by the attention to detail and intricacy in every inch. James Windrim, a mason himself, completed construction of the building in 1873. After its arrival in the United States, the fraternity of Freemasonry in the Philadelphia area became a significantly strong grand lodge. Freemasonry has many values such as faith, Enlightenment, and charity. The fraternity traces its origins back to stonemasons, who cut and prepared stones to build and repair stone structures.
Our tour guide did a fantastic job of depicting the history of every room, right down to where the tiles came from. On the first floor, we saw the Grand Ballroom which was basked in light and featured a towering statue of Benjamin Franklin. The illuminating stained glass window featuring Masonic symbols is at the end of the foyer full of stars. On the second floor were grand halls, designed from themes of the ancient architectural world. My personal favorite had to be the Corinthian hall, which is one of the largest ceremonial rooms in the temple. It simulates an ancient Greek setting with its light blue walls full of leaves and flowers.
Overall it was an insightful experience, getting to see the inner workings of such a historic and profound organization. The building was full of so much art and stories, of which the temple's staff have done a great job displaying to the public. Everyone should visit, especially when they are celebrating their 150th year!
Girard College Campus and Architecture Tour with Mama Sanogo, GPA Intern
On April 18th, 2023, I had the privilege to attend the Girard College’s campus architecture & history tour for International Day of Monuments and Sites. I used to drive past this building but neither did I know the history behind it nor did I know it was a school until that day. Girard College, which is a 43-acre campus, has been an essential Philadelphia landmark for more than100 years. It is a school with a great historical background as more than 15,000 students have lived and learned there.
Our tour was guided by Kathy Haas, the college's director of resources. Kathy used photographs that document the history and design of the college to give a better understanding of the school. First, we visited the Founder Hall building which was the first place built for classrooms. The architectural building was influenced by Greek arts.
Second, we visited the chapel building which was built with many exterior doors for students. The chapel is huge and has a gold ceiling with marble floors. According to John, the oldest students sat in front of the room followed by the youngest (from 9th to 1st grade), where they were taught to look after one another. We finished with a visit to the the College’s library in which several movie scenes have taken place according to Kathy. This place taught me many things that I was not aware of, and I was able to meet John who was one of the students that witnessed the evolution of the school. I do encourage everyone to visit The Girard College to learn more about its historical background as this place is part of Philadelphia history and culture.
Overall, the International Day of Monuments & Sites was full of events in Philadelphia. This annual event was an opportunity for us to come together and celebrate the importance of historical and cultural heritage. It is an occasion to raise awareness on the importance of cultivating shared knowledge and preserving our historical sites for future generations.
Through the ongoing efforts of our valued community partnerships, visitors and residents alike are able to marvel at the pieces of history that make up a broader mosaic of our local, regional, and national story. Global Philadelphia offers these events annually to acculturate Philadelphians of the rich history that can be found all over the city, whether it be while admiring the towering columns of Carpenter's Hall, the site of the First Continental Congress, or learning about the Underground Railroad at Johnson House.
The International Day of Monuments & Sites calls on us all to do our part to preserve these precious resources for future generations. We encourage everyone to visit these sites and to learn more about their historical and cultural backgrounds.