Monumental Marvels: Highlights from GPA’s Events on the International Day of Monuments and Sites

Madi Costigan
IDMS photo

The International Day of Monuments and Sites is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Philadelphia as a World Heritage City. GPA partnered with organizations and National Historic Landmarks across Philadelphia to host events that highlighted our city’s history and cultural heritage, and our team went and experienced the tours and celebrations of this day alongside the public.

Germantown Sites with GPA President Zabeth Teelucksingh

event photoJust off of Lincoln Drive, RittenhouseTown is a small yet significant group of historical buildings that sit along a stream. In 1687, William Penn recruited German and Dutch printers to grow the printing business in the colonies. William Rittenhouse was among other Quakers and Mennonites who took this opportunity, and he established the first paper mill site in British North America, which would remain as the only source of paper in the colonies for the next 40 years. Though the mill is no longer there due to its vulnerability to flooding along the stream, the rest of the town remains as historical sites, such as the bake house and original homes. RittenhouseTown welcomed guests with tours into the peaceful town to give them a glimpse into the lives of the first American paper mill family and town centuries ago. Rittenhouse’s son, David, was born in 1732 and went on to become an esteemed astronomer, scientist, mathematician, and founding father, so guests were also able to witness the setting of his childhood.

Up the road from RittenhouseTown, the Johnson House Historic Site offers a glimpse into a real sttour photoop on the Underground Railroad. A German Quaker family, the Johnsons were deeply involved in their community but also made efforts towards supporting the liberation of enslaved people. 

Guests on the tour during IDMS were taken on an hour-long tour where they saw where the Johnsons provided shelter underneath a trap door in the home or in the ice house, and even the window where a lit candle would signal for those seeking safety with the Underground Railroad that they could be under protection at this home. The Johnsons had an expansive amount of land that touched the Wissahickon River, so enslaved people would travel along the river to reach the home. The tour provides the opportunity for the public to realize the day to day circumstances of a family taking risks housing enslaved people as well as the manner in which enslaved people were protected and given shelter.

The final stop in Germantown was the Stenton Museum. Though a beautiful, well-preserved 18th century home, Stenton is a bit of a controversial site due to it being the former home of James Logan, secretary to William Penn and known slaveholder. In order to reframe what the museum celebrates about the home, the IDMS tours and new missions of the Stenton Museum focus on Dinah, an enslaved woman who saved the home from being burned by the British by diverting them from Stenton. Thanks to her heroic efforts, the architectural extravagance has been preserved ever since, and in April, Stenton celebrated Dinah Day to commemorate her liberation from slavery and revealed its new Dinah Memorial on the grounds. Visitors were able to see the new memorial as they toured Stenton for IDMS.

NHL Tours in North Philadelphia with GPA Event and Program Manager Gary Wooten 

Founder’s Hall at Girard College was another participating location for IDMS thanks to its partnership with Preservation Alliance, who helped increase accessibility for tours. Katherine Haas, Director of Historical Resources, led tours that showcased the amazing history of Girard College’s Greek architecture and the very strict and robust instructions on preservation and care left by Stephen Girard, the founder. Girard College is a staple in North Philadelphia, located within a highly populated residential district. The Eastern State Penitentiary, another National Historic Landmark, is located nearby in Fairmount. A fun fact from the tour was that the current location of Girard College used to be the rural suburbs of the city of Philadelphia, which is hard to imagine since the city has massively increased its urban footprint.

The Church of Saint James the Less and The Church of the Advocate offered opportunities to tour their grounds. Both churches showcased their historic architecture from the mid-to-late-19th century and on the burial grounds, the ornate headstones have a very clear European influence.

church of the advocate
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS PA,51-PHILA,734-2

Beginning at The Church of the Advocate, a tour was offered through the Diamond Street Historic Corridor and led by Judith Robinson. Judith shared that The Church of the Advocate welcomed African Americans and supported those engaged in civil rights activity during that tumultuous period in American history. Gary felt a special connection to the tour because he used to live on Diamond Street as a student at Temple University, and he got to learn about some of the architectural references for the buildings he was familiar with.

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia with GPA Intern Dana Persaud

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, originally established as a free library in 1814, now runs as a membershiptour photo library but partook in IDMS by offering special tours and displays for the public.  The curators arranged a collection from the Napoleon family, including a shaving set used by Joseph Bonaparte as well as a preserved, hand-drawn classical music sheet, and one of Joseph Bonaparte ornithology books. In addition, the Athenaeum had the member induction book on show for IDMS. This included the induction of General Lafayette, who was the only person to be brought to the Atheneum and inducted underneath the introduction of all members. This was a significant event, as most members are only introduced by one other current member of the Athenaeum. The Athenaeum also had the drafts of the Capitol dome construction on display, the showings of antique games, their statue of Pauline Bonaparte, and several collections by Philadelphia artists.

NHL Participation

The involvement of so many National Historic Landmarks was key to making IDMS 2024 so memorable and informative for the public.

Katherine Haas of Girard College shared, “Girard College offered special on-site architectural tours of Founder’s Hall, our National Historic Landmark building, which recently reopened after 18 months of renovation. Built in 1847 as the school’s classroom building, today, Founder’s Hall houses event space and a museum exploring the legacy of Stephen Girard, the monumental architecture of our campus, and the history and impact of our unique school. Partnering with Global Philadelphia on IDMS has been a great opportunity to reach new audiences that are interested in history and architecture and expand awareness about our resources.”

Founder's Hall Museum - Girard College

Girard College and other participating NHLs expressed their admiration for GPA’s organization of the IDMS events and were happy to take part in coming together to commemorate Philadelphia’s heritage. The NHLs across Philadelphia make our city unique and GPA is proud to draw attention to their significance and coordinate opportunities for the public to experience them.


idms 2024 photos

Community Development
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History and Preservation
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