Walnut St. Tour

Walnut Street Tour

Walnut Street, at Front Street

Walnut Street Tour

A stroll down Philadelphia's most consistently visually appealing road, Walnut Street. You can easily spend the day enjoying the architecture, sites, shops, and eateries of the street without special guidance from a tour text; however, here is one notable site within a half-block of each intersection you will pass.

Before the tour

If you're taking public transportation, also take the Market-Frankford line to 46th Street.

From the station, descend to the street and walk a block and a half east to 45th Street. Along the way, take a moment to admire the old WFIL Studios (now the Enterprise Center) where the television show "American Bandstand" was once broadcast, and perhaps read the Pennsylvania historical marker commemorating the site. Then, follow 45th Street south to Walnut Street to begin the tour.

Tour route


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View Walnut Street Tour in a larger map

Source note

Research for many of the stops on this tour involved use of the Philadelphia Buildings and Architects Database, at http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/

45th Street

St. Andrew's Methodist Church

St. Andrew Methodist Church was built at the northeast corner of 45th and Walnut around 1907, designed by architect Clarence Eaton Schermerhorn. It has since undergone several changes in occupation, reflective of the changing neighborhood, to 40th Street Methodist Episcopal Church, to Mt. Ephraim Tabernacle Baptist Church, to--since 1992--the headquarters for the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects.

44th Street

Felt Brothers bowling alley

On the north side of this block is a large building that the firm of Hodgens & Hill designed in 1928 as the Felt Bros. bowling alley. It too has undergone several changes since, and is now a Supreme Shop'n'Bag supermarket.

43rd Street

Commodore Theatre

In 1928, the Ballinger Company built the Commodore Theatre at the southeast corner of 43rd and Walnut, later known as the 43rd Street Theatre.

42nd Street

Restaurant School

Between 43rd and 42nd Street, on the north side of Walnut Street, is the Allison Mansion, originally built by architect Samuel Sloan around 1860 as the Barker Residence. A white building with a front portico, since 1974 the mansion has served as the primary home of the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, a nationally acclaimed culinary and hospitality educational institution.

41st Street

The Rotunda

The Rotunda, between 40th and 41st Street on the south side of Walnut, was built in 1911 as the home of the First Church of Christ Scientist. Designed by the firm Carrere and Hastings, and featuring a tile-roofed narthex, the Rotunda was purchased by the University of Pennsylvania in 1996 and has been managed by the Foundation Community Arts Initative since 1998, which uses it as a space for community-focused performing arts.

40th Street

Free Library of Philadelphia, Walnut Street West

The firm of Zantzinger & Borie designed the Walnut Street West branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which was built at the southeast corner of 40th and Walnut between 1904 and 1905. It is a "Carnegie library," constructed with funds donated by Pittsburgh steel tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

The library was closed down as structurally unsound in 1996, but underwent major renovations and since 2004 has again been an anchor to bustling 40th Street.

Food note: If you are looking for inexpensive breakfast or lunch options, there are many within a block of 40th and Walnut, in any direction but especially south or east.

39th Street

Fels Institute of Government

At the southeast corner of 39th and Walnut is the home of the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government, a graduate program in public management. It was built between 1907 and 1909 by Newman & Harris as the residence of Samuel S. Fels, a soap manufacturer and prominent Philadelphia philanthropist. Fels joined his brother's soap business in 1876, and was president of Fels & Co. from 1914 until his death in 1950. His charitable donations enabled construction of the Franklin Institute's Fels Planetarium in 1933 and the founding of the Fels Institute of Government in 1937.

38th Street

Wharton School

Jon M. Huntsman Hall, the 324,000-square-foot circular building at the southeast corner of 38th and Walnut, is the home of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the nation's oldest collegiate business school when founded by industralist Joseph Wharton in 1881. Kohn Pederson Fox Associates designed Huntsman Hall, which opened in August 2002 and cost $139.9 million.

37th Street

Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, at the southeast corner of 37th and Walnut, has been Penn's major performing arts facility since its founding in 1971. Its mission is to connect the university and regional audiences to "innovative human expression in theatre, music, and dance."

36th Street

Penn Bookstore

The 55,000-square-foot Penn Bookstore, opened in 1998, is the largest bookstore in Philadelphia. Affiliated with Barnes and Noble, and with a Starbucks cafe and a gift shop inside, the store has a catalog of over 80,000 books and is a major destination for Penn students, author tours, and city book lovers.

34th Street

Woodland Walk, toward Chestnut Street

Cutting through 34th and Walnut diagonally, from northeast to southwest, is the Woodland Walk, the major thoroughfare through Penn's campus as well as its connection to Drexel University (which centers around 33rd and Market) and University City's Market Street businesses. The trail is the remnant of the northeastern portion of Woodland Avenue, a street conceived by 1781 by William Hamilton, who inherited a 300-acre family estate along the Schuylkill (prurchased by his father Andrew Hamilton in 1735) and wanted a road that connected him to Market Street in the north and the preexisting Darby Road in the south (which previously ended at Gray's Ferry Road). Woodland Avenue (initially called Darby Road) was the result. Along the area where Penn's campus is now was once Hamilton Village, a town developed by Hamilton on his land and the first major settlement in Philadelphia county west of the Schuylkill. After 1821, Hamilton's heirs began to sell off much of the estate, leaving only the present-day cemetery (including Hamilton's 1788 mansion) by 1840. In 1844 the village became part of the new borough of West Philadelphia, which was consolidated into the city of Philadelphia in 1854.

33rd Street

Moore School Building and 33rd Street

At the southwest corner of 33rd and Walnut is the Moore School Building, the former home of the University of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Electrical Engineering (endowed by bequest of Alfred Fitler Moore) and the birthplace of the world's first electronic, large-scale, general-purpose digital computer, ENIAC, built between 1943 and 1946.

32nd Street

Class of 1923 Arena

Though 32nd Street goes under Walnut rather than meets it, nevertheless an interesting site stands at the southeast corner of the would-be intersection: The Class of 1923 Arena, the University of Pennsylvania's ice rink. In fact, it is the largest collegiate ice rink in the state, with a seating capacity of 2,900. It was built between 1968 and 1972, thanks to a $3.2 million donation from the "Friends of Pennsylvania Hockey" and the Penn Class of 1923.

It is the home of the Penn Quakers club ice hockey team (ice hockey was dropped as a varsity sport in 1978) and is also used for various amateur hockey leagues, figure skating events, lessons, and public skating from September through March. Comcast-Spectator operated the facility from 1981 to 1983, and the Philadelphia Flyers played here briefly during that time.

31st Street

World Cafe Live

A glance over the south side of the now-elevated Walnut Street reveals a small intersection below: Lower 31st Street and Lower Walnut Street. Much more interesting than this, though, is the building on the north side of the street, to the east of 31st: World Cafe Live. Since 2003, World Cafe Live is a live music venue, the studios and offices of a radio station (WXPN), and a restaurant and cafe, all located in an Art Deco factory building constructed around 1925 for the Hajoca Corporation but now owned by the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. The cafe's live music schedule and menus are usually posted outside the Walnut Street entrance.

30th Street

30th Street, toward old post office and Cira Centre

To the northeast of 30th and Walnut, between here and Market Street, are two full blocks that were owned by the U.S. Postal Service until 2007: The northern block, of course, is the site of the historic 30th Street Post Office building, which served as Philadelphia's main post office from its opening in 1935 until September 2008, when the post office opened a new building at the southwest corner of 30th and Chestnut.

In 2007, the postal service sold the land between Market and Walnut to the east of 30th Street to the University of Pennsylvania; Penn then sold the old post office building to Brandywine Realty Trust, who will be renting the facility to the Internal Revenue Service on a 20-year lease. Brandywine also leased the property between Chestnut and Walnut from Penn for 90 years, and will be constructing Cira South, a 2,400-space parking facility with some office, retail, and possible residential or lodging space. Penn also acquired 14 acres south of Walnut Street from the postal service, which it retains and will develop as open space, athletic fields, and a mix of academic, cultural, commercial, and residential buildings.

Schuylkill Avenue

Schuylkill River, facing north toward 30th Street Station and Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Schuylkill River is about 130 miles long, and originates in Schuylkill County in northeastern Pennsylvania. Its mouth is about seven miles south of here, where it merges with the Delaware River. It was named by Dutch navigator Arendt Corssen in the 17th century, and means "hidden creek."

A place for country estates (such as William Hamilton's Woodlands) and naturalist studies (such as botanist John Bartram's gardens about 2.3 miles south of here) in the 18th century, it became more vital to the city in the 19th. In 1812, architect Frederick Graff oversaw construction of the Fairmount Water Works, not far north of here, making Philadelphia the first city in the continent to provide fresh water as a public service. An engineering marvel, it pumped water from the river to a reservoir on top of the "Fair Mount" (where the Philadelphia Museum of Art is today) and from there it flowed to the rest of the city. The water works operated until 1911, and is today an interpretive museum. Industralization also reached the river: A canal was built a few miles north of here to serve the industries of the village of Manayunk; the Pennsylvania and Reading railroads built their tracks along the Schuylkill; and factories, for better or for worse, used its water both for power source and waste disposal. Fairmount Park was created in the 1860s as a way of protecting the river's drinking water from industral development. The 19th century also saw the rise of the river's most visible recreational activity, rowing: Boathouse Row, just north of the Water Works, hosts the nation's oldest rowing clubs; the river itself hosts the Dad Vail, the largest collegiate rowing event in the nation, every fall.

In the most recent century, the river has been largely cleaned of its Industrial Age pollution and its waterfront has been continually beautified, from the opening of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1925) and 30th Street Station (1933) to the present-day Schuylkill Banks development plan that is creating river trails, green space, and public water access through Center City and points south.

24th Street

Schuylkill River Trail, facing southeast toward Schuylkill River Park

As with 31st and 32nd streets farther west, 24th Street runs under Walnut rather than into it. The nearest site of interest likewise runs under the Walnut Street Bridge: the Schuylkill River Trail.

Part of the Schuylkill Banks development plan, the Center City portion of the Schuylkill River Trail follows the river from the Fairmount Water Works to Locust Street; from there the trail connects to Schuylkill River Park, which stretches from Locust to Lombard streets. In the daytime the trail is in constant use from bikers, joggers, strollers, and those bound for the small Walnut Street dock for a cruise on a "River Tour" or pleasure boat.

The Schuylkill River Trail continues north through Fairmount Park and all the way to Valley Forge. The plan is for trails to eventually reach south all the way to Fort Mifflin, at the river's mouth.

23rd Street

Walnut Bridge Coffeehouse

The first Walnut Street Bridge was constructed in 1893, altering the 2300 block of Walnut from one based at street level to one with second-floor front doors. One business where this unique situation is evident is the Walnut Street Coffeehouse, at 2319 Walnut Street. The coffeehouse opened in 2005, in a building constructed by 1915 according to city records. Though 2319 Walnut St. doesn't actually exist as an official city address; the building's true address is 151 S. 24th St. But a business based under a bridge is not likely to get quite the foot traffic of one on top!

The old Walnut Street Bridge, incidentally, was largely replaced in 1991, but the original concrete piers remain.

22nd Street

WPEN Studios

On the south side of the 2200 block is the studios of WPEN, one of Philadelphia's oldest radio stations. Debuting in 1929, the station began by carrying radio comedies, dramas, news, and variety shows, before moving largely into popular music in the 1940s. WPEN helped pioneer talk radio in the 1950s with a late-night, live-audience program hosted by Steve Allison and broadcast from the Ranch Room, a restaurant that used to operate on the ground floor of the building. It aired from 11:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., and also featured Allison taking telephone calls from listeners.

WPEN chose not to play rock and roll music when that genre gained popularity in the late 1950s, leading it toward a soft pop and later oldies/standards ("Station of the Stars") playlist more or less through 2005, when it became an ESPN sports radio station.

21st Street

John Wanamaker House

On the south side of Walnut, to the east of 21st Street, is the facade of the John Wanamaker House (2032 Walnut St.), the former home of Philadelphia's department store king.

Designed by Theophilus Parsons Chandler, Jr., in the Jacobean Revival style, the house was completed in 1883 and first resided in by sugar magnate John P. Scott. John Wanamaker, who opened his first small clothing store at 6th and Market in 1861 and the first true "department store" at an old freight station ("The Grand Depot," he called it) at 13th and Market in 1877, bought the house in 1894 and lived here until his death in 1922.

A fire damaged the house in 1978 and much of it was demolished in 1981; however, the facade was saved and incorporated into the neighboring 32-floor John Wanamaker House apartment building (now a 333-unit luxury condominium).

20th Street

19th-century Walnut Street residences, between 20th and 21st Streets, north side

This block is the heart of the Walnut-Chancellor Historic District, a 19th-century residential neighborhood. In the 1820s, when Rittenhouse Square was first laid out, the surrounding land was primarily occupied by brickyards and mills; the few homes were rural enough for barns and outhouses. The neighborhood grew quickly, however, and by the 1850s the western end of Walnut Street was already becoming a fashionable destination for the city's upper class. At 20th and Walnut once stood the mansions of Henry C. Lea (at the southeast corner) and Edward T. Stotesbury (at the northeast corner); Walter Lippincott lived a block away at the northwest corner of 21st and Walnut, near John Wanamaker's house. Chancellor Street, the alley to the south of Walnut, became the location of the wealthy's carriage houses, as well as the homes of servants and their families. The townhouses that survive date from the 1870s to the 1920s; many are in the Anglo-Italianate style.

19th Street

Church of the Holy Trinity

The Church of the Holy Trinity dedicated its Norman-style building at the southwest corner of 19th and Walnut on Easter 1859; it was designed by Scottish-born architect John Knotman.

The Rev. Phillips Brooks was the second rector of the Episcopal church's parish, serving from 1862 to 1869. He helped lead the Episcopal Church's response to the Civil War, and most notably wrote the lyrics to "O Little Town of Bethlehem" in 1868, the first Christmas carol written by someone born in the United States. Parish organist Lewis Redner composed the tune.

18th Street

Rittenhouse Square in the spring

Bordering the 1800 block of Walnut Street to the south is Rittenhouse Square, one of the original public squares planned for Philadelphia by William Penn but which didn't really get developed until the early 19th century. Residents loaned the city funds in 1816 to build a fence around "Southwest Square," which was renamed for prominent 18th-century astronomer David Rittenhouse in 1825. As the residential neighborhood around the park improved, so too did the square itself, with walkways and fountains by the 1850s (though the fountains turned the walkways into mud and had to be removed).

In 1913 French architect Paul Philippe Cret laid out the square's current design. The square features several sculptures, most prominently an 1890 bronze cast of "Lion Crushing a Serpent," originally sculpted by Antoine-Louis Barye in 1832 and symbolizing the triumph of good over evil in the French Revolution of 1830; and the "Duck Girl," a 1911 bronze statue by Paul Manship of a young girl carrying a duck under one arm.

17th Street

Latham Hotel

In the 19th century the northeast corner of 17th and Walnut was the home of William Bucknell, a Philadelphia philanthropist and founder of Bucknell University. In 1907, the current 14-story building was constructed, opened in 1915 as Latham Apartment House. In building was converted into a European-style boutique hotel in the late 1960s, opening in August 1970.

16th Street

Sun Oil Building

You are now at the heart of Rittenhouse Row, Philadelphia's primary upscale shopping district; you are two blocks east of Rittenhouse Square, two blocks west of Broad Street, and one block south of the Shops at Liberty Place, the neighborhood's indoor mall. Besides the boutiques and restaurants, however, the other most notable nearby sight is the Sun Oil Building, on the south side of the 1600 block of Walnut. This 19-story Art Deco office building (which today has a City Sports sporting goods store on the first floor) was designed by the firm of Tilden, Register & Pepper and constructed between 1928 and 1930 as the headquarters of Sun Oil, the largest oil company in the state where the oil industry was born. Originating in 1886 as an Ohio offshoot of the Peoples Natural Gas Company of Pittsburgh, it was named the Sun Oil Company of Ohio in 1890. In 1901 the company was incorporated in New Jersey as the Sun Company and opened an 82-acre refinery in Marcus Hook, Pa., where it began to acquire oil by tanker from Texas. Sun opened its first service station in 1920 in the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore, Pa.; by the 1950s these stations were given the name of Sunoco. Sun Oil renamed itself Sunoco officially in 1998.

15th Street

Drexel Building

Austrian-born Francis Drexel immigrated to America in 1817; in 1837 he founded Drexel & Company, a brokerage firm. Upon his death in 1863, his son Anthony took over the company. Anthony J. Drexel transformed the business into an investment banking house and became one of Philadelphia's most prominent financiers; in the 1880s he built the Drexel Building at the southeast corner of 5th and Chestnut, a half-block east of Independence Hall and on the block then known as "Bank Row"; for a while it was the home of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. However, in a few decades the city's financial district had moved west. The stock exchange had a new headquarters constructed at 1409-1411 Walnut St. in 1911. Drexel & Company, now under the leadership of Edward T. Stokesbury (Anthony Drexel died in 1893, two years after founding the institute that today is Drexel University), soon followed suit. Between 1925 and 1927 they built a new, granite and iron bank building here, at the northeast corner of 15th and Walnut, designed in the Romanesque style by the firm of Day & Klauder.

The 15th Street side features two lanterns made by Philadelphia's Samuel Yellin Iron Works. The bank was converted into commercial space in 1980; today the first floor of the Drexel Building (the old 5th & Chestnut version was demolished in 1959) hosts a Bally Total Fitness Center.

Broad Street

The Bellevue

At the southwest corner of Broad and Walnut is the massive Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, built by George C. Boldt, the manager of New York's famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The architectural firm of brothers G.W. & W.D. Hewitt constructed the hotel in the French Renaissance style between 1902 and 1904. It features a two-tiered ballroom with light fixtures by Thomas Edison, stained glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and a cast-iron circular staircase. Guests have included every U.S. president since Theodore Roosvelt, J.P. Morgan, William Jennings Bryan, Bob Hope, John Wayne, Katherine Hepburn, and the Vanderbilts. Though the Bellevue was sold in 1976, part of the building is still a hotel today, the Park Hyatt; the rest is office and retail space, including a food court on the ground floor.

13th Street

Philadelphia Club

The mansion at the northwest corner of 13th and Walnut was built for Thomas Butler in 1837, back when this was the suburbs of the city. It was designed by William Strickland, the architect of two of Old City's most architecturally impressive structures, the Second Bank of the United States and the Merchants' Exchange. By 1850 it found itself in the center of Philadelphia's development and thus--happily for its continued survival--became the new home of the Philadelphia Club, the oldest social club in the city.

George Cadwalader, a member of one of Philadelphia's richest families who became the city's leading jockey as well as an avid fan of yachts and duck hunts, helped organize the club in 1834. It was a men's club, with members from some of Philadelphia's most prominent families: Norris, Ingersoll, Biddle, Chancellor, Scott, and others. In its early years its members primarily lived to the east of Washington Square, between Market and Spruce, and so the club met at various locations in that Society Hill/Washington Square neighborhood (5th & Walnut, 9th & Spruce, 9th & Walnut). By the mid-19th century, high society had moved farther west; most now lived between Rittenhouse and Washington squares (though still mostly between Market and Spruce). So the club--then known as the Philadelphia Association and Reading-Room--acquired this house here in 1850. Later that year they adopted the name of the Philadelphia Club.

Perhaps the most notable member in the years following the Civil War was Philadelphia native Gen. George G. Meade, the victorious commander at the Battle of Gettysburg.

As befits such a club, when they wanted renovations on their clubhouse they got the best: the firm of Frank Furness renovated their billiard room and other parts of the building from 1888 to 1889; "House & Garden" magazine founder Wilson Eyre Jr. redesigned the interior in 1898; Horace Trumbauer, future architect of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, worked on alterations between 1905 and 1908.

The Philadelphia Club, now at 400 members, remains all-male; however, a female equivalent, the 750-member Acorn Club, has existed since 1889 and is currently based at 1519 Locust Street. According to Philadelphia Magazine, popular foods at the clubs include ham-and-veal pie (Philadelphia Club) and creme brulee (Acorn Club).

12th Street

Beasley Building

The most interesting building at this intersection is the Beasley Building, on the northwest corner. Built in 1894 by architects Baily & Truscott in 1894 for the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, the Gothic-style structure was originally known as the Episcopal Church House and later the Protestant Diocesan House of the Protepise Church. Today the brick and limestone structure is the home of the Beasley Firm, a prominent Philadelphia law practice.

Food note: At 12th Street, you are within a few blocks of many of the best inexpensive lunch or dinner options in the city: most notably Reading Terminal Market, three blocks north at 12th and Arch.

11th Street

Forrest Theatre

Besides the food, the site that really makes the 1100 block of Walnut a destination is the Forrest Theatre, on the south side of Walnut.

The original Forrest Theatre, named for early 19th-century Philadelphia actor Edwin Forrest, stood at Broad and Sansom but was demolished in the early 20th century to make way for the massive headquarters of Fidelity Bank (today Wachovia). The Shubert brothers, who controlled 43 theatres in New York and booked shows at over a thousand theatres across the country, had the new Forrest Theatre built here by architect Herbert J. Krapp between 1927 and 1928. Its first show was "The Red Robe" starring Walter Woolf and Evelyn Herbert.

Today, the theatre is one of Philadelphia's two major venues for touring Broadway productions (the Academy of Music on Broad Street is the other); its schedule can be found on their website or inside the Walnut Street box office.

10th Street

Thomas Jefferson University

You are now near the center of the campus of Thomas Jefferson University, the institution with more living graduates than any other medical school in the nation.

Dr. George McClellan (father of the Civil War general and presidential candidate) organized the founding of Jefferson Medical College in 1824 at the old Tivoli Theater at 10th and Prune (today Sansom), a half-block north of here. The school did not have any connection to Thomas Jefferson, but rather started as the Department of Medicine of Jefferson College, located in Canonsburg, Pa.

The medical college (which became an independent institution in 1838) soon expanded from medical instruction into actual service, opening an infirmary to treat the poor in 1825, providing patient beds over a shop in 1844, and finally opening a 125-bed hospital in 1877. It became one of the first hospitals in the country to be affiliated with a medical school. The hospital's current Main Building was built in 1907, still at 10th and Sansom. In 1969, Thomas Jefferson University was organized, now comprised of Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and several other schools and colleges.

Here on Walnut Street, between 10th and 11th, are a few of the most important and impressive sites on campus: On the north side of the block, the Medical College and Curtis Buildings, opened 1929 and 1931; on the south side, the Scott Memorial Library, opened 1970, and the 1975 bronze Henry Mitchell sculpture, the "Winged Ox of Saint Luke," adopted by the university as a symbol of clinical excellence. on the south side of the library is Alexander Calder's 1897 statue of Samuel D. Gross (built for the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C., but acquired and moved here in 1970), perhaps Jefferson's most famous alumnus (1828) and faculty member, as well as the largest green space on campus.

9th Street

Walnut Street Theatre

The Walnut Street Theatre, at the northeast corner of this intersection, is the oldest surviving theatre in the United States. It opened on February 2, 1809, as an equestrian circus, but converted to a "legitimate" theatre in 1812. President Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette attended its opening night, a production of "The Rivals."

In 1828, John Haviland, later architect of Eastern State Peniteniary, designed the theatre's current facade. (The interior has been gutted and renovated several times since, but the exterior remains largely the same as in 1828.)

Early actors to appear here include Edwin Forrest, perhaps the most famous actor of the 19th century, who made his professional debut here in 1820 at the age of 14; Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes Booth, who bought the theatre in 1863; and in the early 20th century, George M. Cohan, the Barrymores, Will Rogers, the Marx Brothers, and Katharine Hepburn. In the 1940s, the theatre hosted pre-Broadway tryouts of such plays as "A Streetcar Named Desire" with Marlon Brando, "A Raisin in the Sun" with Sidney Poitier, and "Mister Roberts" with Henry Fonda.

8th Street

Jewelers' Row

A half-block north of 8th and Walnut is Sansom Street, a rather historic alley that today is known as Jewelers' Row, the center of that craft in Philadelphia.

William Sansom purchased the land between 7th and 8th Streets in 1799, divided it in half with the street that bears his name, and had architect William Carstairs build a row of homes in the same style, as a speculative development to be sold later. When completed by 1820, it was known at first as Carstairs' Row in honor of its designer. Such a real estate scheme had not been done before in the United States; thus, Sansom and Carstairs are credited with erecting the first rowhouses in America on the southern side of this block. Most have been remodeled or replaced since then; only 700 Sansom Street's exterior survives intact.

7th Street

Washington Square in the fall

On the south side of Walnut between 6th and 7th Streets is Washington Square. Like Rittenhouse, it was one of the public squares designed for the city by William Penn in 1682. Unlike Rittenhouse, the "Southeast Square" was put to use by rather early; by 1704 it had become a "potter's field" or public burial ground (for those with no churchyard in which to be buried), though the square also had a small stream in which boys would catch crayfish as late as the 1740s.

The Walnut Street Jail was built at the southeast corner of 6th and Walnut in the 1770s, making the square a particularly useful burial ground for deceased prisoners and--during the American Revolution--prisoners of war. The square likely holds the remains of both British and American soldiers, but is especially remembered for the American prisoners who were buried here during the British occupation of Philadelphia in the winter of 1777-78. They mostly did not die of obvious causes such as starvation or frostbite, but rather of neglect and disease.

The square also holds the remains of many victims of Philadelphia's most deadly disease, the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. About 10% of the city's population--around 4,000 or 5,000 people--died between August and November.

Burials stopped in 1794. By 1816, the city constructed a public walk through the square and began to plant trees; within a few decades architect Andrew Jackson Downing called it a "really admirable city arboretum," a quality the square still maintains. In 1825, it was named for George Washington; in 1957, a bronze Jean Antoine Houdon sculpture of Washington was added to the square as part of a memorial, designed by architect G. Edwin Brumbaugh, holding the remains of a disinterred Revolutionary War soldier: the Tomb of the Uknown Soldier of the American Revolution.

6th Street

The Dream Garden, in the 6th Street lobby of the Curtis Center

At the northwest corner of 6th and Walnut is the Curtis Center, built by E.V. Seeler in 1910 as the home of the Curtis Publishing Company. Cyrus Curtis founded the company in 1891 to publish several magazines he owned, most notably Ladies Home Journal, founded by his wife Louisa Knapp Curtis in 1883. In 1897, Curtis acquired The Saturday Evening Post and turned it into the most popular American magazine of the early 20th century. The company also published popular children's magazine Jack and Jill starting in 1938.

In the 6th Street lobby is an early example of public art: a 1916 glass mosaic from the studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany called "The Dream Garden," based on a work by artist Maxfield Parrish. It features over 100,000 pieces of hand-fired glass, in 260 colors.

5th Street

Independence Square

On the north side of the 500 block of Walnut Street is Independence Square, home of the birthplace of the United States: Independence Hall.

In 1730, William Allen and Andrew Hamilton bought a little over half of this block on behalf of Pennsylvania's colonial assembly for the purpose of erecting a state house; title to the land passed to the province in 1739. From the start, the land was called the State House Yard.

The Pennsylvania State House was built between 1732 and 1753. In 1775, the Second Continental Congress began meeting here; that year they adopted the militia gathered outside of Boston as the Continental Army and appointed delegate George Washington of Virginia as its commander-in-chief. On July 2, 1776, the congress passed a resolution declaring American independence, and approved the formal document--the Declaration of Independence--two days later. The first public reading of the document occurred in the square on July 8.

In 1787, the state house hosted the Constitutional Convention, which debated and drafted the U.S. Constitution. In the 1790s, Philadelphia became the capital of the young federal government and the square hosted its legislative and judicial branches in Congress Hall (built 1791) and Old City Hall (built 1789 after the city outgrew its original town hall, which had been built in the middle of Market Street, just west of 2nd, in 1708).

In 1816, the state of Pennsylvania--which was then in the process of moving to Harrisburg--vested the state-house grounds (which by then encompassed the whole block) to the City of Philadelphia, and declared that "the same should remain a public and green walk forever." And so it has. It was named Independence Square in 1825. Other than a 1907 statue of Commodore John Barry, and with the help of some 1950s-60s restoration work by the National Park Service, the square still resembles its late 18th-century appearance.

4th Street

Kitchen of Todd House

The modest townhouse at the northeast corner of 4th and Market was built in 1775 by the Carpenters' Company, which operated out of nearby Carpenters' Hall. By the 1790s it was the residence of middle-class lawyer John Todd and his wife Dolley Payne. During the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, John Todd remained in the city--rather than flee to the country as many did--to help settle wills and estates, but contracted the disease himself and died in October. Dolley's younger sisters Lucy and Anna Payne helped the widow with child care and economic support; it is this period that the National Park Service recreates and interprets in their tours of the house today. Soon after, Dolley met Senator James Madison of Virginia, and the two married in 1794. They moved to Washington with the rest of the federal government in 1800, and essentially created the role of First Lady as presidential hostess during the terms of the widowed Thomas Jefferson, 1801-09, and her husband, 1809-17.

The house, and the impressive upper-class home of the Bishop William White near the eastern end of the block (featuring an indoor toilet and a gas lamp, two uncommon innovations in 18th-century residences), are available for tour through the park service by signing up at the Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market.

3rd Street

First Bank of the United States

A half-block north of 3rd and Market, on the west side of the street, is the First Bank of the United States building. The First Bank, the idea of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and authorized by Congress in 1791, had its home constructed here between 1795 and 1797 from the design of Samuel Blodget, an amateur architect who was also a Revolutionary War militia veteran, a merchant in the China trade, and a cofounder of the nation's first stock-issuing marine insurance company, the Insurance Company of North America, in 1792. This was the first U.S. federal government building designed in the classical style, an architectural decision by Blodget that continues to influence the landscape of Washington, D.C., today. The bank's charter expired in 1811; for years afterward the building was home to the private bank started by wealthy Philadelphia merchant Stephen Girard, before returning to the control of the city and then federal government in the 20th century. Owned by the National Park Service today, it is not currently open to the public but is the future home of the Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum of Philadelphia.

Dock Street

Merchants' Exchange

Dock Street is the remnant of Dock Creek, a stream that emptied into the Delaware River at Front Street and where William Penn first landed in his planned city in 1682. It became the site of Philadelphia's earliest industries and thus also became its first sewer; the city had the soon over-polluted waterway gradually covered by Dock Street in the mid-18th century.

At the northwest corner of Dock and Walnut is the Merchants' Exchange, considered the oldest stock exchange building in the United States. Designed by William Strickland and built between 1832 and 1834 through funds raised by Stephen Girard and others, the majestic Greek Revival structure housed the city's stock exchange for much of the 19th century, as well as other important functions such as the city board of trade, the post office, and a library. The main trading room, inside the semi-circular portico, featured a mosaic floor, frescoed walls, marble columns, and a domed, frescoed ceiling. Unfortunately, the building has been gutted and renovated several times since, and retains none of the original interior splendor. It is now used for National Park Service offices, though there is a small display room next to the main 3rd Street lobby.

2nd Street

Welcome Park

A half-block north of 2nd and Walnut, on the east, is Welcome Park, the site of William Penn's residence for portions of 1700 and 1701. Penn only lived in his colony of Pennsylvania and his "greene countrie towne" of Philadelphia for two short periods: 1682 to 1684, and 1699 to 1701. During this latter stay, prominent citizen Samuel Carpenter--who built the village's first wharf in 1685--let Penn use his home here, called the Slate Roof House, during the proprietor's stays in Philadelphia. the house stood until 1867, when it was torn down to make way for the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce building. Ironically, when that building was torn down itself in the 1970s, it was soon replaced by...Welcome Park, in 1982, commemorating the very house that the Chamber of Commerce originally displaced.

The quiet Welcome Park features a statue of Penn, a model of the Slate Roof House, a recreation of Thomas Holme's famous 1682 map of Philadelphia, a timeline on Penn's life, and several trees and benches.

Front Street

Independence Seaport Museum

You have now reached Front Street, and the eastern end of Walnut Street. To the east is the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge to Penn's Landing, the idea of city planner Edmund Bacon in 1960 after Philadelphia's Center City waterfront had reached the end of its productive commercial and industrial use. Today, though awkwardly separated from the rest of the city by Interstate 95, the area features many public festivals and concerts in the summer, an ice rink in the winter, a ferry to the Camden waterfront in New Jersey, the Moshulu restaurant ship, the Spirit of Philadelphia cruise ship, and the Independence Seaport Museum, which interprets Philadelphia's maritime history and culture and also preserves two historic ships, the USS BECUNA--a World War II and early Cold War submarine--and the USS OLYMPIA, Admiral George Dewey's flagship during the 1898 Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American War and which also brough Arlington National Cemetery's "Unknown Soldier" back from France after World War I.

Food note: Upon reaching the end of the tour, you may wish to get a nice dinner at one of Old City's many restuarants. Most can be found either along Market Street (east of 4th Street) or along 2nd or 3rd Streets (north of Walnut). Or, if you prefer dessert, try the Franklin Fountain, a pseudo-turn-of-the-century ice cream parlor on Market Street between Front and 2nd.

After the tour

If you parked, you should be very near the Penn's Landing parking lot or 2nd Street parking garage at which you started. The nearest public transporation options are either the 2nd Street stop of the Market-Frankford Line, at 2nd and Market, or either Bus 21 or Bus 42, both of which park on the loop between Chestnut Street and Market Street, near the entrance to the Great Plaza, before they begin their westward route.

Sources:

Holiday Tour Immigration Tour Walnut St. Tour