There is no escaping the legacy of Ben Franklin in Philadelphia and Franklin Court is ground zero for a pilgrimage. Home to the Franklin Museum (one of the rare Park Service facilities that charge admission, but a pretty cool layout – organizing the exhibits based on his character traits rather than the more traditional time-line or major events layouts), a recreated print shop with working printing press (cool souvenirs), a working post office (get your mail cancelled with a “b free” stamp)’ his privy pit (Ben Franklin’s Toilet) AND the Ghost House. The original home where Franklin died was torn down in 1812 and the small street was then filled with row houses containing shops. The area was later acquired by the Park Service, who removed the row houses and chose to commemorate the site with this open-air memorial, rather than build a reconstruction (as they did with the Declaration House). Note: The passageway in the background leading from Market Street is the original passageway that Franklin took to reach his house.
The site has several parts: the open air structure showing the dimensions and location of Franklin’s house, these weird, 70’s style concrete bunkers housing archaeological remnants of the original house and excerpts from letters written by Franklin, Deborah, and contemporaries describing the house. I think these quotes really capture the personality of Franklin. The quotes from his contemporaries show the high esteem he was held in and how impressed people were with his inventions and accomplishments. However, they also show off how much of a jerk he was to his wife (actually common- law wife – after Franklin deserted her the first time, her parents “encouraged” her to marry a man who turned out to be a gold digger who ended up deserting her, so she was never able to officially re-marry). Franklin was in England during the time the house was being built and his letters to Debra were full of bossy instructions and demeaning comments. During these 11 years he was in England, Franklin left Deborah in charge of his businesses (and raising their children – including his illegitimate son from another relationship) while he acted as the Colony of Pennsylvania’s representative, refusing to return despite the fact that he had completed his diplomatic mission, Deborah’s poor health (several strokes and depression) and her pleadings for him to visit. She died in 1774, 5 months before he eventually returned to Philadelphia (probably because he had to take care of his businesses – and his election as delegate to the Second Continental Congress).
Field Trips: The Park Service offers several field trips. These low cost trips focus on a variety of topics, including the Underground Railway, Symbolism of the Liberty Bell, Archaeology and (the most fun) Ben Franklin’s Inventions (the kids can work hand’s on with a variety of inventions and objects from Franklin’s life, including: a glass armonica, bi-focals, typesetting, etc.). Free tickets for Independence Hall are included with your class.
Location: Old City. Free, open 9:00am – dusk