There were three things we really wanted to visit on our day trip to Philadelphia, PA: The US Mint, the Liberty Bell, and Franklin Court (mostly to see the printing press exhibit / demonstration). In fact, that was the order of importance, as well. Still, I’d sold the printing press so well that even when we got done with the Liberty Bell about the time we’d wanted to start thinking about leaving the city, we still headed down Chestnut Street to Franklin Court.
And oh, was it worth it. In fact, next to the Mint, Franklin Court was the highlight of the day!
We came in through the alley from Chestnut Street, so our first exhibit was where Benjamin Franklin’s house used to be. The house itself was torn down in the early 1800s, but archeological evidence remains, conveniently visible under glass display cases – pieces of walls, part of the brick kitchen floor, the cistern that was once part of Franklin’s (ahem) *toilet* system, etc. There’s also a steel frame that shows how big the house would have been (tiny by today’s standards, but quite large for back then), and there’s plenty of quotes about the house and Franklin to keep you occupied for a few minutes, at least!
We were in a bit of a hurry (ok, we were racing against the clock), so we glanced at the exhibits, skipped the Franklin Museum (fee charged – that’s really why we didn’t do it), then went over to the Print Shop (it’s pretty well signed, but if you can’t find it, go to the left of the post office). When we walked in, the printer was in the middle of a demonstration for a very large school group, but we waited patiently for about 5 minutes, and the group left. Then the printer said he’d be glad to do another demonstration for those of us who’d arrived a bit late. Yes!!!
The printing demonstration really was fascinating. It only took about 10 minutes overall, and the printer talked the entire time about what he was doing and how it would have been done in the 1700s when Ben Franklin ran the shop (the print shop is a reconstruction, but it’s pretty authentic). After the demonstration, the printer was more than happy to answer any question that might be asked. The best part was that he really knew what he was talking about – no confused looks and “that-wasn’t-in-the-training-manual” answers!
Also in the print shop is a bindery and a newspaper shop – quite cool!
Now we were really late, but as a last hoorah we wandered (or raced) into the post office. This was the very first post office in the US, started by (you guessed it) Benjamin Franklin. Today, there are some displays on stamps, etc. You can also mail letters and packages, hand cancelled with a reproduction of the same stamp Ben Franklin used (with today’s date, of course). I didn’t have anything to mail, but the post office worker cheerfully stamped a piece of paper for me, instead!
As a crowning touch, we went out the front door onto Market Street. Walking left a short distance is an original entry to Benjamin Franklin’s house (he really did go through it!) and a few signs with Ben’s name on it. What an awesome way to live history!
Walking Length: Depends on where you parked – within Franklin Court, you’re talking less than 0.5 miles. The site is more or less wheelchair accessible.
Time needed: You could easy rush through in about 5 minutes, assuming you can actually walk through the printing press display. I’d recommend 20 minutes to at least glance at the displays and take in a printing press demonstration.
Hours: 9am to 5pm in the fall and winter. Summer hours may be longer. Bindery opens at 10am; last demonstration is at 4:30pm. Check http://www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/hours.htm for current hours. Closed Christmas Day; restricted hours on other holidays. The link above will tell of any current or upcoming closures.
.Fees: None unless you go to the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
Walking Difficulty (Not difficult at all)
Road to the attraction
Price for value
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
Getting to Franklin Court
From I-95 S: Take Exit 22 toward US-30 E / Independence Hall. After 0.6 miles, turn right onto Callowhill Street for 0.2 miles. Turn left onto N 4th Street for 0.4 miles, then turn right onto Arch Street. Turn right onto the first cross street onto N 5th Street / N Independence Mall E. After a mere 305 ft., take a slight right onto N 5th Street, with the US Mint on the right. Continue 0.2 miles, turn left onto Market Street, and go 0.1 miles to Franklin Court (marked by the US Post Office). If you want to enter from Chestnut Street, continue on N Independence Mall E one more block, then turn left on Chestnut Street for 0.1 miles and enter through the alley with a sign pointing toward Franklin Court. If coming from the exit from the Liberty Bell Center, turn left, cross N Independence Mall E and follow the Chestnut Street directions to Franklin Court.
From I-95 N: Take Exit 22 toward US-30 E / Independence Hall. After 0.7 miles, use the left lane to merge onto Callowhill Street for 259 ft. Turn left on N 4th Street. After 0.4 miles, turn right on Arch Street and (472 ft. later) turn right onto the first cross street (N 5th Street / N Independence Mall E). After 305 ft., take a slight right onto N 5th Street; the US Mint will be on the right. Continue 0.2 miles turn left onto Market Street, and go 0.1 miles to Franklin Court (marked by the US Post Office). If you want to enter from Chestnut Street, continue on N Independence Mall E one more block, then turn left on Chestnut Street for 0.1 miles and enter through the alley with a sign pointing toward Franklin Court. If coming from the exit from the Liberty Bell Center, turn left, cross N Independence Mall E and follow the Chestnut Street directions to Franklin Court.
There’s no parking outside Franklin Court, and certainly nothing free. We found some parking just north of Chinatown, but there’s probably something you could pay for a whole lot closer. If you’re walking, keep following the signs on the street corners; they’ll get you to Franklin Court quite a bit faster than I could by telling you how to do it. When in doubt, follow the signs to the Liberty Bell, and from there it’s not hard to walk to Franklin Court.
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Mon Sep 25
Mostly cloudy. Lows overnight in the upper 60s.
Tue Sep 26
Cloudy early with partial sunshine expected late. High 84F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph.
Wed Sep 27
Intervals of clouds and sunshine. High around 85F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph.
Thu Sep 28
A mainly sunny sky. High 79F. Winds NNW at 10 to 20 mph.
Fri Sep 29
Sunny skies. High around 75F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.