There’s Always More to Explore in Philadelphia


WAITING FOR MEN… that’s how I spent much of the past week, camped out in a vacant apartment in Philadelphia, planning a renovation there (I own two 19th century row houses in Philly).

In between appointments with contractors, the appliance repair guy, the HVAC guy and 1-800 GOT JUNK, I made forays to the hardware store or in search of a meal, and each time took a different route.

I saw houses like the yellow-shuttered charmer, below and top, on Queen Street in Queen Village, with all the Colonial hallmarks: dormer window, fanlight over the door, steeply pitched roof and brick set in Flemish bond.


The wood frame house, below, a rarity in Philadelphia (most of them burned long ago), was new to me.


I passed through serene Mario Lanza Park, below (named for the beloved opera singer who grew up nearby). I hadn’t been there in some time, and was relieved to find that one of my favorite Philadelphia murals, featuring a large weeping willow, is still there on the side wall of a building.


From there I made my way to Gloria Dei, or Old Swedes’ Church, and its peaceful churchyard (if you allow the roar of I-95 to become a sort of celestial hum).

Built 1698-1700 by Swedish settlers, it’s the oldest church building in Pennsylvania and among the oldest in the country. Its architecture and interior are very plain, much to my liking.


I had to see the Sparks Shot Tower, below, at Front and Carpenter Streets. It’s not a smokestack; it was built to make ammunition for the War of 1812 (they cooled molten balls of metal by dropping them from the top). It’s still there, to no purpose (but historic).


Since my reno is starting soon, I had to move out of the vacant apartment myself yesterday (just as well, since my air mattress was starting to need topping up at least once in the middle of each night).

A friend from England had asked me to photograph a painting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, below, so that’s where I found myself on my final afternoon in town, taking in the fabulous Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism 1910-1950 exhibition that’s on until January 8.


My Philadelphia story is not over. I’ll be returning frequently over the next few weeks to check on the progress of this renovation, which will turn a one-bedroom apartment into a duplex, incorporating space at the top of the house that has been sealed off for decades.

6 thoughts on “There’s Always More to Explore in Philadelphia

  1. Loved Philadelphia when I visited from Australia. Look forward to seeing the progress of your renovations.

  2. Casa cara is always a welcome sight in my inbox!
    You always find the gems wherever you go.

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