just wrong.

Things I cannot accept is like the above. This is the tomb of the unknown soldier and a monument to Washington in Washington Square Park in Philadelphia. This is destruction that’s divisive. This location was actually one of the five original ideas for public parks/spaces drawn up by William Penn in his plans for Philadelphia.

As per USHistory.org this park at first wasn’t used as a park. It was used as a potter’s field. This started around 1706 and apparently continued for many decades.

By 1778 Washington Square was one of the last barracks for the thousands of soldiers who died in Philadelphia. It has been remarked by historians that while a lot of battles did not take place within the city a lot of dying of soldiers did. And these are the soldiers who were fighting for the freedoms that we enjoy today including our rights to assemble and protest.

📌“Those wounded in nearby battles, or those sick with disease would be brought to Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Hospital and the Bettering House for the Poor filled quickly. Churches became ad-hoc hospitals. And during the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777, the Walnut Street Jail became a Dantesque vision of hell...In 1793, the square once again served as a mass graveyard — this time for wracked, malodorous victims of the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic. Philadelphia was literally decimated by this epidemic: about 5,000 of Philadelphia’s 50,000 residents were taken by the Aedes mosquito. 📌- USHistory.org

Into the 19th century, Washington Square stopped functioning as a cemetery and people started to look to make it what it was originally intended to be -a town square and park. 1825 it was renamed in the honor of George Washington who was the commander-in-chief of all those soldiers who laid buried underground in unmarked graves.

In 1954 a committee was formed for the betterment of Washington Square. apparently they did archaeological excavations and that is how they found their unknown soldier.

The tomb and monument were built and the statue of George Washington is a replica of Jean Antoine Houdon’s famous bronze sculpture of Washington. Sculpture was placed so that George Washington can forever gaze upon Independence Hall.

This memorial has many things carved into marble like “Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness”. There is an eternal flame, and on the tomb of the unknown soldier we were taught a school children what it said: “Beneath this stone rests a soldier of Washington’s army who died to give you liberty.

I was born in 1964 and this park was 10 years old at the time. I spent a lot of my young years going with my mother and my father and then my baby sister to this park. Lots of kids were in this park and we were all representative of different races, creeds, and colors. We respected the history of this hallowed ground.

When I was little they were always things going on in this park. There were amazing used book sales and plant sales. I remember my mother filling up our little grocery shopping cart with bags of books one year!

I have lots of very distinct memories throughout the years of this park. And I’ve always known and respected the history. Until this recent defacing of this monument and two I haven’t known anyone who didn’t respect the history.

There hasn’t been much talk of this getting defaced during all of these protests. There was a mention in the Philadelphia Inquirer which said 📌 “At Washington Square, the hallowed Tomb of the Unknown Solider of the American Revolution was defaced by spray paint. Vandals wrote Committed Genocide and ACAB — meaning, All Cops Are Bastards — on the granite wall behind Jean-Antoine Houdon’s bronze statue of Washington, the monument’s centerpiece.”📌

Not much more was said about this. I don’t recall Mayor Jim Kenney even talking about it. And that truly upsets me. It’s like it doesn’t matter that this happened there and it does matter a great deal. This is a location were soldiers who fought for our freedom as a young nation died and were laid to rest. It’s quite literally hallowed ground. My best guess is whoever did this will be haunted the rest of their lives. And the Park Service and Philadelphia need to put security cameras in there.

Above you see what the monument looks like in better times. If you look at the monument with the graffiti you will notice something else. Did you notice that the eternal flame is extinguished?

Washington Square Park is a special place. Hallowed ground. And the people who defaced it? That was just destruction. That is an a message that we need positive change in an end to systemic racism in this country, that was just graffiti and destruction.

I will state it again: I have no problem with peaceful protests. I completely believe that we are in the grips of insidious systemic racism in this country. But I do not believe the destruction of things like this accomplish anything at all. Destruction is negative.

If people want protest to be perceived as positive and necessary destruction cannot follow it. And that is the other thing that is so sad about all of this. The people protesting social injustice and racial inequality aren’t the people that are destroying these properties.

We need to be better as a nation. We need elected officials who aren’t as divisive. Which is why I pray for house cleaning in Washington DC this November. as human beings in this country we have to be the change we want to see.

It’s because of sights like this that protesting right now has concerned me.

I believe in peaceful protests, I do not believe in destruction of property.

We are better than this. We have to be better than this. We have to get things changed in this country. I don’t know that we will ever be able to erase hate because hate is as old as the beginning of time.

Please be careful out there this weekend if you are taking part in protests. Please start to think about how we can also be the change we need to see outside of protesting, because we have to be able to keep moving forward. We need to be positive change.

Please don’t let the hate and anger and vitriol win.

dear mayor kenney and chief outlaw,

Dear Mayor Kenney and Chief Outlaw,

My husband spent hours trying to figure out a way to get to my elderly parents and bring to us to get them out of the city. To no avail.

He couldn’t get to them. He literally went all the way down to Columbus Boulevard and over to South Philadelphia and back up! I am beside myself.

I just got off the phone with my mother and she tells me that the building Cole Haan is in was burnt out on Walnut, TD Bank and PNC Bank were destroyed all those other stores were loaded and broken into. She’s not sure about all that happened to places DiBruno Brothers on Walnut Street (they did get looted) but everything around it was pretty much destroyed.

This crap literally came to the front door to where my parents and another friend call home and that is so unacceptable and also while all this looting was going on last night? Apparently although they didn’t see a lot of police activity, but they saw a lot of news cameras and people with phones recording it.

A partial list of other things I found of what has been looted and/or destroyed includes: Boyd’s , Brooks Brothers, AT&T, Apple, 7-11, Target, Macy’s, GAP, Lacoste, Old Navy, JCrew, Marathon Grill, Reading Terminal Market, UNIQLO, DiBruno’s.

There are many, many more. There is looting and rioting in the Northeast. Port Richmond is in particular crisis as I type this.

My parents are elderly. They live in YOUR city. I don’t feel they or my other friends in Philadelphia are safe. I never thought I would say that. And if you can’t get control of the city, we can’t get to them. HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF THESE WERE YOUR PARENTS?

I believe there should be justice for George Floyd. I had no problems with peaceful protests. But where is the justice for the innocent residents of Philadelphia and elsewhere who are the victims of the terrifying rioting and looting? Truly no one is safe right now. Doesn’t that worry you?

I’ll leave it there.

this is not my philadelphia

Because of the oversaturation of COVID-19, and the crazy politics out of Washington D.C. I have not been watching the news. Last night, I watched streaming services TV and went to sleep.

I knew about that poor man George Floyd being murdered in Minneapolis. Sorry that’s how I see it if it offends you. Racism is killing this country again.

I knew about the peaceful protests going on in major metropolitan cities. I have little problem with peaceful protest, I have participated in them over the course of my life. But last night, peaceful protests went away, and opportunistic rioting and looting began. That’s not right.

We live in a very angry country. I think a lot of this can be laid at the feet of the politicians in the current regime in the White House. And last night this also came too close to home. Philadelphia was on fire. When I turned on my phone this morning it exploded with text messages like this one:

This is not my Philadelphia.

When you hear things like that your head feels like a ping-pong ball. So I started looking to see what I found:

Mandatory Curfew Implemented For Philadelphia, Gov. Wolf Signs Emergency Declaration As George Floyd Protests Turn Violent: CBS3 Staff
May 30, 2020 at 11:31 pm

The Inquirer: ⬤ LIVE
Philly awakes after a night of protest and looting; prosecutors today will begin deciding who will be charged;

MAY 30, 2020 George Floyd protests in Philly erupt in fires, looting; City officials blame outsiders
Mayor Kenney, Commissioner Outlaw say Saturday afternoon’s violence was instigated by people who had nothing to do with the morning’s demonstationsMichael Tanenbaum Headshot BY MICHAEL TANENBAUM
PhillyVoice Staff

What the ever-loving F?

This is not my Philadelphia.

I am horrified and almost feel like crying. We are a country of anger and vitriol and racism and discrimination. But this wanton mass destruction? Where innocent people are hurt? What does that accomplish?

Right now I am watching NBC’s Meet the Press. They have mayors from certain cities, officials from Minneapolis and so on talking about all of this and what is going on across the country.

There was a common thread of these people basically saying the president has to stop dividing and lead. I don’t think he can do that because he has a limited grasp on the reality most of us experience every day. I also don’t think he cares. And as the Mayor of Atlanta pointed out he has an unfortunate history of misspeaking and making matters worse. We can’t afford that as a nation. All of these mayors are also commenting on the fact that a lot of these agitators the turned peaceful protests violent came in from out of the area.

I was a little kid in Philadelphia from when I was born in the mid-60s through when we moved in the mid-70s. There were not protests like happened last night then. There was a lot of looting and rioting and other parts of the country but Philadelphia was somehow in a bubble.

Racism in America is a real issue. But looting and rioting and burning cities to the ground like happened in so many cities across this country yesterday and overnight? That is hate and anger which begets more hate and anger.

The images I am posting I have taken mostly off of Twitter. I’ve taken screenshots because they’re not my photos so you can see who took them. But we have to stop living like this.

I am also afraid that because of all these riots across the country that just as we’re getting ready to reopen after coronavirus as a nation I think we are going to see spikes in the virus because of the rioting.

Election Day is June 2nd. As Americans one of the most powerful things we can do is exercise our right to vote. And I hope what has happened this weekend drives a lot of you to the polls to vote out the bad and vote in better. And come November continue that in the General Election.

We are not a country of anarchy and anger, or we shouldn’t be. We, as Americans, are better than that. Or we should be.

Today we should all mourn for what we are devolving into as a nation. It’s getting to the point where do we really feel safe in our communities no matter where we live? It breaks my heart and terrifies me.

philadelphia: the unexpected city

The other day I wrote about being a little kid in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia. The mid 1960s through to the mid 1970s.

Today I picked up some things from a storage locker sale I had purchased. One thing was a limited edition book published in 1965 when I was a year old. Philadelphia: The Unexpected City by Laurence Lafore and Sara Lee Lippincott. The publisher was Doubleday. It was a copy of the “Philadelphia Edition.”

I don’t think too many people would be as excited to see this book as I was. But it was a book I remember people having in their homes when I was growing up, especially people that lived in Society Hill because there was so much of Society Hill in the book.

And there’s one thing that’s a picture of when they were raising the houses around Front Street to basically put in the highway. And I remember when they were doing all of that because it took a while to build and my mother’s friend Margery Niblock the artist had done a wood cut of it that I have the artist’s proof of.

So again, unless you live there during this time this probably wouldn’t mean anything to you. But it means something to me because there are so many pictures in this book of what Society Hill looks like when people like my parents came in and bought house is dirt cheap and started to restore them.

And the restoration of Society Hill is still a historic preservation triumph even with all of the houses that were in such bad condition they had to be demolished.

I guess that’s why sometimes I wonder why municipalities let people say “Oh we can’t possibly fix this, it has to be taken down!” I look at what happened then when I was a kid, and the technology wasn’t as advanced and so on and so forth, yet the historic preservation actually happened and restoration actually happened.

So I wish people would look at examples like this, and then look more towards preservation where they live. It is possible. Communities just have to want it. And if communities want it, they need to make that known to local government.

People have to realize you can save pieces of the past and people will love them and will live in them.

This section of Philadelphia when I was growing up was a sea of construction and scaffolding. I remember the contrast of going to neighborhoods where other people we knew lived and then coming back to our own. But it was exciting to see. Even then.

Hopefully someday when I am no longer around, someone else will happen upon what is now my copy of this book and love it as much as I do.

time to start decking the halls!

This year I was going for a simpler, almost nostalgic look. Above is my dining room chandelier. Originally, it was given to me by my late father many years ago and it lived in storage units and attics until we bought the house we now live in. Here it was the perfect chandelier for our dining room. (The chandelier originally in the dining room was repurposed and now hangs in our front hall. It’s a small chandelier and it is the perfect scale for the front hall.)

This year my chandeliers were completely inspired by a childhood memory. When we were little and lived in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia one of the things we did at Christmas time was attend the St. Lucia Festival at Old Swedes in Philadelphia.

This is such a beautiful tradition and it is still hands-down one of my favorite things about Christmas in Philadelphia.

Lucia Fest is actually this coming weekend in Philadelphia at Old Swedes:

Friday, December 6th – 6:00 & 8:00

Saturday, December 7th – 2:00, 3:30 & 5:00

Sunday, December 8th – 2:00, 3:30 & 5:00

The Lucia Fest weaves together a number of Swedish holiday traditions into a colorful musical pageant. The heart of the celebration is the Lucia procession, in which a young woman is joined by other female members of the household in taking hot coffee and a warm Lucia bun to all the residents of the home. She comes crowned with candles, dressed in white, singing her traditional song, “Sankta Lucia.” In Sweden, her day is celebrated in homes before dawn on the 13th of December, which, at one stage of life with the Julian calendar, marked the winter solstice – the point at which the hours of darkness begin to diminish and the daylight hours begin to lengthen.

At Gloria Dei Church the celebration is held within the walls constructed by Swedish settlers in 1699-1700, in the beauty of candlelight, with a large entourage of young girls joining her in song and procession. For many people, participation in the Lucia Fest is a unique way of marking the beginning of the holiday season.

If you have never been, I actually encourage you to go. There are many Lucia festivals across the country. PLEASE NOTE that to attend at Old Swedes in Philadelphia you need tickets!  that is not the way it was when I was growing up, but even then it was a mad crush of people so I think it is smart of the church to do that, plus the tickets are moderately priced and proceeds go to the church. This church is one of the most historicly important in Philadelphia.

In the Lucia procession, young girls wear crowns of seasonal greens with candles. I doubt very much anymore in most places that the candles are live, but they were when I was a little girl. 

Anyway the Scandinavian simplicity and beauty of this festival was my inspiration for my chandeliers as silly as it sounds. And I’m very pleased with the results.

I did not use real garlands, because they would not last the Christmas season inside. On Wayfair and Etsy I found felt garland and that’s what I purchased to create my Lucia inspired chandeliers. The Company Store and places like Pottery Barn also sell the felt garland, but their prices are much higher than what I found between Wayfair (and the felt pine garland I found on Wayfair is already sold out) and Etsy. There are also some options on Amazon and elsewhere, but you have to hunt through the garlands.

The garland I purchased was both wired and not wired. You can also use other artificial garland for this purpose I just liked the almost childlike simplicity of the felt garland. It has whimsy.

The garland is placed simply enough on the chandelier and I had a half dozen white felt birds that I tucked in here and there. But the best part of the garland is it is the perfect foil for my great grandparents’ German kugel which my mother gave me a few years ago. It is my favorite Christmas ornament. It is not a giant kugel as I have seen displayed, but it is super lovely.

There are also three beaded tassels in a lovely cranberry color. I have absolutely no idea what store they were from originally, but I bought them on a whim from the Smithfield Barn and put them away until I had a use.

The table is dressed with a festive tartan cloth (also from the Smithfield Barn!) In the center of the table, keeping with the simplicity of the chandelier above, are my glass candlesticks with cheerfully festive candy cane striped candles. They are all sitting in a copper tray.

I am not anywhere near finished decorating and there will be a lot less of it this year and it will be slow going because of my knee. But I think it’s actually a good thing that I had to change my routine up this year because I am liking the results so far!

Fa la la la la!

dear philadelphia err filthadelphia

Dear Philadelphia,

Appalachia or Albania or Calcutta ? Can’t decide what the look is you are going for this fall.

I have never seen the streets look so bad or full of hazards. You can be on foot or in a vehicle, it doesn’t matter.

And the city is dirty. Filthy dirty. So it doesn’t matter if you are building shiny new buildings, everywhere you look is a hot mess. Oh sure there are trash cans… but the ones I passed yesterday were full and garbage spewing over. Then there is whatever is on the ground.

And your homeless population seems to have increased. Increased enough that they are blocking the streets begging. Even a homeless man on 16th Street lying down completely on the sidewalk reading a book with people stepping over him.

I am a native Philadelphian and yesterday we had family and friends in from out of town and it was embarrassing.

The buck stops at the Mayor’s Office in City Hall on this one. Hey Jim Kenney are you blind to all of this? Do you think you could stop running for re-election long enough to take a good look at what everyone sees and experiences? It’s a little hard to experience the best Philadelphia has to offer when all she seems to offer is filth, fractured roads and sidewalks, and people in dire need of help.

#tbt my history with history

The photo above has me in the center. Circa 1976- 1977. It has just been too long that sadly, I don’t remember the exact date.

Where am I? At one of my favorite historic sites on earth. Historic Harriton House in Bryn Mawr. I think technically, my friends and I at the time, beat Chef Walter Staib into the kitchen there by a few decades.

When we first moved to the Main Line from Society Hill, I missed the history and old houses of Society Hill. Yes, I was kind of obsessed by old houses even then. So neighbors introduced our family to historic Harriton House. And as a related sidenote, Historic Harriton House is a remarkable story of preservation. I urge everyone to take the time to go visit. The site is a little slice of heaven.

Before we moved from the city to suburbia, I also did something kind of historically minded for a kid.

At 11, I was probably the youngest volunteer tour guide the Park Service ever had in Society Hill. I gave tours of the Todd House and Bishop White House. In Colonial garb with a little mob cap.

How? Well my parents knew Hobie Cawood. Mr. Cawood was the Superintendent of Independence National Historical Park from 1971-1991. I wrote about this before.

But this is just something I have always loved since I was a kid. Our history, our architecture, our old houses.

I am not a new house person. I am a preserve the old house person. It’s just the way I am made. I am a realist and I don’t think every old house can be saved, but I think a lot more can be saved then are actually being saved.

Whenever I have these conversations with anyone about historic preservation, I go back to my childhood in Society Hill. And the reason is simple: that area was a total slum when people like my parents as newlyweds bought wrecks of old houses in Society Hill for peanuts from the redevelopment authority in Philadelphia.

My parents and their friends restored these houses with architectural details and hardware and windows and woodwork from houses that were too far gone to save. And as kids, a lot of the time we went with our parents when they were visiting these wrecks of houses to see what they could salvage out of them. And salvaging then wasn’t so much a big business as it was sort of a neighbor helping neighbor collaborative. People would give you the stuff out of the houses being torn down. It was a very different time.

It was through these expeditions that I learned about things like shutter dogs. Busybody mirrors. Box locks and more. The details of historical architecture which have traveled with me throughout my life.

This is where my love of old houses began. And it has been a lifelong affair.

A lot of people don’t like my opinions. And I’m sorry they don’t share my love of old houses and history. But as Americans we have a magnificent history. And we can’t just keep bulldozing it away.

Thanks for stopping by.