Where History Lies: Christ Church Cemetery, Philadelphia

I have always liked Philadelphia. It encompasses everything I look for in a good city – great food, living history, modern design and exhibits, inspired architecture, fabulous people, vintage inspired boutiques, and without the chaotic feeling of a major city but close enough to one if you need it. 

I spent the day walking around Olde Town, one of the most historically important areas of the country. It was with this importance in mind, I headed to the Christ Church Cemetery on 5th and Arch – founded in 1719, it’s the final resting place of 4000 people; Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Hewes, George Ross, Dr Benjamin Rush, Francis Biddle, Dr Philip Syng Physick, Commodore Thomas Truxtun and William Tuckey among other prominent residents.

Many people visit Christ Church to honour Benjamin Franklin’s grave who was buried here in 1790. It isn’t hard to find, just look for a large group of people hovering around the northeast fence. His grave is by entrance and the street – not because he was famous but rather since his wife Deborah has pre-purchased the plot before they died and wanted to be buried next to each other. Their two children Francis and Sarah are also buried next to him. His grave is covered in pennies whom many believe stems from the saying “a penny saved is a penny earned.” However, it is actually a ritual started by nuns who used to pass his grave on their way to service. And yes, I did make a wish – two actually, since the cemetery takes the pennies and saves them for grave preservation of Benjamin Franklin, the military graves and the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It’s not often I’m able to be generous and greedy at the same time.

The grave stones are worn down to the point there is little to no inscriptions left on the stone. Only 1300 markers remain and plaques are now required to be purchased to be put in front of the blank grave stone. This is the main reason to splurge on the $3 tour. The guide will be able to point out graves of historical importance. One of which was Dr Benjamin Rush’s mother. Recently, her grave was destroyed by a tree branch directly above her. It was 100 years to the day of her death. Then it happened again almost 100 years exactly to the day of her death. (See picture above of a grave covered in plastic) If you are in to history this is definitely a stop worth doing and one which holds historical and political importance.

The burial ground is now open every day (except in January,February and December) Monday through Saturday 10-4, Sunday 12-4 (weather permitting) Admission price is: Adults-$2, Our guided tour “Revolutionary Americans” is available for an extra fee of $3 for adults and $1 for students. Guided tours are presented from 11 AM-3:30 PM. The tour is worth doing for an extra $3 since the graves are faded.

Whats your favourite historical place site in Philly?


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