The Philadelphia Trip, April, 2011By Ed Strauss, Class Secretary
Classmates, spouses and guests gathered at lunchtime at the venerable Union League Club on South Broad Street, in Philadelphia (www.unionleague.org) on Wednesday April 13, 2011, and boarded our bus for a ride along the Delaware River to Washington Crossing, PA. We enjoyed a sandwich lunch at the David Library of the American Revolution. This non-profit, specialized library sits on a 118-acre farm on the Delaware (www.dlar.org). It is open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays.
We heard a talk about the events of December 1776 by a young PhD candidate at Brown, who recounted the touch-and-go story of Washington's several harrowing crossings of the river (not just one) and defeat of the Hessians at Trenton (www.barracks.org), a turning point in America's War of Independence. For an excellent account of this historic event, you might want to read Washington’s Crossing (Pivotal Moments in American History) by David Hackett Fischer ’57. The unabridged Recorded Books edition is narrated by the author’s fellow Quadrangle member, Nelson Runger ’53.
Each Christmas day, re-enactors in period dress cross the river in replicas of the "Durham" cargo boats that Washington used (www.ushistory.org/washingtoncrossing). We returned by bus to North Philadelphia and visited Stenton (stenton.org). This handsome red-brick Georgian country house was built in the 1720s by James Logan, William Penn's Bristol-born chief administrator of the Pennsylvania colony for much of the first half of the 18th century. Logan amassed the largest personal library in British North America.
We were expertly led on tours of the house and then enjoyed a buffet dinner under a tent, followed by a fascinating lecture by Prof. Michael Zuckerman, one of the stars of Penn's history department. He guided us through an intricate historical-mystery tale involving Logan and Ben Franklin. (Ben would be our frequent companion throughout the whole visit).
Thursday morning we made our way from the Union League Club on foot, east from South Broad Street, in smaller groups attentive to the commentary of expert walking-tour guides. We visited Independence Hall (http://www.nps.gov/inde/index.htm), where we vied with fifth-graders on Founding Father trivia and its surrounding neighborhood (Carpenter's Hall, Powel House). We also visited the stately American Philosophical Society (founded by Ben in 1743, www.apsmuseum.org), where director Martin Levitt showed us some of the Society's treasures (items related to Lewis & Clark, Darwin—and Franklin).
We had a delicious lunch at the City Tavern (c. 1773, www.citytavern.com), an establishment frequented by the Founding Fathers. John Adams called it "the most genteel tavern in America.” Located at 138 2nd Street—which native Philadelphians call "Two Street”—it was the unofficial site of the First Continental Congress.
After a visit to Ben Franklin's printing shop, we wrapped up our historical promenade at Christ's Church and then gathered that evening for a reception at the Library Company of Philadelphia (founded by Ben in 1731), where our classmate John Van Horne has been executive director for twenty-five years. We enjoyed cocktails and hors-d'oeuvres and viewed some of the Library Company's treasures (www.librarycompany.org), including annotated books from James Logan's own collection.
Next came dinner at the Union League Club and a fascinating talk about some of the key figures at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 (including Ben) by another luminary of Penn's history department, Prof. Richard Beemer, author of a recent book on the subject, Plain Honest Men. Next day, classmate Dr. Glenn Haas, who lives in nearby Newtown, PA, led us on a walk up the stately, spacious Ben Franklin Parkway, past the Franklin Institute, the Rodin Museum, the new home of the Barnes Foundation (currently under construction), and up the "Rocky” steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where tours by docents gave us a look at some of the Museum's most famous holdings (www.philamuseum.org).
After lunch there we headed in different directions—some to a concert of Mahler's 4th Symphony by the Philadelphia Orchestra in the breathtaking Kimmel Center (designed by Princeton Football Stadium architect Rafael Vignoli, www.kimmelcenter.org), others to a Phillies-Rockies game.
Saturday morning we boarded our bus for a short drive to the Barnes Foundation in the nearby suburb of Merion (founded 1922, closing July 7, 2011, reopening in its new home next May as we celebrate our 40th Reunion, www.barnesfoundation.org).
We were dazzled by the collection of Old Master and Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings; our tour guides gave us insight into how the collection's founder, Dr. Albert Barnes, positioned each work in relation to others on the gallery walls, according to his personal art-historical and educational principles. The idea of moving the collection into Philadelphia sparked quite a controversy when it was first proposed. Yet, regardless of where you come down on the matter, there can be little doubt that the city is far better equipped to accommodate the crowds of visitors the Barnes collection attracts than tiny Merion, PA.
We then traveled, in a steady rain, to Longwood Gardens (www.longwoodgardens.org) and Winterthur (www.winterthur.org). Both properties, like many places in Delaware, have a Dupont family connection. According to Webmaster Alfred Glossbrenner, who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Yardley, PA, these are not-to-be-missed attractions.
[Alfred also recommends the Brandywine Museum (N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth, www.brandywinemuseum.org), Eleutherian Mills and the Hagley Museum (www.thebrandywine.com/attractions/hagley.html) on the Brandywine Creek, whose drop in elevation powered the gunpowder mills that gave the Dupont family its start. The milling buildings were small, built of stone on three sides but of wood on the creek side so that when explosions occurred (which they did) the blast would be directed outward. The place to stay, according to our Webmaster, is The Inn at Montchanin Village (www.montchanin.com), a former Dupont company town whose houses have been converted to luxury hotel suites. The Inn’s Krazy Kat’s restaurant has been recognized as one of the best eating establishments in the state.]
Saturday evening our official program concluded with a festive dinner at the Philadelphia Club and another talk by Prof. Beeman. On Sunday the 17th we departed to all points of the compass; some of us took the opportunity to visit some favorite destinations of our own: Elfreth's Alley, the boathouses along the Schuylkill River, Admiral Dewey's cruiser Olympia anchored in the Delaware, the Liberty Bell, and more.
We all returned home—to as far away as Omaha, Houston, and San Francisco—deeply appreciative of everything the City of Brotherly Love has to offer to visitors, and vowing to return.
Our visit was immensely enriched by the company and counsel of generous classmates who live in the Philadelphia area now or have in the past: Andy Dayton, Larry Gilberti, Glenn Haas, Elissa Tufo Marshall, V.J. Pappas, and John and Chris Van Horne, all of whom joined us for parts of our visit. The rest of the twenty-five classmates on hand for some or part of the weekend were: Rock Brockman, John Buchanan, Bill DeGolian, Rich Hammitt, Randy Harris, Leigh Hoagland, Grif Johnson, Barbara Julius, Rod McNealy, Angie Duffy Meaney, Nikos Monoyios, Skip Rankin, Jim and Chris (hon.) Robinson, Mike Schneider, Dan Schwartz, Ed Strauss, and Bob Wright.
On the steps of the Union League Club in Philadelphia