Category: Historic Homes of Philadelphia

Betsy Ross House                                                    239 Arch Street                                      Philadelphia, PA 19106

Betsy Ross House 239 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19106

Betsy Ross House

239 Arch Street

Philadelphia, PA 19106

(215) 619-4026

http://historicphiladelphia.org/betsy-ross-house/

Admission: Adults $7.00/Children-Seniors-Military $6.00/Audio Tour Add $2.00-Please check Website

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60795-d144052-r793537657-Betsy_Ross_House-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

The Betsy Ross House Museum at 239 Arch Street

I visited the Betsy Ross House Museum when touring the small museums of Old Town Philadelphia. What an interesting historical site. You felt like you were invited into Betsy Ross’s house by Betsy Ross herself.

The house and museum is broken up into different sections. When you walk into the museum complex, you will get to visit a very patriotic gift shop stocked with Revolutionary War memorabilia. Out side the gift shop is the formal gardens and the courtyard which is a nice place to relax and enjoy the weather.

When you enter the house, you will be able to visit all the rooms of the house and the kitchen area on the lower level. The interesting part of this self guided tour is that you learn that the house was not owned by Betsy Ross or any of her three husbands. They rented the rooms out from a widow who owned the house at the time and that there had been other people living at the home at the time. Each of the rooms were rented and lived in by other family members.

In each of the upstairs rooms, there are recreations of what the family living arrangements were and how they were decorated. The bedrooms were furnished with vintage furniture of the time and items used in every day life.

The kitchen area was for family cooking and was stocked with items that would have been in day to day process of preparing meals.

Betsy Ross was an upholsterer and ran her business dealings from the front of the house where her small showroom and workroom were located to the street level. Many people in Philadelphia had this work arrangement where the business was in the front of the home and then living quarters were in the back or up above.

In the showroom area, an actress playing Betsy Ross, was there answering all our questions and she was very interesting. When she had been approached to design and create the flag, she had never made a flag before. The actress explained that she had to keep making flags ‘under the wraps’ so that Loyalist would not shut the business down during the war. Her business pretty much was shut down during the War years as people did not have the money or time for her work. I really felt like I was talking to the real person in that time.

The tour will only take about an hour but you will learn so much about business and living arrangements in homes at that time and of the family who lived there. I never knew much about Betsy Ross herself and her husbands and children from different marriages. So you will learn a lot about the family themselves and the lives that she lived with each of them.

It is an interesting tour if you have interest in the American Flag origins and the Revolutionary War.

The History of the Betsy Ross House Museum:

The building at 239 Arch Street, now known as the Betsy Ross House, was built over 250 years ago. The front portion of the house was built around 1740 with the stair hall (or piazza) and the rear section added 10 to 20 years later. The structure is a variation of a ‘bandbox’ or ‘trinity’ style home, with one room on each floor and a winding staircase stretching from the cellar to the upper floors.

The building’s front fa├žade, with a large window on the first floor to display merchandise and it proximity to the Delaware River, made it an ideal location for a business. The house served as both a business and a residence for many different shopkeepers and artisans for more than 150 years. The first floor front room was used as the workshop and showroom. The business owner and his or her family lived in the rest of the home.

Betsy Ross House (Philadelphia) - 2021 All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go |  Tours & Tickets (with Photos) - Tripadvisor

The sitting room recreation

By the late 19th century, most of the other colonial era buildings that once stood on this block of Arch Street, had been torn down and replaced with large industrial buildings and warehouses. Many people feared that Betsy’s home would meet the same fate.

In 1898, a group of concerned citizens established the American Flag House and Betsy Ross Memorial Association to raise money to purchase the house from the Munds, the people who resided there, to restore it and open it as a public museum in honor of Betsy Ross and the first American Flag.

Charles Weisgerber was one of the founding members of the Memorial Association. In 1892, he painted Birth of Out Nation’s Flag, a 9′ x 12′ painting that depicts Betsy Ross presenting the first American flog to George Washington, Robert Morris and George Ross.

To raise money to purchase the house, members of the American Flag House and Betsy Ross Memorial Association sold lifetime memberships to the organization for 10 cents. Each donor received a membership certification imprinted with an image of Birth of Our Nation’s Flag. Individuals were encouraged to form ‘clubs’ of thirty members. The person who formed the club would receive a ten-color chromolithograph of the Weisgerber painting, suitable for framing, in addition to certificates for each club member.

Weisgerber moved his family into the upstairs floor of the home in 1898 and immediately opened two rooms to the public. The first floor front room was a souvenir shop and the room in the back of the house where the meeting between Betsy Ross and the Flag Committee was said to have occurred, was open for visitors to view.

Betsy Ross House (Philadelphia) - 2021 All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go |  Tours & Tickets (with Photos) - Tripadvisor

A period bedroom in the house

The American Flag Hose and the Betsy Ross Memorial Association wanted to protect the house from fire and other dangers. They purchased the two properties on the west side of the house in 1929, in hopes of creating a civil garden. When the Great Depression hit, tourism and donations to the house slowed and much of the work on house and courtyard were delayed.

In 1937, structural changes and general wear and tear on the house led to the dire need for restoration work. A. Atwater Kent, a Philadelphia radio mogul, offered to pay up to $25,000 for the restoration of the house. Historical architect, Richardson Brognard Okie was commissioned to do the work.

Under Okie, the house’s original architectural elements were spared wherever possible. When the original components could not be reused, materials were obtained from demolished homes from the same period. A small structure containing a boiler room and a restroom was constructed in back of the original house with Revolutionary War era bricks.

In the historic house, three hidden fireplaces were uncovered, the front stairway and dormer were replaced and the door leading from the kitchen to the back of the house was restored. The most notable change, however, was to the front of the house. The doorway in the front of the building was moved from the western to the eastern corner and a new window was installed. Construction was completed and all eight rooms of the house were open to the public on Flag Day, June 14th, 1937.

By the 1940’s, the Betsy Ross House began to look like the place we recognize today but the Association’s work was not complete. A. Atwater Kent worked with the Association to pay off its final debts on the property. The entire property, including the historic house and courtyard was given to the City of Philadelphia in 1941.

In 1965, an annex building was added to the property and in 1974, the courtyard was renovated and the fountain was added. Two years later, the remains of Betsy Ross and her third husband, John Claypoole were moved from Mount Moriah Cemetery in Yeadon, PA to the garden on the west side of the Betsy Ross House courtyard.

In 1965, a private non-profit organization, Historic Philadelphia Inc. began leasing the property from the City of Philadelphia and continues to manage the site. The Betsy Ross House remains dedicated to its mission of preserving the historic site and interpreting the life of Betsy Ross, a working class, 18th Century tradeswoman. Visitors can view six period rooms, including the only interpretation of an 18th century upholstery shop in the country. The rooms are furnished with period antiques, 18th century reproductions and objects that belonged to Betsy Ross and her family. Highlights of the collection include Betsy Ross’s walnut chest on chest, her Chippendale chair, her eyeglasses and her bible.

(Betsy Ross House Museum website/Wiki/Pamphlet)

Elfreth’s Alley Museum 126 Elfreth’s Alley Philadelphia, PA 19106

Elfreth’s Alley Museum

126 Elfreth’s Alley

Philadelphia, PA 19106

(215) 574-0560

Open: Sunday-Wednesday Closed/Thursday-Saturday 12:00pm-4:00pm

Admission: Adults $3.00/Children 7-12 $2.00/Children under 7 Free

http://www.elfrethsalley.org/

https://www.facebook.com/elfrethsalleymuseum/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60795-d138249-r793534882-Elfreth_s_Alley-Philadelphia_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

I came across this interesting little historical museum when I was touring Elfreth’s Alley in Old Town, Philadelphia. What an interesting look back at the merchant trade class of the 18th century. It really showed how the average worker used both their home as a business and as a home. The home had been former business of a pair of dressmakers who used the front parlor as their store and showroom, the side room used as the kitchen, the upstairs room was the living quarters for a very large family (I believe that the family had eight children according to the tour guide) and a nice sized garden in the back of the home.

The front rooms were used as the workplace showroom where the merchants would greet their customers, decide on the patterns and make and then conduct their business. When they were done for the day, they just closed up shop. What I thought was interesting about the two business owners is that they took most of their meals out at the local pub. Time as dressmakers left them little time to cook so meals had to be eaten out.

The dress makers wares being shown at the museum

When you climb the narrow stairs to the second floor, it leads to the loft living space. When I heard how many people lived at the house, I could not imagine that today. Children today pretty much have their own rooms but these people lived on top of one another. It was such a small space for a family of ten. Then you had to walk down another narrow staircase to come back to the first floor.

The backyard garden was really nice with interesting plantings, a nice sized garden of flowers and benches to cool under on a hot day. I am not sure if the gardens were historically accurate but it was a nice place to relax on a hot day. It is worth it to visit this small home to see how another generation worked and lived under very different conditions (Elfreth’s Alley Museum self-guided tour).

The Elfreth’s Alley Museum at 124-126 Elfreth’s Alley

The History of Elfreth’s Alley Museum:

Elfreth’s Alley Museum is located at 124-126 Elfreth’s Alley, preserves the 18th Century home of a pair of dressmakers. Restored to its appearance in the Colonial era, exhibits the house and tour guides interpret the life of the house and alley’s residents in that era. There are 32 houses on the street that were built between 1703 to 1836 (Wiki/Museum site).

The History of Elfreth’s Alley:

Elfreth’s Alley is named after Jeremiah Elfreth, an 18th century blacksmith and property owner. Among the alley’s residents were tradesmen and their families. Their trades included shipwrights, silver and pewter smiths, glassblowers and furniture builders. In the 1770’s, one third of the households were headed by women (Wiki).

The Georgian and Federal style houses and cobblestone pavement of the alley were common in Philadelphia during this time. The houses are typically small and many are uniquely Philadelphian Trinity houses. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industry began to change the street with a stove factory being built in 1868. Soon it was followed by more factories that surrounded the area (Wiki).

Elfreth's Alley Museum - Home | Facebook

Elfreth’s Alley Museum site and homes

In 1934, the Elfreth’s Ally Association (EAA) was founded to preserve the alley’s historic structures while interpreting the streets history. The EAA helped save the street from demolition and also lobbied the City to restore the alley’s name to Elfreth’s Alley. The area is an example of urban 18th and 19th century architecture and is part of the “Old Town” neighborhood of Philadelphia (Wiki).

The neighborhood hosts many events so please check their website for the dates and events.

Welcome to ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’, a trip through unique small museums, cultural sites and parks & gardens in NYC and beyond.

Welcome to ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’, a trip through unique small museums, cultural sites and parks & gardens in NYC and beyond.

*Bloggers Note: because of the size, location and time of year these sites are open, the hours and cost to get in can change since the blog was written. Please check with the site’s website or call the site before you visit. Things change over time.

My name is Justin Watrel and welcome to ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’, a trip through cultural sites, small unique museums, historic mansions and homes and pocket parks & community gardens in New York City and beyond its borders. I created this blog site to cross reference all the cultural sites that I came across when I was traveling through Manhattan for my walking blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com”.

Bergen County Historical Society III

Historic New Bridge Landing

I was inspired by all these sites that I had missed over the years and never knew existed in New York City and its suburbs.  Many of these being in Bergen County, NJ where I live. I found that most people feel the same way. The only way you would know that these sites existed is by walking past them.

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School House Museum in Ridgewood, New Jersey

So I created this site to showcase all these smaller, largely unexplored ‘gems’ in Manhattan, the rest of New York City and places outside the greater New York City area. I concentrate on smaller, more off beat cultural sites that you might miss in the tour books or may just find by passing them on the street. This has lead me to  becoming a member of the Bergen County Historical Society in Riveredge, NJ as well as other cultural sites in the area.

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The Aviation Museum in Teterboro, New Jersey

There is so many interesting historical sites, parks, gardens and homes to explore that I want to share it with all of you. They are tucked behind buildings and walls, locked behind gates or hidden behind trees only for you to want to discover them.

Ringwood Manor Christmas 2019

Ringwood Manor in Ringwood, New Jersey at Christmas

I want to give these smaller and unique ‘gems’ more exposure and ‘sing their praises’  to an audience (namely out of town tourists) who might overlook them. It is hard for a lot of these cultural site because of the lack of volunteers or volunteers getting older or the absence of money to properly advertise these sites.

Gallery Bergen Professor Show III

Juan Leon’s work at Gallery Bergen on the Bergen Community College campus in Paramus, NJ

So join me in the extension of “MywalkinManhattan.com” with my new site “VisitingaMuseum.com” and share the adventure with me. Join me also on my sister blog sites, “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com” and ‘LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com’ for restaurants and small shops.

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The Dyckman Farm in Washington Heights in Manhattan

These sites featuring all sorts of small restaurants, bodegas and bakeries, where a quality meal can be had for $10.00 and under and unusual stores with unique merchandise that just stand out in their respective neighborhoods. It is important to support small business owners especially in this economy.

Lucy the Elephant

Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ

So, join me here as I take “MywalkinManhattan” to some unique and special historical sites and open spaces the New York Metropolitan area and beyond.