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Steps off the Tour - South 6th Street

Posted on Thursday, November 6, 2014

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“Steps off the Tour” highlight some of the lesser known tourist destinations along a certain streets or neighborhoods in Philadelphia.  On today’s “Steps off the tour” we’ll guide you down South 6th Street to the Dream Garden Mosaic, Washington Square, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, and Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church.

Dream Garden Mosaic (Inside the Curtis Center)

601 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Directions: Starting from the National Constitution Center where our Constitutional Walking Tour both begins and ends, head south on 6th Street towards Market Street.  The Curtis Center is located three blocks from the National Constitution Center at 6th and Walnut Streets.
The Dream Garden at the Curtis Center
The Curtis Center is where publisher Cyrus Curtis founded his first magazine, the Ladies Home Journal, in 1883. The important publisher would also publish The Saturday Evening Post, which was once the most widely circulated weekly magazines in America. In the lobby of the Curtis Center is a 15’x49’ glass mosaic called “The Dream Garden.” Based on an oil painting by Maxfield Parrish, the mosaic was created in 1916 by Tiffany Studios. The end result is a breathtaking illuminated image made up of over 100,000 pieces of colored glass. The impressive work of art was nearly sold and removed from Philadelphia in 1998.  Public outcry over the masterpiece potentially leaving Philadelphia halted the sale and instead the mural was sold to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts for $3.5 million dollars, ensuring that it would stay in the Curtis Center and Philadelphia forever.

Washington Square Park

6th and Walnut Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Directions: After leaving the Curtis Center, continue south on 6th Street to Washington Square Park across the street.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Washington Park
Washington Square Park was one of the five original city squares designed into the plan of Philadelphia by William Penn.  Originally named Southeast Square, the square is now named after George Washington.  During the 18th and 19th centuries the square was used as a public burial ground and thousands are still interred there today.  It is due to this fact, that Washington Square Park is a stop on the Spirits of '76 Ghost Tour, our evening tour that is 1 part history, 2 parts haunt!
In the center of the park is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which pays to tribute to the thousands of American Revolutionary War soldiers who are buried in the park today.  Today a flame burns eternally at the memorial to remind us that “Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness.”

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia

219 S 6th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Directions: Across 6th Street from Washington Square, directly south of St James Ct.
The Athenaeum of Philadelphia
Founded in 1814, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia collects materials “connected with the history and antiquities of America, and the useful arts, and generally to disseminate useful knowledge” for public benefit.  Today the Athenaeum is best known for their focus on American Architecture, making it an excellent place for any architectural enthusiast to visit.  Open to the public, the Athenaeum has an impressive collection over 180,000 architectural drawings and over 350,000 photographs.  Speaking of architecture, don’t forget to admire the very building the Athenaeum is housed within.  Designed by John Notman, The Athenaeum building was constructed in 1845.  It is a seminal example of the Italianate Revival Style and one of the first buildings in Philadelphia to be constructed of Brownstone.  The Athenaeum has been a National Historic Landmark since 1977.

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

419 S 6th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Directions: From the Athenaeum continue south on 6th Street about three blocks.  Mother Bethel will be on your left before Lombard Street.
Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church
Founded by Richard Allen in 1794, Mother Bethel’s church property is the oldest continuously owned piece of land by African Americans in this country.  Richard Allen, a former slave himself, was an influential leader of the early abolitionist movement in the United States.   Allen originally preached at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, but was restricted to early morning services in which he and other black congregants were forced to worship in a separate area.  Allen, along with another Methodist preacher named Absalom Jones, decided to leave St. George’s in 1787 and start their own church where African Americans would feel welcome.  That church would become Mother Bethel.  Allen and Jones would also form the Free African Society, a mutual aid society and abolitionist group. Richard Allen and his wife Sara also operated a station on the Underground Railroad for slaves escaping through Philadelphia.  
The current church building that stands at 6th and Lombard was constructed in 1890 in the Romanesque style.  It is a National Historic Landmark and is not only a current house of worship, but also contains a museum detailing the amazing history of the church.  Mother Bethel was the very first African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.) in the world and its founder Richard Allen would become the church’s first Bishop.
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