John Hancock and the Fourth of July

American Flags
The current 50-star flag was adopted on July 4, 1960 after Alaska, the fiftieth state was admitted to the Union.

John Hancock and the Fourth of July

We all know that the Fourth of July celebrates the actual date, when the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and ratified the Declaration of Independence.  However, contrary to popular belief the famous document was not actually signed until August 2 of the same year, when all  fifty-six delegates officially put their name on the document. However, it is believed that John Hancock placed his showy signature to the written draft on July 4, when the paper was sent to the printer. At the time, John Hancock was one of the wealthiest men in the colonies and also President of the Continental Congress. Perhaps, these impressive credentials are revealed in his expressive penmanship that so effectively embodied the revolutionary spirit of the times.

Thomas Jefferson (right), Benjamin Franklin (left), and John Adams (center) meet at Jefferson’s lodgings to review the Declaration of Independence, artwork by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930)

Hancock’s Tragedy

Despite Hancock’s groundbreaking role in forging the 13 colonies into a fledgling nation, the fervent patriot would find great tragedy in his personal life. John and his wife, Dorothy Quincy,  would give birth to only two children, John George Washington Hancock and Lydia Henchman Hancock,  neither of whom would live to be a teenager.

Betsy Ross Flag
The original flag had 13 stars and 13 stripes and is known as the Betsy Ross Flag, source Wikipedia


And don’t forget. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.

San Diego Fireworks
San Diego Fireworks on the Fourth Of July, from wikipedia

Philadelphia’s Hostel Mansion

Waiting Room At The Mansion
Waiting Room At The Chamonoix Mansion

Chance Find

I came across the listing entirely by chance. I just did a search on Google and two hostels popped up, both part of the Hostelling International network. One listing was located downtown near the downtown historical sites in the heart of Philly, while the newest entry seemed to be a large mansion located outside the main city right next to a large city park. The reviews seemed good, but not quite as good as the more popular and centrally-located HI Apple Hostel. So I took a chance, contacted the Chamounix Hostel and made a reservation for two nights.

Air Conditioning

Getting to the hostel was not difficult, but it did involve a long bus ride past the Museum of Art and through the working-class neighborhoods of North Philly. However, the bus stop was situated about a mile from the hostel, so I had to hoof it along a city sidewalk, underneath an old railroad bridge and then along a gravel path that ran next to the paved road. After passing public tennis courts, a horse stable I came to end of the public road, where the hostel was located. It was a green location well within the city limits of Philadelphia.

Chamonoix Hostel in North Philly
Chamonoix Hostel in North Philly

Walk-up Stairs and Fourteen Foot Ceilings

The ground floor featured 14-foot high ceilings and the complete furnishings of a mansion. One of these rooms even held a large screen TV and a collection of DVD movies. The other two rooms made for great reading or sitting rooms. As the place I had free Wifi, I grabbed a chair and went online, my favorite pass time as of late. To reach my bed, I had to haul my belongings up two flights of stairs and took my place in a somewhat crowded bunk room. Fortunately, a functioning air conditioning system made my stay very pleasant. Anybody, who is hostelling through the Northeast should consider a stop here as well as a visit to the old historical sites in the downtown area. This slightly out-of-the-way place-to-stay makes it all worthwhile.

More Luxury at the Chamonoix Hostel

Visual Tour Through The City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia Skyline
Philadelphia Skyline as seen from ground level

This is what I saw when I first came into the City of Philadelphia on a pleasant train ride that took me through the Amish country of the southeastern part of the city. After arriving at the Amtrak station I went to Suburban Station and emerged into the realm of high buildings and intense sunlight. From here I made my bus connection out to the Chamanoix Mansion, a classy hostel located near one of the city’s large urban parks.

Blue Air-conditioner in Philadelphia

Here is a picture taken on a very hot afternoon on a June afternoon that I have dubbed “The Blue Air Conditioner”. I don’t know how some people, including myself, would survive the sometimes torrid heat without this nifty electronic cooling device.

Cedar Tree
Cedar Tree In Philadelphia

Sometimes, surviving city life takes lots of  creativity and ingenuity. Planting trees and painting walls are two activities that can make a place more livable, though this image may lead people to think otherwise.

The Old and the New In Downtown Philly
The Old and the New In Downtown Philly

Philadelphia is full of contrasts. Here are two different styles are architecture.

Poor Poe

Statue of the Raven at the Poe House in Philadelphia, PA
Statue of the Raven at the Poe House in Philadelphia, PA

Twas A Hot and Humid Sunny Afternoon

Last Wednesday was a torridly hot day in Philly. The heat was oppressive and the humidity was just as bad. Somehow I negotiated the sizzling mid-afternoon walk from the Philadelphia Free Library to the historic literary site. Once I walked in the front door of the early 19th century brick rowhouse I was glad I did.  The main reason being the fully-functional air conditioning system and the ice-cold drinking water that came shooting out of the basement fountain. Oh, the joys of visiting a federally funded building. After attending the University of Virginia and West Point Military Academy (he had to withdraw from each due to lack of money), Poe set out on his own literary career as a writer, poet, editor and critic.

Modest Housing

Not only did Poe experience many tragedies during his lifetime( both his mother and wife died of tuberculosis), but  he also moved frequently. During his life time he dwelt in four cities, Boston, Baltimore, Richmond and Philadelphia, but during his six year stay in the City of Brotherly Love, he moved four times. One of these residences, located at the corners of 7th Street and Spring Garden Ave., is now a National Historic Site administered by the National Park Service. Poe moved to Philadelphia to take on a job of editor of a prominent literary magazine. The attractive brick house sits on a quiet tree-lined in a working-class neighborhood, just a few blocks from the downtown high rises. A walk through the house is a step back in time and according to the historians, a trudge down the stairs into the basement, is like a glimpse into the creative mind that penned “The Black Cat”. Much can be learned about how people lived before the Civil War by walking through the various rooms of the Poe house. Most noticeable is the small-size of the rooms and especially the stairways.