The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia

By John L. Cotter; Daniel G. Roberts et al. | Go to book overview

4

Old Philadelphia

NEW MARKET: OF ENTERPRISE AND INFANTICIDE

MAN FULL OF TROUBLE TAVERN: NOT SO GENTEEL

THE WALNUT STREET PRISON WORKSHOP: HOW TO REDUCE RECIDIVISM

310 CYPRESS STREET: ANOTHER SURPRISING FIND

THE HILL-PHYSICK-KEITH HOUSE: DOWN ALMSHOUSE, UP MANSION

THE U.S. MINT: FROM COINAGE TO COIN BANK

OLD ST. PAUL'S CHURCH: PHILADELPHIA'S ELITE BURIAL CUSTOMS

WASHINGTON SQUARE: THE SAGA OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER AND THE ANONYMOUS ARCHAEOLOGIST

The Colonial and early Federal sites of Independence National Historical Park did not, of course, exist in isolation. They sat in the very heart of old Philadelphia, surrounded by numerous churches and more numerous taverns, a prison, a hospital, docks, shops, markets, an almshouse, a paupers' burial ground, and the homes of the wealthy, the middle class, the poor, and the very poor. It was a teeming, bustling, heterogeneous mix. Sitting cheek to jowl with the freestanding Federal mansion of Col. Henry Hill on Fourth Street were the older and far less pretentious middle-class rowhouses of narrow Cypress Street. There, in small shops on the ground floors of their homes, tradesmen and artisans plied their crafts.

Looking south from Independence Square in 1775, those tempted by the taverns of Second Street and the bawdy houses of the area had a clear and sobering view of the new Walnut Street Prison, where felons worked off their crimes and debtors languished. Southwest, the view was of Potter's Field, now known as Washington Square. Soon to be invaded by the mass graves of soldiers of the Revolutionary War, Washington Square was the final resting place not only of the impoverished but also of those who succumbed to the epidemics that all too often devastated the city. Disease was rampant throughout the eighteenth century, as malodorous tanneries polluted creeks with their offal and waste from privies contaminated underground streams and wells.

All was not peaceful even in the world of churches. In 1760 a group of disgruntled parishioners split off from the Christ Church congregation to go their somewhat dissident Anglican way at the then new St. Paul's. A few years later, as the Revolutionary War approached, many a Quaker was torn between a conscientious objection to

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