May 11, 2018

Society Hill, A Neighborhood In Philadelphia's Historic District

The Historic Attractions, Modern Restaurants, Great Public Art, Spaces & More Of Society Hill

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Neighborhood residents and visitors of all ages enjoy the Headhouse Farmers Market, held May through December. Photo by R. Kennedy for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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The Independence Seaport Museum captures the Philadelphia region’s maritime heritage with interactive exhibitions, ship models, artifacts and art. Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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The Daughters of the Revolution donated garden beds and planted 96 varieties of Old Roses in the Rose Garden, located in Society Hill. Photo by C. Smyth for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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One block south of Independence Hall, the 18th-century Society Hill is a neighborhood of cobblestone paths and busy streets, colonial and modern buildings, history made—and in the making. The compact, mostly residential blocks comprise one of Philadelphia’s most desirable addresses—not unlike in the days when the U.S. was becoming a nation, when residents included Samuel Powel, Philadelphia’s first mayor after independence was declared, future first lady Dolly Todd Madison and Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko, among other luminaries.

Society Hill’s combination of history, modernity and convenience makes it a must-visit, and its standout restaurants, attractions and shops make it a great spot to spend a quiet day exploring. Fewer than two miles from Philadelphia City Hall, Society Hill stretches between the Delaware River and 7th Street and Walnut and Lombard Streets. Wheelchair-accessible SEPTA bus routes 12 and 40 run east along Pine Street; bus route 57 runs south along 4th Street—all stop at all numbered cross streets.

Restaurants & Bars:

  • Bistro Romano Since 1988, this romantic Italian bistro has charmed regulars with candlelight, live piano music (on Friday and Saturday nights) and a private table for up to four people in the wine cellar. 120 Lombard Street, (215) 925-8880, bistroromano.com
  • Cavanaugh’s Headhouse Square – This many-roomed restaurant and bar serves classic pub food and Irish fare. Customers here can watch all sorts of sports while taking advantage of weekly specials on drinks and snacks. 421 S. 2nd Street, (215) 928-9307, cavsheadhouse.com
  • Chart House – Seafood, pastas, meats and a view of the Delaware River are on offer for brunch, happy hour and dinner. 555 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 625-8383, chart-house.com
  • Cooperage Wine and Whiskey Bar – The whiskey selection here numbers over 100 bottles and includes some impressive cocktails; the food menu focuses on casual comfort food. Curtis Center, 123 S. 7th Street, (215) 226-2667, cooperagephilly.com
  • The Headhouse – Chicken wings, escargot and shrimp shumai share the menu at sushi master Madame Saito’s low-key spot, where two bars serve 20 beers on tap and 100 in bottles. 122 Lombard Street, (215) 922-2515, headhousephilly.com
  • Malbec Steakhouse – Argentine empanadas and grilled meats, including the whopping parrillada Argentina, with short ribs, sausage, blood sausage, sweetbreads and skirt steak—join homemade Italian pastas on an international menu. 402 S. 2nd Street, (215) 515-3899, malbecsteakhouse.com
  • Marrakesh – For more than 40 years, this hidden gem has offered Moroccan dishes such as b’stella, lamb tajine, an extensive vegetarian menu, a full bar and seven-course dinners. Belly dancers perform on weekends and are available weeknights upon request. 517 S. Leithgow Street, (215) 925-5929, marrakesheastcoast.com
  • Moshulu – The world’s oldest and largest square-rigged ship still afloat serves contemporary American lunches, dinners and brunches, both below deck and on the Deck, which also serves specialty cocktails and spiked ice pops. 401 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 923-2500, moshulu.com
  • Pizzeria Stella – This stepped-up neighborhood pizza place serves specialty and creative takes on wood-fired pizzas: pistachio with red onions, rosemary and fontina or Brussels sprouts with pancetta, cipollini and smoked mozzarella. 420 S. 2nd Street, (215) 320-8000, pizzeriastella.net
  • Positano Coast – In this bright, circular restaurant and lounge, Mediterranean cuisine and murals of the sweeping Amalfi landscape summon dreams of the Italian coast. 212 Walnut Street, 2nd floor, (215) 238-0499, positanocoast.net
  • Puyero – Small but mighty, this colorful bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) spot serves Venezuelan street food and is known for arepas, patacónes and house-made tropical drinks. 524 S. 4th Street, (267) 928-4584, puyeroflavor.com
  • Talula’s Daily – This rustic all-day spot starts each day with homey pastries and coffee and continues it with clever, premade salads, entrees and sandwiches. It’s also a great place to pick up cheese, bread and wine to go. 208 W. Washington Square, (215) 592-6555, talulasdaily.com
  • Talula’s Garden – Born of Chester County’s famed Talula’s Table, this farm-to-table destination feels like the country—especially during warm months, when the planted courtyard is in bloom—right between city buildings and across the street from historic Washington Square. Dinner and Sunday brunch offer seasonal menus that star an extensive cheese selection. 210 W. Washington Square, (215) 592-7787, talulasgarden.com
  • The Twisted Tail – Progressive American cuisine isn’t the only thing on the menu here. This Bourbon juke joint serves up an impressive array of whiskeys and features live blues music most nights. 509 S. 2nd Street (215) 558-2471, thetwistedtail.com
  • Xochitl – This modern and cozy Mexican spot takes advantage of local ingredients for its fresh, inventive creations. Diners wash down entrees such as braised short rib or seafood enchiladas with award-winning tequila cocktails. 408 S. 2nd Street, (215) 238-7280, xochitlphilly.com
  • Zahav – James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Solomonov is now internationally acclaimed for Israeli cuisine, which he serves family-style in a sophisticated setting. The tasting menu is an affordable insider favorite. 237 St. James Place, (215) 625-8800, zahavrestaurant.com

Cafes & Sweets:

  • Bodhi – This coffee haunt may be small, but it packs big flavor. Patrons enjoy house roast from Quaker City Coffee Company, loose-leaf teas from the House of Tea, baked goods and sweets from Au Fournil and High Point. 410 S. 2nd Street, (267) 239-2928, quakercitycoffee.com
  • Dottie’s Donuts – All the pastries here are vegan, including the doughnuts, in flavors like toasted coconut cream, blueberry jam and raspberry buttercream. 509 S. 6th Street, (267) 761-9447, facebook.com/dottiesdonutsphl
  • Frieda – This store, gallery and cafe brings people together over croissant sandwiches, pastries tea, film screenings, art exhibits and Spanish and French conversation groups. The store’s homemade jams, candies and cookies are made in a partnership between students at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College and local seniors. 320 Walnut Street, (215) 600-1291, friedaforgenerations.com
  • Homemade Goodies by Roz – This bakery serves up traditional Jewish desserts, breads and water challah. All of the house-made treats here are Parve, the highest kosher certification, and non-dairy. 510 S. 5th Street, (215) 592-9616, homemadegoodiesbyroz.weebly.com
  • Lombard Café – Fresh and local is the focus at this homey corner spot. On the menu: La Colombe coffee and simple sandwiches (think turkey and brie, grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly). 542 Lombard Street, (267) 455-0327
  • Milk & Honey Café – Priding itself on locally sourced ingredients, this cafe features house-made pastries and breakfast sandwiches. 518 S. 4th Street, (215) 928-1811, milkandhoneymarket.com

 

Markets, Shops & Spas:

  • Bella Boutique – Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel pop up in the packed racks at this consignment shop, which means patience here can pay off. 527 4th Street, (215) 923-8174, bellaboutiquephilly.com
  • Bluebond Guitars This indie acoustic and electric guitar shop has been an integral part of the Philadelphia music scene for decades. The offshoot Bluebond Music School offers private lessons and groups students into bands to play together. 511 S. 4th Street, (215) 829-1690, bluebondguitars.com
  • Crash Bang Boom Just off South Street, this boutique offers band shirts, plaids, leather jackets, body jewelry, boots and neon hair dye to seekers of punk, Goth, glam and/or metal looks. 528 S. 4th Street, (215) 928-1123, crashbangboomonline.com
  • Head House Farmers Market Every Sunday, the shambles at Head House bustle with activity when more than 30 local farmers and food purveyors bring their fresh produce, seafood, poultry, baked goods and other treats to this landmark market. 2nd Street between Pine & Lombard Streets, thefoodtrust.org/farmers-markets/market/headhouse
  • Paper Moon – When an occasion calls for last-minute gifts and the great wrapping paper and perfect greeting card to go with, this quirky shop delivers. 520 S. 4th Street, (267) 687-2780
  • Philly Bride – This bridal boutique caters to women of all sizes with gowns by Hayley Paige, Sottero and Midgley, Martina Liana and more. By appointment only. 304 Walnut Street, (215) 670-9500, phillybride.com

Theater & Entertainment:

  • Ritz Five – Movie buffs catch indie flicks and foreign films at this five-screen theater, where the seats are comfy, and the snack bar vends Toblerone. 214 Walnut Street, (215) 440-1184, landmarktheatres.com
  • Spirit of Philadelphia – Buffet dining and dancing are only part of the fun on this ship. The two- to three-hour cruises along the Delaware River also treat guests to stunning skyline and waterfront views. 401 S. Columbus Boulevard, (866) 455-3866, spiritofphiladelphia.com
  • Society Hill Dance Academy Group and individual lessons attract ballroom dancers of all ages and skill levels. No partner? No problem: Pop into the open dance sessions to meet like-minded wanna-be dancers—Friday night dance parties are open to the public. 409 S. 2nd Street,  (215) 574-3574, societyhilldance.com

Historic Attractions:

  • The Athenaeum of Philadelphia This member-supported, two-centuries-old special collections library features stately reading rooms and free, changing exhibits. A National Historic Landmark, the regal brownstone remains an indispensable resource for architecture and interior design history. 219 S. 6th Street, (215) 925-2688, philaathenaeum.org
  • Bishop White House – Reverend Dr. William White, America’s first Episcopal Bishop, lived in this circa 1787 house until his death in 1836. The restored interior demonstrates the style of living in 18th-century Philadelphia—and even includes the book the bishop was reading when he died. 309 Walnut Street, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
  • The Dolley Todd House – Future first lady Dolley Todd Madison lived in this home from 1791 to 1793 with her first husband John Todd. The house contains 18th-century furnishings, just as it did when she lived there. 4th & Walnut Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
  • Independence Seaport Museum – Penn’s Landing’s nautical museum maintains one of the largest maritime collections in North America, combining more than 25,000 artifacts with hands-on exhibits (including the Diligence, a full-size waterline model of a circa 1797 American topsail schooner) and two National Historic Landmark ships—the Spanish-American War cruiser Olympia and the World War II submarine Becuna— both docked nearby. 211 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-8655, phillyseaport.org
  • Hill-Physick House – Madeira wine importer and American Revolution financier Henry Hill built this house in 1786, and the building remains the largest freestanding Federal-style mansion in the Historic District. Dr. Philip Syng Physick, physician to 19th-century elite, eventually moved into the house in 1815, and, while the artifacts and medical equipment designed and pioneered by Dr. Physick are fascinating, the melodrama of his personal life is what makes a tour here so captivating. 321 S. 4th Street, (215) 925-7866, philalandmarks.org/physick-house
  • Polish American Cultural Center and Museum – Memorabilia, artifacts, arts and crafts celebrate Polish culture and the accomplishments of such famous leaders as Pope John Paul II, Marie Sklodowska-Curie, Nicolaus Copernicus and Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko, among others. On exhibit: intricate and elaborately painted Pisanka eggs, examples of one of Poland’s signature crafts. 308 Walnut Street, (215) 922-1700, polishamericancenter.org
  • Powel House The home of Samuel Powel, Philadelphia’s first mayor, is the epitome of 18th-century elegance, a holdover from when its houseguests included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Lafayette. The china set here was a gift from Martha Washington; on these very floors, she and George danced the minuet during their 20th wedding anniversary celebration. 244 S. 3rd Street, (215) 627-0364, philalandmarks.org/powel-house
  • Thaddeus Kosciuszko House – After introducing the Colonial troops to innovative military engineering techniques that helped defeat the British, the former Polish count returned to Philadelphia where he entertained numerous dignitaries in his residence. A modest home for such a renowned war hero, the Kosciuszko House features documents from his military achievements, personal belongings and furnishings. 301 Pine Street, (215) 597-8787, nps.gov/thko/index.htm

Historic Churches & Cemeteries:

  • Historic Congregation B’nai Abraham – With a congregation formed in 1874 for Russian Jews fleeing Czar Alexander II, this 1910 building was the first in the city constructed to serve specifically as a synagogue. The congregation is active to this day. 527 Lombard Street, (215) 238-2100, phillyshul.com
  • Holy Trinity Church – This first German national parish in the United States, now part of Old St. Mary’s, was formed in 1784. In 1797, the charitable parish established the nation’s first Catholic orphanage for children whose families died in the Yellow Fever epidemic.
    613 Spruce Street, (215) 923-7930, oldstmary.com
  • Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church – Founded by Bishop Richard Allen in 1794, Mother Bethel AME Church sits on the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African-Americans. The museum houses artifacts dating back to the original building, traces the history and international growth of the AME church and includes Bishop Allen’s tomb. Free tours offered almost daily. 419 S. 6th Street, (215) 925-0616, motherbethel.org
  • Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church and Cemetery – The list of worshippers from the church’s earliest days, including John Adams, reads like an 18th-century who’s who. The burial ground is the final resting place for signers of the S. Constitution, members of the Continental Congress, Revolutionary War soldiers and others. 412 Pine, (215) 925-8051, oldpine.org
  • Old St. Joseph’s Catholic Church – Established in 1733 and tucked away on a cobblestone alley to avoid scrutiny from 18th-century anti-Catholic forces, this church is the oldest in Philadelphia’s Catholic community. It still maintains an active congregation. 321 Willings Alley, (215) 923-1733, oldstjoseph.org
  • Old St. Mary’s Church and Cemetery – Although small by modern standards, St. Mary’s served as the first cathedral in Philadelphia. The names on the headstones in the burial grounds read like a roll call of American history: Commodore Barry, Father of the American Navy, Thomas Fitzsimons, signer of the S. Constitution, and other Revolutionary and Civil War heroes. 252 S. 4th Street, (215) 923-7930, oldstmary.com
  • Peter’s Church and Cemetery – Standing on ground donated by William Penn’s grandsons—the family coat of arms is above the pulpit—this house of worship opened in 1761 and still looks much as it did when the Washingtons attended services. The cemetery is the final resting place of Colonel John Nixon, deliverer of the first public reading of Declaration of Independence, and Charles Wilson Peale. 313 Pine Street, (215) 925-5968, stpetersphila.org
  • Society Hill Synagogue – Originally built as a Baptist church, the building changed ownership and became a synagogue in 1910. In keeping with its original philosophy, the church offers refuge to persecuted people of all faiths and backgrounds. 418 Spruce Street, (215) 922-6590, societyhillsynagogue.org

Parks, Public Spaces, Murals & Memorials:

  • Irish Memorial – For the 150th anniversary of Ireland’s Great Hunger of the 1840s, Glenna Goodacre created this 30-foot-long bronze memorial. More than two dozen life-sized figures convey the story of the multitudes who died in the old country, as well as the hundreds of thousands who crowded onto disease-ridden ships for the Great Migration to America. 100 S. Front Street, irishmemorial.org
  • Korean War Memorial – Heroes of “the Forgotten War” are honored in this memorial. Granite carvings recall those who gave their lives and follow the history of the Korean War. Front & Dock Streets, (215) 463-5800
  • Mapping Courage: Honoring W.E.B. Du Bois and Engine #11 – One of more than 3,800 super-sized works created by Mural Arts Philadelphia, this mural by artist Willis Humphrey depicts W.E.B. Du Bois towering over a city scene with papers flowing from his hand. The survey that Du Bois is holding was the basis for his famous 1899 paper The Philadelphia Negro. 6th & South Streets, (215) 685-0750, muralarts.org
  • Philadelphia Vietnam Veteran Memorial Subtle but powerful, this memorial honors the Philadelphians who lost their lives during the Vietnam conflict. Spruce Street between Columbus Boulevard & Front Street, (267) 973-0600, pvvm.org
  • Rose Garden – Created to honor those who fought in the Revolutionary War, the garden includes approximately 250 roses representing 96 varieties. Although the full beauty of this garden comes into bloom in June, it provides a year-round escape from the fast pace of city life. Between Walnut & Locust Streets and 4th & 5th Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde/rose-garden.htm
  • Three Bears Park – Named for the statues in the center of the green, this charming pocket park, is not too big and not too small. Wee ones romp on children’s swings, monkey bars and other equipment while parents and caregivers socialize in this friendly spot. Delancey Street between 3rd & 4th Streets, org
  • Washington Square Park – One of William Penn’s original squares marks the end of the developed portion of his original plan for Philadelphia. The former animal pasture and burial ground and home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier remains a peaceful place, now popular for picnicking and playing. 6th & Walnut Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde

Philadelphia’s Historic District campaign, from VISIT PHILADELPHIA®, showcases the city’s incomparable place in early American history and the still vibrant neighborhoods of Old City, Society Hill and the Delaware River Waterfront. The campaign celebrates America’s most historic square mile in the country’s first World Heritage City, as designated by the Organization of World Heritage Cities. Funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development and H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest, the initiative runs through September 2018.

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, visitors can engage with costumed history makers, hear stories of the real people of independence and take part in colonial reenactments. And every day of the year, they can tour, shop, dine and drink in the area just like the founding fathers and mothers once did. For more information about all there is to see and do in Philadelphia’s Historic District, go to visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com.

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