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Hidden gems of Independence National Historical Park

Go beyond the Liberty Bell

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Philly’s Independence National Historical Park is a wildly popular spot to visit in the summers—and for good reason. It’s the place to take an educational, historic vacation. Or, if you already live here, it’s the perfect time to check out some of those centuries-old spots you’ve always passed by.

But, while your first instinct might be to hit up the Liberty Bell (and that crazy long line), there’s a lot more to the area. In fact there are 55 acres of Independence National Historical Park to explore, if you just know where to look.

To highlight the best of these hidden gems and often-overlooked sites, we turned to the experts: The folks who run Independence National Historical Park and the Friends of Independence National Historical Park.

From gorgeous secret gardens to historic haunts along Market Street, here are 12 sites to check out within the park that are a little more off the beaten path.

Head here for more on the past and future of IND NPS.

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1. President's House

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President's House
Philadelphia, PA 19106

With a prominent spot on Independence Mall at 6th and Market, the President’s House isn’t exactly “hidden.” But it is in a way, since the original house doesn’t even exist. In its heyday, a brick mansion stood here, serving as the home of both George Washington and later John Adams. Today, though, the President’s House consists of a series of structures that follow the same footprint of the original and were designed by Kelly/Maiello Architects.

If you step “inside” the exhibit, you can see the foundation of the original house, which was discovered during site excavation. Furthermore, it highlights the fact that Washington had nine slaves here. “The outdoor exhibits examine the paradox between slavery and freedom in the new nation,” explains Winston Clement, the historical architect at Independence.

Courtesy of NPS

2. Fragments of Franklin Court

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318 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Originally a three-story home rented by a local merchant and his family, the Fragments of Franklin Court is now an archaeology exhibit that shows how the classic Philadelphia row house was built. A lot of the artifacts on display were actually excavated from this very area when Franklin Court was built in the 1970s.

Courtesy of NPS

3. Franklin Court Printing Office

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318 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

After visiting the Fragments at Franklin Court make a stop at the Franklin Court Printing Office. The original office no longer exists, but this re-created spot gives a good indication of what the original building looked like. There are two printing presses on display here that are remakes of what Ben Franklin would have actually used to print his Pennsylvania Gazette newsletters. Stick around for the live demonstrations of the presses in action.

Courtesy of NPS

4. Franklin Court

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322 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19139

As you round out your visits to the printing shop and the Fragments exhibit, take a pause outside at Franklin Court. The white steel frames are known as Ghost Structures, designed by Robert Venturi, William Rauch, and Denise Scott Brown in the 1970s to memorialize where Benjamin Franklin’s house once stood. If you look down, you can catch a glimpse of the original cellar kitchen.

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5. Signer's Garden

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434-498 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

The Signer’s Garden is relaxing place to visit when you just need a break from the world. Its centerpiece is a bronze sculpture of the righteous Signer, which was modeled after George Clymer, a Philadelphia merchant who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The statue is an ode to all of the signers of both documents.

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6. Second Bank of the US

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420 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

This monumental National Historic Landmark building was originally, as the name suggests, the second national bank authorized by none other than Andrew Hamilton. Designed by William Strickland, it’s an stately example of Greek Revival architecture. Inside, only a few original details remain, including "tessellated" marble floors and barrel vaulted ceilings.

Today, it’s home to the park's portrait gallery. Fun fact: “Many of these paintings were first exhibited inside Independence Hall in the early 1800s as part of Peale's Philadelphia Museum,” says the park’s architect Winston Clemente.

Courtesy of NPS

7. John Barry Statue

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111 S Independence Mall W
Philadelphia, PA 19106

If you walk to Independence Square behind Independence Hall, you’ll find this statue of John Barry. Barry was the first commodore of the U.S. Army. In general, says Friends’ program director Maiti Gallen, Independence Square is “a great place to eat lunch on a nice day, and to people-watch year-round.”

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8. Bishop White House

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309 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Located right next to the Benjamin Rush Garden is the Bishop White House, which dates back to 1787. White was the first Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania and lived here until his death in 1836. It may not look like much for the outside, but today, it’s outfitted to show what it was like to live like an upper-class Philadelphian in the 18th century. White’s study, stacked with his hundreds of books, is a bibliophile’s dream.

Just note: The house is only open in the spring and summer seasons.

Courtesy of NPS

9. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution

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210 W Washington Square
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Washington Square, one of William Penn’s original five squares, is also part of Independence National Historical Park. While already a beautiful park, it’s centered around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution, a memorial that has a constantly lit flame at its foot. In fact, the tomb has the disinterred remains of a soldier from the actual square, which which served as a burial ground during the war.

Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

10. Rose Garden

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422 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

“This garden provides a quiet place to sit and reflect on a busy workday,” the park folks say of the Rose Garden. Along with 96 varieties of antique roses, the garden features an original 19th-century cobblestone path. Just note: These aren’t your typical rose bushes—they only bloom once a year in the late spring, so plan accordingly.

Courtesy of NPS

11. The Magnolia Garden

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Locust St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Says Gallen, “I recommend this garden because it provides a beautiful green space on a handsome rowhouse block. The spring blossoms are among the best in the city!” Fun fact: Thirteen different varieties of magnolias round out this garden, representing the original 13 colonies. For full blooming goodness, head here in the spring.

Courtesy of NPS

12. Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial

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301 Pine St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

For your last stop of this hidden gems tour, head off-site the Thaddeus Kosciuszko Memorial at 3rd and Pine. It’s technically not located within Independence National Historical Park, but how often can you say that you’ve been to the smallest national park in the country?

The brick house was the home of Kosciuszko, a Polish immigrant who fought in the American Revolutionary War and was BFFs with Thomas Jefferson. It’s a mere 0.2 acres, and open on weekends from April through October.

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1. President's House

President's House, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Courtesy of NPS

With a prominent spot on Independence Mall at 6th and Market, the President’s House isn’t exactly “hidden.” But it is in a way, since the original house doesn’t even exist. In its heyday, a brick mansion stood here, serving as the home of both George Washington and later John Adams. Today, though, the President’s House consists of a series of structures that follow the same footprint of the original and were designed by Kelly/Maiello Architects.

If you step “inside” the exhibit, you can see the foundation of the original house, which was discovered during site excavation. Furthermore, it highlights the fact that Washington had nine slaves here. “The outdoor exhibits examine the paradox between slavery and freedom in the new nation,” explains Winston Clement, the historical architect at Independence.

President's House
Philadelphia, PA 19106

2. Fragments of Franklin Court

318 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Courtesy of NPS

Originally a three-story home rented by a local merchant and his family, the Fragments of Franklin Court is now an archaeology exhibit that shows how the classic Philadelphia row house was built. A lot of the artifacts on display were actually excavated from this very area when Franklin Court was built in the 1970s.

318 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

3. Franklin Court Printing Office

318 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Courtesy of NPS

After visiting the Fragments at Franklin Court make a stop at the Franklin Court Printing Office. The original office no longer exists, but this re-created spot gives a good indication of what the original building looked like. There are two printing presses on display here that are remakes of what Ben Franklin would have actually used to print his Pennsylvania Gazette newsletters. Stick around for the live demonstrations of the presses in action.

318 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

4. Franklin Court

322 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19139
Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

As you round out your visits to the printing shop and the Fragments exhibit, take a pause outside at Franklin Court. The white steel frames are known as Ghost Structures, designed by Robert Venturi, William Rauch, and Denise Scott Brown in the 1970s to memorialize where Benjamin Franklin’s house once stood. If you look down, you can catch a glimpse of the original cellar kitchen.

322 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19139

5. Signer's Garden

434-498 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

The Signer’s Garden is relaxing place to visit when you just need a break from the world. Its centerpiece is a bronze sculpture of the righteous Signer, which was modeled after George Clymer, a Philadelphia merchant who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The statue is an ode to all of the signers of both documents.

434-498 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

6. Second Bank of the US

420 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Courtesy of NPS

This monumental National Historic Landmark building was originally, as the name suggests, the second national bank authorized by none other than Andrew Hamilton. Designed by William Strickland, it’s an stately example of Greek Revival architecture. Inside, only a few original details remain, including "tessellated" marble floors and barrel vaulted ceilings.

Today, it’s home to the park's portrait gallery. Fun fact: “Many of these paintings were first exhibited inside Independence Hall in the early 1800s as part of Peale's Philadelphia Museum,” says the park’s architect Winston Clemente.

420 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

7. John Barry Statue

111 S Independence Mall W, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

If you walk to Independence Square behind Independence Hall, you’ll find this statue of John Barry. Barry was the first commodore of the U.S. Army. In general, says Friends’ program director Maiti Gallen, Independence Square is “a great place to eat lunch on a nice day, and to people-watch year-round.”

111 S Independence Mall W
Philadelphia, PA 19106

8. Bishop White House

309 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Courtesy of NPS

Located right next to the Benjamin Rush Garden is the Bishop White House, which dates back to 1787. White was the first Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania and lived here until his death in 1836. It may not look like much for the outside, but today, it’s outfitted to show what it was like to live like an upper-class Philadelphian in the 18th century. White’s study, stacked with his hundreds of books, is a bibliophile’s dream.

Just note: The house is only open in the spring and summer seasons.

309 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

9. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution

210 W Washington Square, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Washington Square, one of William Penn’s original five squares, is also part of Independence National Historical Park. While already a beautiful park, it’s centered around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution, a memorial that has a constantly lit flame at its foot. In fact, the tomb has the disinterred remains of a soldier from the actual square, which which served as a burial ground during the war.

210 W Washington Square
Philadelphia, PA 19106

10. Rose Garden

422 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Courtesy of NPS

“This garden provides a quiet place to sit and reflect on a busy workday,” the park folks say of the Rose Garden. Along with 96 varieties of antique roses, the garden features an original 19th-century cobblestone path. Just note: These aren’t your typical rose bushes—they only bloom once a year in the late spring, so plan accordingly.

422 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

11. The Magnolia Garden

Locust St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Courtesy of NPS

Says Gallen, “I recommend this garden because it provides a beautiful green space on a handsome rowhouse block. The spring blossoms are among the best in the city!” Fun fact: Thirteen different varieties of magnolias round out this garden, representing the original 13 colonies. For full blooming goodness, head here in the spring.

Locust St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

12. Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial

301 Pine St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

For your last stop of this hidden gems tour, head off-site the Thaddeus Kosciuszko Memorial at 3rd and Pine. It’s technically not located within Independence National Historical Park, but how often can you say that you’ve been to the smallest national park in the country?

The brick house was the home of Kosciuszko, a Polish immigrant who fought in the American Revolutionary War and was BFFs with Thomas Jefferson. It’s a mere 0.2 acres, and open on weekends from April through October.

301 Pine St
Philadelphia, PA 19106