How to Philly

A starter guide to Philadelphia’s must-see American Revolution history

From the basic to the lesser-known, a primer for tourists or residents.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital
ashaprihar-headshot

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Philadelphia claims the mantle of “birthplace of the United States” and is packed to the brim with history from the American Revolution. The city has museums, historic buildings, and a whole national park where you can learn about the war or see firsthand where events played out.

If you’re new to the city, you might find it hard to decide where to start. If you’ve lived here all your life, you might have skipped some of the more interesting ones.

From the touristy and kinda basic (sorry, Independence Hall) to the historic microsites scattered throughout the city, consider this your primer to Philly’s must-see Revolutionary War history.

Whether you’re looking for a fort, a cemetery, a library, or a story, we’ve got you covered with an explanation of where to find them, when you can visit, and how much they cost. Find them all on the map below.

independencehall-2020sept
Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

See where things happened

Independence Hall (and its neighbors)

The site of the signing of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Independence Hall is perhaps the most obvious site to hit up if you’re wanting to get a taste of Revolutionary War history. The only way you can see it is by tour, though, so make sure you reserve tickets online before you go. Between 5 and 7 p.m. during the summer, you can also just show up and hope to get a first-come, first-served spot.

While you’re in the area, there are plenty of other things you can check out in Independence National Historical Park. Among plenty of other stuff, there’s a recreated 18th-century printing office, as well as the President’s House Site a block away — an outdoor exhibit built on the site of the former house of Presidents George Washington and John Adams — which explores the tension between slavery and the early U.S.’s proclaimed ideal of freedom.

One in particular you might be wondering about: yes, the Liberty Bell is just across the street, at 526 Market St. Once housed and rung inside the tower of Independence Hall, the 1751 inscription on the iconic bell — “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof” — didn’t take on a symbolic significance until well after the revolution.

Where: 520 Chestnut St.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m daily during the summer. Reserved timed tickets are required from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from March through December.
Cost: $1 reservation fee per ticket

The President's House exhibit in Independence National Historical Park

The President's House exhibit in Independence National Historical Park

M. Kennedy / Visit Philly

Christ Church Burial Grounds

The remains of over 4,000 members of the adjacent church are buried in this Old City cemetery. Among them are Benjamin Franklin and four other signers of the Declaration of Independence — Joseph Hewes, Francis Hopkinson, George Ross, and Benjamin Rush.

Where: 5th and Arch streets
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (weather permitting)
Cost: $5 for adults, $2 for children

Thaddeus Kościuszko National Memorial

You can visit this house in Society Hill to see the home of Polish general Thaddeus Kościuszko, who fought alongside the colonists and engineered forts and boats in the American Revolution.

Where: 301 Pine St.
When: 12 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays (though the site is typically closed from late fall to early spring, according to the NPS website)
Cost: Free

Seven generations of the Chew family lived at Cliveden until 1972 when it was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Seven generations of the Chew family lived at Cliveden until 1972 when it was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation

R. Kennedy / Visit Philadelphia

Cliveden

Located in Germantown, this estate — also known as the Chew House — sheltered British soldiers during the Battle of Germantown in 1777.

It’s just one of several sites in the neighborhood imbued with Revolutionary War history. Also nearby are Stenton (headquarters for Generals George Washington and William Howe around the time of the Battle of Germantown), Hood Cemetery (the final resting place of 41 Revolutionary War soldiers), and Grumblethorpe (a house occupied by the British during the war, which still apparently has a blood stain on the carpet from the death of a general).

Where: 6401 Germantown Ave.
When: The Cliveden grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. You can take a guided tour Thursdays through Sundays between 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. (You can schedule that in advance online.)
Cost: Tours cost $15 per adult and $10 per student.

Fort Mifflin on the Delaware

A 10-minute drive from PHL Airport is a military fort that was decommissioned in 1962 and named a National Historic Landmark in 1970. In the Revolutionary War, it was the site where 400 continental soldiers defended against British naval forces that outnumbered them by five times, before abandoning the fort after five days.

The fort was a prison for confederate soldiers during the Civil War, and was used as an ammunition depot in both World Wars. Now, it’s been restored and is open to the public for tours and other programming.

Where: 6400 Hog Island Rd.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays from March 1 to Dec. 15
Cost: $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens, $4 for children (6-12) and veterans, free for active duty military and active duty families with ID.

Museum of the American Revolution at 3rd and Chestnut

Museum of the American Revolution at 3rd and Chestnut

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Take a historical deep dive

Museum of the American Revolution

Located in Old City right across from the First Bank of the United States, the five-year-old museum takes visitors through the origins of the revolution to its conclusion. Museum tickets are good for two consecutive days, so you don’t have to worry about making it through the whole thing in one day.

Where: 101 S. 3rd St.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (except Election Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day)
Cost: $21 for adults and $13 for kids (6-17), but you can get a discount if you buy online, show your SEPTA Key in person, or buy joint admission with the National Constitution Center or African American Museum in Philadelphia. Rates are lower for students, teachers, military members, senior citizens, and ACCESS card holders.

Library Company of Philadelphia

If you’re looking to take an in-depth look into the Revolutionary era, the Library Company of Philadelphia could have something for you. Materials aren’t purely Revolution-related, but the non-circulating library specializes in American history from the 17th through 19th centuries and has a vast collection from that time period, including broadsides, pamphlets, and rare books.

Plus, fun fact: the library was founded by Benjamin Franklin in the 1730s.

The library welcomes researchers to its reading rooms by appointment, and there’s an exhibition gallery open to the public, as well as scheduled events like seminars and lectures.

Where: 1314 Locust St.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday (except some holidays)
Cost: Free

Independence National Historical Park

Independence National Historical Park

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

Check out Revolution-era historical markers

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has been marking historically significant sites with its easily-recognized blue signs for years, and plenty of them are scattered throughout Philly.

The Pa. Historical and Museum Commission categorizes 15 markers throughout the city as American Revolution-related. They include:

  • Benjamin Rush (1745-1813): Keswick and Rayland roads
  • Betsy Ross (1752-1836): 239 Arch St.
  • Commodore John Barry (1745-1803): South Columbus Boulevard at Dock Street (near the Hyatt and Independence Seaport Museum)
  • “Common Sense”: Southeast corner of South 3rd Street and Thomas Paine Place
  • David Salisbury Franks (c. 1740-1793): Southeast corner of 5th and Arch streets
  • Elizabeth Drinker (1735-1807): 147 N. 2nd St.
  • First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry: 22 S. 23rd St.
  • Fort Mifflin: Fort Mifflin Road
  • Haym Salomon (1740-1785): 45 N. 5th St.
  • Old St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church: 250-252 S. 4th St.
  • Pennypack Creek Bridge: Pennypack Park, Frankford and Solly avenues
  • Robert Aitken (1734-1802): Market Street between Front and 2nd
  • Tun Tavern: Front St., between Chestnut and Walnut streets

Where: All over Philly
Hours: Anytime
Cost: Free