Today Eyes on the Street continues our Philly Love Notes collaboration with this appreciation of the bygone days when Philadelphians could move through Independence Hall's arcade and sit down on its stoop to watch the world go by.
Love Note #141: Steve Weinik looks back on Independence Hall stoop sitting
My love note: Most of my favorite places are wrapped up in some era or event from my own personal history. Center City at 3:30 in the morning in 1998, or Morris Arboretum on a warm summer night are all tied up in my own story. When I was trying to think of a place, all ideas were either too inward facing or just too unrelatable. I love the Toleration statue in Fairmount Park, but mostly because I used to cut school with friends and hang out there. I could write a long, heartfelt love letter to the feeling of sitting by a radiator and a cracked window in my West Philly apartment smoking a cigarette, listening to some distant train whistle carried for miles by cold winter air, but who cares?
Then a couple weeks ago I was on a simple assignment to photograph Independence Hall from three angles. The photos would be used to help build a design for some future public art project. I don't get down to Independence Mall much and think about the space even less. But then, lying on the ground with my camera on the second floor of the Constitution Center, I remembered…
In my early 20’s I used to take walks around center city and would sometimes stop to sit on the stoop of Independence Hall. Stoop sitting is a famous Philadelphia pastime, and what better place to do it than there? There was some tension back then between the public nature of the space and the protected status of the building, but no police or park ranger ever asked me to leave.
Of course now, sitting on the stoop of Independence Hall isn't allowed and could probably get you arrested. I don't need to hammer home the irony in all that. All I want to say is that for me, using the stoop of that building as a quiet, contemplative public space was something special. I was a history major, so maybe this resonates for me more than most of you, but I hope that what that space was, and what it still has the potential to be, translates. The ability, as a private citizen of Philadelphia to sit there without the distraction of guides dressed in stupid costumes, made it become a modest old building with a lot of history and a very nice stoop. Once the tourists leave for the day, it's a surprisingly peaceful spot to sit and watch time go by in real time.
Philly Love Notes is a collection of reminders. There is too much in the city that is forgotten or overlooked. Philly Love Notes seeks to rediscover those places — to remind the city, and us, that it is loved. Want to share your favorite spot? Drop Philly Love Notes an email with your idea.
Eyes on the Street has teamed up with Philly Love Notes to feature especially plannerdly love notes about places in Philly on this blog. So far we’ve shared love notes about bikes at Rittenhouse Square, a walk through Ed Bacon’s greenways, a twofer about Penn Treaty Park, Drexel Park, Wayne Mills, where the Reading Viaduct meets Noble Street, stoop culture, the Parkway Central Branch of the Free Library, the Woodlands Cemetery, Frankford, and a log cabin in Northern Liberties.
This piece originally appeared on Philly Love Notes on January 23, 2013.