Headquarters: Philadelphia Marriott Old City
Philadelphia is home to 67 National Historic Landmarks (only Boston and New York compare) and several of these Landmarks have strong War of 1812 connections, and we plan special visits to them! Herewith, a preview of some of the tours to be offered during the 2021 Philadelphia gathering.
Many 1812 members will have visited Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but how many of you have enjoyed a private tour of these beloved historic sites AND a tour of Congress Hall?! A highlight of this tour will be the second floor of Independence Hall, which is usually closed to the public. This summer, Karie Diethorn, Chief Curator of Independence National Historical Park, and one of the leading historians on Independence Hall, conducted research and determined that a second floor courtroom was the location where, on January 9, 1854, the Honorable Joel Barlow Sutherland, Judge and retired U.S. Congressman, gaveled to order one of the largest assemblages of War of 1812 veterans ever gathered together (approximately 1,200), and which resulted an important moment in the history of our Society and its advocacy for benefits and pensions for 1812 Veterans similar to those received by Revolutionary War veterans. It is our hope that we will briefly convene the 2020 meeting of the General Society while in this historic space in honor and remembrance of our 1812 veteran ancestors.
Although primarily associated with the American Revolution, Independence Hall also has many associations with the War of 1812. Our National Park Ranger guides have informed us that they will be highlighting these 1812 associations during our tour, including all of the notable historical figures from the War who spent time in Independence Hall including Madison, Monroe, and Jackson, among others. Our Society held its 1904 meeting in adjacent Congress Hall, where the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate met from 1790 to 1800, and we will tour this building too. The State House Yard behind Independence Hall is not only where the Declaration of Independence was first read to the public, but also where the reading of the 1812 proclamation of War took place, where drilling of Troops who would serve in the War took place, and where the Treaty of Ghent was read to the public.
Carpenter’s Hall not only served as the meeting place for the First Continental Congress in 1774, it also served as the location for our Society’s meeting in 1895. This notable Georgian architectural building also served as a meeting place for the American Philosophical Society, the Library Company, the Franklin Institute, the First and Second Banks of the United States and today continues to serve as the meeting place for the Carpenter’s Company, the oldest craft guild in the nation, placing the Society in very distinguished company.
Dolley Payne Todd House. Dolley Payne Todd House. Before she successfully created and defined the role of First Lady as we recognize it, and before she rose to fame as the savior of many White House artifacts before the British invasion, the future Dolley Madison lived in this Walnut Street row house. The house features furnishings from the period of Dolley’s residency and offers a wonderful view of social tastes of this trend-setting hostess. Introduced by Aaron Burr while James was serving as a U.S. Representative for Virginia in Philadelphia, Dolley and James were wed in 1794.
The Athenæum of Philadelphia. Founded in 1814 during the War, the Athenaeum is one of America’s leading private research archives and libraries with a major focus on architectural drawings and interior design. The Athenaeum’s landmark building on Washington Square, just behind Independence Hall, offers one of the finest 19th century interiors in Philadelphia. Highlights of these extensive museum and archival collections, and the War of 1812 connections, are the beautiful architectural drawings for the U.S. Capitol dome designed by Thomas Ustick Walter that were needed after the British burned Washington and the Capitol building.
Girard College. Philanthropist, banker, and merchant sailor Stephen Girard was America’s first millionaire and Girard’s Bank was a principal source of government credit during the War of 1812. By the end of the war, Girard had placed nearly all of his immense private banking resources at the disposal of the U.S. government and underwrote up to 95 percent of all war loan issues, allowing the United States to successfully carry on the war. Founders Hall at Girard College is one of the first and finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in America and houses the Girard Museum and Archive. During our visit we hope to see Girard’s War of 1812 loan ledger book and other 1812-related manuscripts.
Second Bank of the United States. Today this remarkable Greek Revival building houses the U.S. Portrait Gallery featuring the “People of Independence” exhibit. The Portrait Gallery’s primary collections include painted portraits by artist noted American artist Charles Willson Peale. Many of these portraits were featured in Peale’s Museum located on the second floor of Independence Hall. During the War of 1812, the patriotic fervor of the war made Peale’s Museum one of the most visited museums in America. War of 1812 financier Stephen Girard was a major shareholder in the Second Bank of the United States. We hope to take the “War of 1812” Tour of the Gallery.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Founded in 1805, the Academy is America’s oldest art museum and art school. The Academy’s current building, designed by noted architect Frank Furness in 1876 is a must-see architectural landmark. We will pay a brief visit to the Museum in order to see Thomas Birch’s monumental painting “Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie.” Painted in 1814 not long after the battle, this painting became one of the most viewed artworks in America at the time. Thomas Birch painted one of the most well known series of paintings depicting naval battle from the War of 1812, of which this painting is the most well known. Soon after his election, President James Monroe made this same pilgrimage to see this painting during his Philadelphia tour.
These are just a few of the historic sites that will included on our 2021 “Beyond the Liberty Bell” tours of notable patriotic locations in Philadelphia that all Americans must visit at some point in their lives. We look forward to hosting you!!