Update: The SSUS is SOLD OUT!
Here is your Urban Explore Guide to Philly
This is a map of all things for the weekend. Food, drink, tours, Huzzah!
The Young Friends of the Preservation Alliance and the Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists are excited to host the Rust Belt Takeover of Philadelphia (Not Rusty, just gritty). A pre-event benefit will be held Thursday, October 3. The Takeover is October 4 – 6.
Registration is now live! Book your top tours before they fill up.
Full event details are below.
Thursday, October 3
Special Early Arrival event: 6th Annual In with the Old Benefit Party
Friday, October 4
2 – 4 p.m. (option 1) | East Falls Informal Walking Tour
Join YFPA Steering Committee member and self-proclaimed East Falls transient Kevin King for an informative walking tour of East Falls, in Northwest Philadelphia. Previously known as Falls of Schuylkill [SKOO-kil] and named for the river on which it fronts, this thriving, walkable community has transformed from a haven for industry in the 19th and 20th centuries to a college town and a foodie destination today. We’ll meet at the East Falls train station (served by SEPTA on the Manayunk/Norristown line from all Center City Stations) at 2pm. Wear your walking shoes, as we’ll be traversing a roughly 3-mile loop covering several preservation and adaptive reuse sites varying from an 1802 mansion and grounds to the family home of Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, and more! Looking forward to seeing you there.
3 – 5 p.m. (option 2) | Cedar Park/University City Walking Tour
Philadelphia’s electric trolleys, introduced in in 1892, rapidly transformed the then-rural territory west of the Schuykill River into an idyllic suburb. Perhaps unknowngly, West Philadelphia’s builders worked at the high-water marks of both Philadelphia’s industrial growth and the popularity of Victorian architectural styles. Their legacy is a ring of solidly-built, sycamore-shaded urban neighborhoods. Curiously, many of West Philadelphia’s trolleys were spared from the post-WWII dismantling of similar networks around the country. The six legacy trolley lines serving this area comprise one of the most extensive networks remaining of its type, and allow the section to operate as one of America’s last true “streetcar suburbs”. On Friday night, YFPA Steering Committee member Ben Davis will lead a casual walking tour discussing intersections between the historical and contemporary use of his corner of West Philadelphia, Cedar Park.
4:30 – 5:30 p.m. (option 2.5) | Philadelphia Neon Museum
Stop by the Firestone Building at 32nd and Market Streets, to view an exhibit of historic neon signs on loan to Drexel University from the Neon Museum. Len Davidson, founder of the museum, will be on hand to discuss the collection and the story it tells about Philadelphia’s commercial history.
3 – 5 p.m. (option 3) |Informal Rittenhouse/Fitler Walking Tour
Join us for a tour of the tiny streets and gilded age homes in the Rittenhouse-Fitler neighborhood. Walking along the quiet streets, we will take in this residential area, and the contrast between the large mansions and the small houses that contribute to the neighborhood’s charm. Along the way, we will learn about the history of the neighborhood, and learn about the more recent transformation of the Schuylkill river industrial area to beloved park and trail.
3 – 5 p.m. (option 4) |Ardmore Walking Tour
Take a quick ride on the SEPTA Paoli/Thorndale Line to Ardmore, a historic Main Line town fast becoming one of Philadelphia’s most notable “edge cities.” Easy access to transit, new mixed-use development, and a suddenly thriving downtown historic district are transforming this one-time factory town into a magnet for a new generation. Ardmore was once home to the Autocar Company, one of the first automobile manufacturers in the United States which also made trucks for World War II. The tour will include the locally-designated commercial historic district, where you will learn about how historic preservation is balanced with new development, and the surrounding residential neighborhoods that were built for factory workers and commuters alike. Also within walking distance are the Art Deco landmark buildings of Suburban Square, one of the earliest open-air shopping centers in the country.
6 – 9 p.m. | WELCOME PARTY!
Start off the Rust Belt Takeover of Philadelphia right with a social on the Delaware River! Come on down to Cherry Street Pier—located right under the Ben Franklin Bridge—and get to know your fellow Takeover participants over some drinks and light food. We’re so excited to fill you on the special ways we’ve planned share our city with you. Did we mention that there will be interactive performance art?
Saturday, October 5
10 a.m. – 1 p.m. | SS United States Tour (space is limited! Cost an additional $30)
Registrants will receive a follow-up email with a link to pay the additional cost. Payment goes directly to the SS United States Conservancy.
We invite you to join the SS United States Conservancy’s curatorial team on a special, limited-access tour of the SS United States to help contribute to the vibrant living history of America’s Flagship.
General public access to the SS United States is highly restricted. While limited vessel tours are offered as a Conservancy membership benefit at the Captain’s Quarters membership level and above, we are offering this special opportunity in support of the Rust Belt Takeover, to assist in our ongoing Legacy and oral history projects.
Tour participants are asked to make a donation to the Conservancy of $30 per person, with all funds supporting the Conservancy’s efforts to save America’s Flagship and honor the ship’s legacy. As a national 501(c)(3), all contributions to save America’s Flagship are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.
The tour is limited to 15 individuals.
Must be 18 years or older.
9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. (option 2) | North Broad
Travel up and down North Broad Street via foot and subway as we check out two preservation success stories: the 1908 Metropolitan Opera House and the 1894 Divine Lorraine Hotel, and tour two Art Deco gems that might yet join their ranks: the 1927 Uptown Theater and the 1933 Beury Building (popularly known for its multistory graffiti spelling out “Boner 4 Ever”). Along the way, we’ll trace the story of the city’s main north-south artery. Once a millionaire’s row and affluent commercial corridor, it is finally seeing significant reinvestment after decades of neglect. We’ll examine what this reinvestment and revitalization means for preservation of the built environment, and how it affects the communities along this changing corridor. Make sure to wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes. Inside tours will be in raw construction spaces and waivers will be required.
9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (option 3) | Modern Sights and Railroad Tastes of Philadelphia
Join Preservation Alliance Executive Director Paul Steinke and Jefferson University Professor of Architecture Andrew Hart on a tour of two of Center City Philadelphia’s landmarks and adaptive-reuse success stories. Meeting at the northeast corner of 12th and Market (under the Hard Rock Cafe guitar) this tour will first stop at the historic train shed of Reading Terminal, then descend to the famed Reading Terminal Market to take in the sights sounds smells and flavors of Philadelphia. The tour will highlight a few local blue collar specialties–soft pretzels, Whoopie pies–amongst the ever developing symphony of flavors at the market. It’s recommended participants bring some money to sample.
After the terminal we will cross the street to the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (PSFS) Building to tour the grand entrance, banking hall and exectutive suite of the first International-style skyscraper and home to many Philadelphian’s first bank accounts. The tour will conclude on the top floor with a commanding one-of-a-kind view which fully showcases the development of the city from trading trails, to rails, to trolley car routes. Photography is permitted.
2:00 – 4:30 p.m. (option 1) |Fishtown Walking Tour
Come along with Fishtown resident Venise Whitaker as she explores how this riverside neighborhood developed and continues to change. Beginning at Penn Treaty Park, the traditional site of William Penn’s treaty of friendship with the Lenape, we will cross Delaware Avenue to visit the I-95 Girard Avenue Interchange Archaeology Center to learn about the material culture of Fishtown’s past which has been unearthed in archaeological excavations undertaken for Federal Highways Administration and PennDOT. The tour will then walk the streets that once housed Native Americans, colonists, ship builders, fishermen and industrial laborers. These same streets now face the increasing pressures of gentrification, leading to loss of the historic building stock and changes in the makeup of the neighborhood. Each street tells a tale of the past, present, and future. We’ll end at the True Hand Society, a tattoo studio located in a sensitively-adapted former church building—an example of how the neighborhood can change, while still respecting its heritage and built environment.
1:30 – 3:30 p.m. (option 2) | Mount Moriah Cemetery
Mount Moriah Cemetery, established 1855, lies on the edge of Southwest Philadelphia. Behind its iconic gatehouse lie the remains of more than 80,000 Philadelphians: veterans of every foreign and domestic conflict from our Revolution to the Korean War, and an expansive cross section of the industrial city’s population, from upper class merchants to Henry Jones, an African American who was initially denied burial in the cemetery. Mostly overgrown and forgotten by the 21st century until it was finally abandoned in 2011, the cemetery has recently undergone a restoration effort by the Friends of Mount Moriah. Join the organization’s vice president Bill Warwick for a tour of the Philadelphia side of the cemetery.
2:00 – 3:30 p.m. (option 3) | Rail Park/RDG Viaduct
In 2018, the first phase of the Rail Park—an abandoned railroad viaduct converted into a public space—opened to the general public. The tour will visit that completed section of the Rail Park and then continue through the former industrial area that has come to be known as the Eraserhood, tracing the still abandoned portion of the Reading Viaduct north to Spring Garden Street, with specific attention given to preservation success stories along the way. Not only will the history of the railroad and the development of the area be examined, but also the continuing impact this reinvestment and gentrification has had on the neighborhood and surrounding areas as brew pubs and condos replace warehouses and artists’ lofts.
2:00 – 4:00 p.m. (option 4) |Philadelphia’s Gayborhood Tour
Bob Skiba, Curator of the William Way LGBT Community Center and Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides president, will lead us on a walk examining how Center City’s mid-20th century “gay ghetto” became a 21st century inclusive and welcoming neighborhood. We’ll talk about the “Spruce Street Boys” and Philadelphia’s pivotal role in the 60s Homophile Movement. We’ll look for signs of the “Lurid Locust” Street of the 70s and the booming 80s club culture along Walnut and Chestnut Streets. Finally we’ll explore the hidden alleys and side streets of today’s Gayborhood looking for signs of bars, bookstores and queer urban spaces. Walk will end on Camac Street between Spruce and Locust streets. For more conversation, we can end with a drink at a Gayborhood watering hole, or return to William Way Center for a closer look at the John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives.
1:30 – 2:15 p.m. & 2:15 – 3:30 p.m. (option 5) | Seventh Ward
At its founding in 1794, the Mother Bethel AME Church was one of the first African American churches in Philadelphia, and now the longest continuously-maintained AME congregation in the nation. Mother Bethel’s present building, which dates to 1890, is maintained as a living monument to Philadelphia’s earliest African American residents. Margaret Jerrido, archivist at Mother Bethel, will lead us on a tour of the sanctuary and church museum. Afterward we will be joined by her colleague and fellow congregant Crawford Wilson, who will take us on a tour of the surrounding neighborhood, the historic 7th Ward. The 7th Ward, most famously the subject of WEB Du Bois’ landmark sociological study “The Philadelphia Negro”, contains landmarks and institutions pertaining to both the distant and the recent past of Philadelphia’s African American community.
6:30 – 9:30 p.m. | THE MAIN EVENT!
Everyone is invited to regroup after a day of tours for drinks and bites at Trestle Inn, Philly’s premier (well, honestly, only) go-go dive bar! Trestle Inn has been a go-to watering hole for over 100 years. Located alongside the Philadelphia Reading Terminal Railroad (now the Rail Park), this location famously hosted factory workers from the industrial Callowhill strip and journalists at the nearby Philadelphia Inquirer building. Since reopening in 2011 after a 2010 fire, the bar has reinvented its identity while retaining its historic purpose, demonstrating the range of resources that fall under the category of “Legacy Businesses.”
Please make sure to bring your ID if you’re over 21. Oh and want to keep the party going? A $5 cover charge gets you in to Trestle Inn’s Disco Dance Party at 10 p.m..
Sunday, October 6
9:30 – 11:00 a.m. (option 1) | Yoga on the Pier
Find your center with an all-levels morning yoga class held outside on Race Street Pier, a lynchpin of urban design along the historic Delaware River waterfront. The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation and James Corner Field Operations (the minds behind NYC’s High Line) re-envisioned the former multi-level shipping pier as public open space, promoting activation of the waterfront with a tiered design that evokes the former use. Since reopening in 2011, Race Street Pier has been a prime public recreation spot – and home to a beloved donation-based yoga series from April-November.
Come prepared with a yoga mat or towel, comfy clothes, and water. This class is public and free, but please consider a suggested donation of $5 (cash). Classes are cancelled by bad weather, so keep an eye out for updates from YFPA.
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (option 2) | Papermaking at the Source
Travel out to Rittenhouse Town along Philadelphia’s scenic Lincoln Drive to make your own paper and tour the location of the first papermill in the British colonies. In 1687 papermaker William Rittenhouse followed other Quaker and Mennonite families emigrating to the newly formed neighborhood of Germantown. William partnered with Philadelphia’s first printer, purchased a 20-acre plot of land along Paper Mill Run (and, with the help of his son Nicholas, built the first paper mill. For the next 40 years, the Rittenhouse family were the only papermakers in America. Your paper will be ready to take home at the end of the event and can be used for place cards, baby announcements or thank you notes. Coffee and donuts will be provided, though outside food is also welcome.
10:30 – 12:30 p.m. (option 3) | Informal Walking Tour of Philadelphia’s Tiny Streets
Join us for an informal walking tour of Philadelphia’s tiny streets and landmarks between Washington and Rittenhouse Square. Starting in Washington Square, we will work our way west along some of the picturesque and quaint streets just south of Philadelphia’s commercial corridor. We will also learn about the history of these neighborhoods, and view both the historic and recent architectural landmarks along the Avenue of the Arts, Broad Street.