Gardens and Houses of Old

What I liked most about walking around in the historical part of Philadelphia were the vintage houses and backyards or gardens, which gave a glimpse of life back in the 1700s when Philadelphia was the temporary capital of the United States.

The workman- like a coachman, shoemaker, tavernkeeper, or coppersmith- resided in a brick house that is typically composed of two rooms, one on top of the other, and an attic. These houses serve as both the workman’s home and workplace. I read that at the time, eight out of ten of the workmen rent these houses in a ten-year period. Their belongings were basic and simple. At their backyards they plant herbs for medicinal use, and vegetables for food. They also have their horses and livestock within the yard. They collect rain in wooden barrels and used them for watering plants.

For the wealthy, their backyards are more of spacious garden retreats, with rows of flowers and trees. I was able to walk under the shade of the overhead trellis of the 18th Century Garden, a serene well-kept space. It was surreal walking along the paths, and I was imagining I was in the olden days.

My most favorite part of that historical sites walk was the Elfreth’s Alley, an old residential street with houses built between 1720 to 1830. The vintage houses were quaint and charming. I saw a house that was open for tourists, but I was not able to get in because I was running late to catch the Reading Terminal Market to take out my early dinner.

As I walked back to the hotel and recalled the places I went to that Sunday afternoon, I resonated with the lifestyle of the olden days, as today I also have a backyard where we grow our own food organically, compost our vegetable scraps, let our hens roam free, and collect rainwater for reuse in watering the plants. Gardening for food will always be a way of life, and I think it’s healthy for the body, mind and heart to have a green space of our own, no matter what size it is.

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