“You’re kidding,” the woman said to me, looking incredulous at what I had just stated. “I’ve walking past this building for twenty years and never noticed!”
As much as I love introducing my city of Philadelphia to people from other parts of the country, some of my favorite moments of giving these tours come when I show something to a native Philadelphian that he or she had failed to notice over the years. This happened yesterday when I showed a lady Graff House, the apartment where Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence.
The building is actually a recreation, but based in the right place and, according to sketches made at the time, accurately built. Jefferson, at the age of thirty-three, sat alone in his upstairs room, took only a couple days to write out the document that would transform not only the country, but the world.
Philadelphia, to my eternal consternation, does not always advertise its greatest assets. This is one of them, this place where history was made, not by the firing of a gun or the thoughtful movement of troops, but through the thinking of one singular man. He wrote a document that was more a wish-list than an accurate description of our state at the time it was written. But when Abraham Lincoln fought the Civil War, he did so because of his belief in that document.
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