Thursday, July 15, 2010
From Independence Hall where the Founding Fathers signed their famous Declaration, to Penn’s Landing, where William Penn first dropped anchor, Philadelphia’s Old City District remains true to the vision that sparked its development so many years ago.
The importance of independence is a sentiment that echoes in local shops and restaurants of the district, recently deemed “Hip-storic” because of the historic influence infused with modern lifestyles.
Residents have differing views on where to find the heart of the borough, but Market Street runs right through the middle. The eastern edge of Market, by the Delaware River, is the original location of Shane Candies, one of the oldest candy stores in the United States. The Shane family has been making delectable sweets since 1876 in a building constructed during the Revolutionary War, and, like the store’s stamped tin ceilings and carved wooden counters, the specialties remain unchanged—chocolates and butter creams made in old copper kettles. The store is temporarily closed this summer for maintenance but will reopen in October 2010.
Down the street and around the corner on Third Avenue, past favorite shops like Charlie’s Jeans, Trophy Bikes and Friedman’s Umbrellas, you’ll find Kellijane, where lavender fills the air; luxurious linens and self-described “software for the home” fill the shelves. That includes the Purists line (popular for its chemical-free, dye-free products) and fine lamb’s-wool baby blankets.
Another shop for the home sits—but not too quietly—farther down Third Street. Tribal Home is an eclectic spot that came to life in 1989, right before an influx of studio and retail enthusiasts hit the Old City with heavy revitalization efforts in the early 1990s. Owner Karen Riggs offers notable finds such as earth-tone Kuba cloth from Zaire, which she displays amid handpicked antique African artifacts.
A shopping excursion in the Old City could last for days, especially since there are also plenty of choice restaurants to offer distraction from sidewalk venturing. Even window-shopping is a pleasure here, because shopkeepers rely on eye-catching displays. The key word in the language of Old City retailers seems to be “communicative” rather than “competitive,” which assures that variety thrives
as triumphantly as independence.