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Tall Tales of Queen Village, Philadelphia

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During my exceptional (choose one of the definitions in Webster’s at will) month squatting in a dilapidating Queen Village apartment with some questionable albeit colorful (again, choose your preferred definition) individuals, I’ve had the chance to see some of the area’s hidden gems. Unlike when my mother had to use the restroom outside my apartment, I now invite you in to learn about some of these excellent historical features that tower over the humble row houses of my neighborhood.


A dreary winter afternoon for the Osages at St. Peter's Church

A dreary winter afternoon for the Osages at St. Peter’s Church

The Osages of Peter*

One of the very first pieces of information on Philadelphia I picked up when I first moved to the Greater Philadelphia area was on the looming Osage orange trees in the small, quiet cemetery of St. Peter’s Church. It is thought that these very trees were grown from seeds sent by Meriwether Lewis during his and Clark’s 1804—06 expedition to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson then forwarded the samples to the botanist Bernard McMahon, who planted them in this very church graveyard.

*Full disclosure: This church is not in Queen Village but, rather, Society Hill. Even still, my coworkers think I’m posh and that I’m from Society Hill, so, therefore, it still counts.


The Sparks Shot Tower over its adjacent playground

The Sparks Shot Tower over its adjacent playground

War of 1812 Shot Tower

142 feet up in a brick tower, molten lead was dropped into a water basin at its base, and, voilà, a musket ball was ready to be locked and loaded. The centrifugal force of the drop would create a nice, smooth sphere shape, while the water would immediately cool the molten lead balls, which would be ready for collection for ammunition. This site in particular, the Sparks Shot Tower, was erected in 1808 and was one of the first shot towers in the US.


Paper mulberry

Although this arboretal attraction is but one and located in my own (current-soon-to-be-ex) apartment courtyard, the species of paper mulberry tree outside my window has quite the history and has a link to my recent Japanese past. The deeply lobed, three-leaved shedder confused me at first for a fig, but I realized after a little Wikipedia-ing that this paper mulberry is used to make washi, the paper traditionally used in origami.

The bark is used for origami paper, while the leaves can be boiled for foodstuff. I’ve yet to use either for their historical purposes, but I can make a mean raven, crane, koi fish, and dog from my stash of origami from Japan. My horses still look like zombie dinosaurs.


The moored, titanic SS United States

The moored, titanic SS United States

Penn’s Landing & Washington Avenue Green

Again, the former is not Queen Village proper, but Penn’s Landing is just above, and it is a lovely place for a run every morning. I love seeing the sun rise over the Moshulu windjammer and Spanish-American War—era USS Olympia as well as the Battleship New Jersey across the way. While city people seem to glorify any green space afforded no matter how tiny or sparsely vegetated it is, Washington Avenue Green should be commended for being a green reprieve thoughtfully situated out of the way along the scenic lower Delaware River. Ignoring a plaza with the likes of Wal Mart* and Home Depot in between (I secretly love this), the moored-and-retired, yet-still-impressive SS United States is moored just south of this area.

*Never go to this Wal Mart at 6 p.m. Never.


There’s plenty more to be loved in Queen Village, and though I’m moving soon, it’ll be up the street, still in Queen Village! One of the other things to be loved in the area includes the upcoming Mummers Parade. For the past month, the Mummers have been practicing on South 2nd Street, the original route of the New Year’s Mummers Parade, which has been running since the early 1900s.

I’m still not head over heels for Philly throughout my life travels, but I’m loving its uniqueness and surprises along the way.

Morning sun over the Battleship New Jersey

Morning sun over the Battleship New Jersey


2 Responses

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  1. […] Christ Church. Each of these has its own unique characteristic, St. Peter’s for its trees I’ve written about previously, Old Pine for its architecture style and somber but beautiful stained glass windows, and Mother […]

  2. […] Numerous sweetgum trees (Liquidambar) line the streets of Philadelphia, particularly Pine Street near St. Peter’s Church, where on more than one occasion their spiky fruits nearly sent me over my bike handlebars. […]

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