The first time I visited Independence Park, I was about 6 years old. I had never visited important buildings in the city before, so I was nervous. I remember thinking the buildings were so tall! I felt happy learning about my city’s history because my whole family is from Mexico. Getting to learn new things about America made me feel excited as a young Latina girl.
This summer, I visited the park with my writing mentor. Lots of kids visit each year on school trips, and I wanted other kids and adults to know what to expect when they come.
We stopped first at the public bathroom at Fifth and Chestnut Streets. When we got there, we found that it was closed. I found this disappointing because I thought, “What would you do if you needed to use the bathroom and found out it was closed?” The floors around were clean, but the walls were dirty and were cracked.
Nearby there were some benches people could sit on, but they didn’t look pleasing because they were so old.
While we were walking to our second stop, the Independence Visitor Center at Sixth and Market Streets, I could see the long lawns that were around. They were neat and litter-free. I noticed the signs. The print on them was very bold and easy to read. When we first saw the Visitor Center, I noticed that people who were disabled or had a stroller could’ve easily gotten in because of the ramp they had at the entrance. I thought that was a good thing.
The Visitor Center had a lot of information on the wall about the city’s history. It had different clothes that people wore in colonial times, and a big map. It also showed an app, which you could use to get information on exhibits in the city. I liked the Visitor Center because it was a place where you could have snacks and have fun learning about the past.
Our third stop was the Declaration House at Seventh and Market Streets. As we entered the house, we went to a dimly lit room where the contrasting colors made it easier to read the information about the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Re-creations of Thomas Jefferson’s rooms were on the second floor. The beds looked just as comfortable as the ones we have now!
RETHINKING INDEPENDENCE PARK
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Our last stop was at Welcome Park at Second and Walnut Streets, which tells the story of William Penn. The park has a big statue in the middle and has flowers all around it. I was really bothered by the floor tiles, because they were cracked and dirty. The park is surrounded by new apartments. Off to the side is a big marble map that needs repairing. I didn’t think that looked very nice.
Overall, I enjoyed my visit to Independence National Historical Park, but I have two suggestions to improve the park:
Open the bathroom at Fifth and Chestnut Streets and maybe even add more bathrooms. Bathrooms are important, especially while traveling.
English is not everyone’s first language, especially if they are tourists, so it would be great if there were signs in other languages.
Isabella Zepeda is 12 and in seventh grade at St. Anthony of Padua School. She is an avid reader and enjoys writing poetry. She’s an active participant in Mighty Writers El Futuro programming.
More on Rethinking Independence Park
- Editorial: Why do we tolerate the mediocrity of Independence Park?
- A look back at history: How Independence Park brought drama from the start
- Kid critic: We asked a 7th grader to review Independence Park. Here’s what she thought.
- Philly tourists on Independence Park: a disturbingly empty space in the very center of the city
- What the future could look like: From Ed Rendell to “Betsy Ross,” we asked Philly luminaries to reimagine Independence Park
- From the archives: Inga Saffron reviews the 2010 revamp of Independence Mall