Washington SquareApprox. Time: 3 hours
Activity Level: Easy to Moderate

Washington Square was one of Philadelphia's five original squares as laid out in 1682 by William Penn's surveyor, Thomas Holme. It was then called Southeast Square, as Quakers did not believe in naming places after people. Within 25 years of Penn's arrival, however, the square was being used as a potter's field and a burial yard for strangers in the city. it served in this capacity from 1704 to 1794, a period roughly (and curiously) paralleling the dates of Benjamin Franklin's tenure on earth (1706-1790). Burials were generally done on the cheap: bodies bound in canvas -- sans coffins.

Improvement started in the form of a public walk in 1815. A tree-planting program began the next year and the Square to this day wears the fruit of a city plan in which over 60 varieties of trees were sown. A "really admirable city arboretum of rare trees," was how America's first landscape architect, Andrew Jackson Downing, described the Square. Walking on the Square 150 years after this beautification project, the historian John Francis Marion observed, "The trees in Washington Square are older, wider-spreading and taller than those in Independence Square, and the square itself has a more open spacious quality."