Tuesday, October 23, 2012

18th & 19th Century Book Desinations

Have you ever traveled to your favorite book setting?

I just love it when I read a great book and have been in the places it is set in, or better yet--get to plan a trip with the novel in mind!

I wanted like everything to visit the Biltmore Mansion when I read Deanne Gist's Maid to Match. But it wasn't in the budget or on the itinerary of the family's trip to Florida. When I mentioned in the presence of the family "oh honey, we should plan a stop over at the Biltmore." Did anyone pounce on that idea? No one. I mean not even a word! Okay, so it was the Super 8 instead--without upstairs downstairs wait staff, duvets, or room service. Sigh.

So, when I  saw that my annual medical conference was scheduled in Philadelphia, I signed up and conspired with a more willing travel partner--my dear mom. Then I shot off a quick note to Laura Frantz. She'd mentioned in her book Love's Reckoning (just reviewed last week here) that she'd taken a five day walking tour of the city for her research. (I can't wait to read her next book!)

No spoilers here, but she tipped me to visit Elfreth's Alley, and oh-my-word!! My mom and I were transported straight out of our taxi time machine to the streets of the 18th century. My mouth fell open. It was better than Disney's It's a Small World!

Elfreth's--try saying that three times fast to a taxi cab driver--is the nation's oldest continuously inhabited residential street dating back the time of William Penn in the early 1700's. Thirty-two homes line an old cobblestoned narrow street. It is a National Historic Landmark District--but here's the secret--it's off the beaten path.

Some homes are still lived in today. We toured the museum and walked up and down the quiet alley, imagining the clip-clop sounds of carriages and horse's hooves on the cobblestone. The alley is just one block from the river front of the Delaware River. Until the Industrial Revolution, most 18th century businesses were operated from the fronts of their homes. Elfreth's is named after Jeramiah Elfreth, blacksmith and property owner. For decades tailors, shoemakers, cabinetmakers occupied the row homes of Elfreth's.

The #110 home above with blue shutters was inhabited by John Webb in 1775. He was a cabinet maker and business partner of Daniel Trotter who lived in house #114. I am still working to confirm if John Webb is connected to my husband's Webb ancestors who lived in Philadelphia in the 1700's and married to Daniel Boone's family. It astounds me that this very river front was a vibrant village on the harbor in the early 1700's when my own family by surname of Herr immigrated to Philadelphia in 1710, and that a village street like this one might have greeted them with welcome like it did me.

So, what book destination have you visited?
What destinations are you your wish list?


  1. That is beautiful! I love historic areas!

    I would love to go everywhere :)

    1. Right Lisa, I 'd love to go everywhere too!

  2. That is a lovely little slice out of time!

    I've visited the locations of several of my novels. I'm currently working on one set at Fort Larned, KS (Now a national historic site) and was completely charmed and enthralled when I visited there.

    1. Can't wait to read about it in your novel Erica!

  3. I just got me the shivers!! What a great trip and journey back into time! A literal time machine. I think you and I should plan a historical adventure trip!!! (Including the Biltmore, of course)

    1. I'm game! You know that Deanne had a big book reader's gathering at Biltmore after her book came out. What a fantastic idea!

  4. I love this post! I love the historicity of the East Coast... being able to go and SEE HISTORICAL stuff! I live in the oldest city in GA (est 1733 by Gen Oglethorpe) and my husband and I LOVE to have day dates and explore the old homes and streets and squares downtown. LOVE IT. Of course, my hubby LOVES history and knows so much and just soaks it up. I love learning about it (I am history deprived!).

    One of my favorite stories is that Robert Louis Stevenson got the premise for Treasure Island here. There's a restaurant called The Pirate House that is "the oldest standing building in Savannah," set 1753. More info can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirates%27_House -- I usually don't believe everything Wikipedia says, but The Pirate House has placemats with the info on it and they match up!

  5. As you can see, I was ENTHRALLED!!!
    Oh nice--about Savannah--I'd no idea it was that old. I've not been to Savannah. We only go through GA to get to FL!! LOL.


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