The Black Bear Tavern and Ball Alley

One day, alas! Did he full soon
Forsake his work and victuals;
And careless all the afternoon,
Drank ale and play’d at skittles.

But Love so much his wits had cross’d
His mind perplext and puzzled;
That many were the games he lost,
And much the ale he guzzled.

Then as he lost he fractious grew,
And swore his mates were cheating;
And thrice he for the fight withdrew,
And thrice he got a beating.*

Over two centuries ago, the White Horse tavern—later renamed the Black Bear—was a popular place of amusement on Shippen St. (now Bainbridge St.) in Philadelphia’s suburban district of Southwark. The tavern occupied several buildings on the north side of Shippen, just west of 3rd St. Although the buildings are gone now, one feature of the tavern remains—the little intersecting byway called Orianna St. In former times, the street was called Ball Alley, which described its function—men gathered there for ball games, drink, and gambling. On at least one occasion, even the president of the United States, John Adams, was entertained in Ball Alley.

Christ Church

With a soaring 196-foot steeple that towers over newer structures nearby, Christ Church is both a spectacular historic building … and living history at its best.

No musty old buildings or artifacts untouched by human hands here. Instead, this is a flourishing, active modern parish – where members still worship under a brass chandelier (with real candles) that has hung since 1744.

Parishioners continue to be baptized at a 15th century octagonal walnut font used by William Penn in 1644. And, says senior guide and historian Neil Ronk, “The bells we rang for the Revolution will ring for a wedding tonight.”

Welcome Park

Considering all that William Penn did for Philadelphia and our nation – while living here less than four years – he is seriously unappreciated by the very city he founded.

In part, that’s because the remarkable Benjamin Franklin overshadows just about everybody else in local history.

But when you start looking closely at what Penn really accomplished – we should be celebrating his birthday every October 14th at Welcome Park, just across from the City Tavern at Second Street above Walnut.