Can American Revolution Museum Class Up Old City?

Cologne-drenched, puking masses might peacefully coexist with history

Attention, college kids in search of $1 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, dudes whose idea of formal wear is their best Affliction t-shirt, and ladies who take their fashion cues from Jwoww: There’s a new attraction headed to Old City’s party district. It’s a bit of a good news/bad news proposal, though. You’ll be happy to hear that the space should look awesome, as its design has been heralded for its “sophistication and fluid lines.” Sounds like the place to be in 2015. Here’s the bummer—no booze and closes early. Also, there will be muskets.

After more stops and starts than a rush-hour drive on the Schuylkill, the long-planned American Revolution Museum has found an architect, the renowned Robert A.M. Stern. It’s also found a home, at the decidedly less-renowned corner of 3rd and Chestnut streets, exactly one block away from the heart of Old City’s Decadence Row. The location for such an important cultural attraction seemed curious. On any given Friday or Saturday, the nightlife in that De-Civilized Zone is so raucous that the cops shut down the street to try and maintain some semblance of order. (If you’re not an Old City late-night reveler, take my word for it, literally.) The museum’s doors will be long closed before the throngs of cologne-washed masses roll in after sundown, but it’s only a matter of time before a girl in a bandage-wrap minidress pukes on a statue of George Washington, or some meathead honors the building’s “inventive” design by taking a leak on it. I foresee a lot of hazard pay for the morning janitorial crew.

When I wrote about Old City’s bar scene last year, there were cries from businesses and residents—most of whom live and work outside that small party sector—that I painted an unfair picture of the neighborhood. Yet anyone who’s stood outside Rotten Ralph’s at midnight on the weekend would agree that the booze-fueled chaos there does nothing to attract tourists, support the arts community north of Market Street, or promote Old City’s historic treasures. Unfortunately, there’s little to be done about those handful of blocks jam-packed with bars, thanks to zoning restrictions and landlords who make easy money on overpriced booze and cover charges.

At first glance, it appears unseemly to display pistols that once belonged to King George III’s prime minister within stumbling distance of Mad River, who’s sponsoring a “Hottest Pocahontas” party for Thanksgiving Eve. But a project like the American History Museum is exactly what Old City needs in that area, despite the occasional drunk who might try to make like Ozzy Osbourne at the Alamo. It deserves something to class up the joint and take back a little real estate from the Jersey Shore crowd. In that sense, it’s fitting that a museum honoring a noble uprising might help Old City reclaim some of its own proud identity.