Sometimes the best things come in the smallest packages. Sure, it’s an old cliché, but two of the smallest national parks, which happen to be in Pennsylvania, prove that cliché true.
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site - Philadelphia
Literary legend Edgar Allan Poe, along with his wife, spent six years as Philadelphia residents. The couple, however, lived only one year (1843-44) in the residence at 532 North 7th Street, a National Historic Site run by the National Park Department. Unfortunately, this small national park, which spans only .52 of an acre, is the only one of Poe's Philadelphia homes to remain standing.
This tiny national park, which has no admission fee, is also a museum dedicated to Poe's time in Philadelphia. However, that which remains in Poe's last Pennsylvania home is sparse as most of his furniture went with him when he moved to New York City. The building next to Poe's official home houses exhibits and a reading room.
During his yearlong residence at 532 North 7th Street, the author of The Raven published two more works: The Spectacles and The Gold-Bug. He also wrote The Black Cat, which depicts what historians believe is the basement at the home.
Children between the ages of five and seven can participate in the National Park Services' popular Be A Junior Ranger program while visiting the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. The program requires reading a short booklet (which you can print out ahead of time) and completing the exercises. Five completed exercises result in the child earning a Junior Ranger's badge.
The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site welcomes visitors Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and again from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (The historic site closes for an hour from noon to 1 p.m.) Tour the historic site on your own or ask that a ranger lead you on a guided tour.
Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial – Philadelphia
Encompassing only .20 of an acre, the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, also run by the National Park Department, honors a historic figure who earned national hero status in both the United States and in his birth country of Poland.
Kosciuszko served as a military engineer during the American Revolution, charged with fortifying battles sites, before returning to his native Poland where he led an attempted coup against occupying Russia. The Russians eventually captured him and imprisoned him for two years. Upon his release, he returned to the United States (after being warned by Russia to never return to Poland) to cheering crowds.
Upon his return to Philadelphia in 1797, Kosciuszko resided at the home on the corner of 3rd and Pine Streets, which is now one of the country's smallest national parks. In the historic home, Kosciuszko often hosted influential Americans, including Thomas Jefferson.
The Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial welcomes visitors Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. between April and October. Admission to the national park is free. The historic site, which features separate floors dedicated to Kosciuszko's contributions to the American Revolution and the uprising in Poland, offers the same Junior Ranger program for children as other national parks throughout Pennsylvania.
A visit to two of the smallest national parks in the nation promises a revealing look at Pennsylvania’s past. Keep with the theme of visiting Pennsylvania’s tiny spots with a trip to
this tiny Pennsylvania town that offers plenty to do.