Philadelphia's Lost Waterfront
Chief Tamanend Statue and London Coffee House
Stop here for a second and look down to the intersection below. On the far corner, where the large brick building is now, is the former site of the London Coffee House. This place was a convenient stop for stagecoaches arriving from the north and south.
It became the most popular place in Philadelphia for both local and visiting members of the business and maritime communities to conduct business and discuss politics. Owners of recently-arrived schooners advertised their goods, investors bought and sold real estate, fishermen boasted about their latest catch, and public auctioneers sold a variety of merchandise—as well as slaves. Revolutionary War pamphleteer Thomas Paine, called the Spokesman of the American Revolution, boarded at a house next door and was offended by the view of slave auctions from his window.
In 1883, the London Coffee House gave way to the five-story edifice that still stands at the intersection. The entire building has been vacant for some thirty years, having last been a bar and grill.
Now look below at the huge statue of Chief Tamanend at the foot of the street parallel to the viaduct. He was the principal Lenni-Lenape leader who welcomed William Penn upon his arrival to this region in 1682. Tamanend partnered with Penn to bring about the bold accord in which Quaker settlers and local Native Americans would live together in peace. The chief consequently became a folk hero identified throughout the colonies as the "patron saint of America."
The statue's eagle is grasping a wampum belt symbolizing the world-renowned "Treaty of Amity and Friendship" between William Penn and Tamanend and his native colleagues. The belt reads what Chief Tamanend reportedly announced during the 1683 treaty summit: that the Lenni-Lenape and the English colonists would [quote] "live in peace as long as the waters run in the rivers and creeks and as long as the stars and moon endure."
Now, cross to the left hand side of the viaduct, and keep going. Be careful of buses and other traffic.