W3R® Heritage Tours in Pennsylvania 

Latest changes: 2011-06-01: add NPS maps / 2013-06-05: fix history link /

Suggested Heritage Tours

The tour described below could take more than one day.

Base maps are © 2005 DeLorme (www.delorme.com) Street Atlas USAź

Historical Overview

In December 1775 U.S. representatives met with a French agent to discuss how France might aid in the U.S. struggle for independence. France initially provided covert aid, but in early 1778 signed a treaty and moved to provide direct military assistance. Since Philadelphia was the national capital of the U.S. the chief French diplomats lived there and managed the finances of the French Expeditionary Force from here.

In 1781 August some 7,000 soldiers in the allied U.S. Continental and French armies crossed the Delaware River from Trenton and marched south. They paraded through Philadelphia, reviewed by the Continental Congress and the French embassy staff (the only embassy to the U.S. during the Revolution).

From here they continued into Delaware -- about half of the Continental troops went by row-barge.

After the victory at Yorktown the Continental forces returned north immediately. The French came north nine months later, following the same path they took south.

For more details see allied march through PA in 1781, and French return through PA in 1782.

Consider the economic benefit to Pennsylvania from housing and provisioning 5,500 French troops and 2,000 Continentals for five days going south and another five days going north, then follow their footsteps south to Delaware.

A Note about "Official" W3R Routes
NPS Historic Map for PA-DE-MD [TIFF file]
NPS draft tour maps for all states

AUTO ROUTE THROUGH PENNSYLVANIA:

-- From Trenton NJ cross the Lower Free Bridge on Rt 32.
-- After 0.3 miles turn left on Delmorr Ave.
-- After 0.3 miles turn right on Philadelphia Ave., which becomes Bristol Pike. At about 1.3 miles there is a kink to the right and then left as it crosses Tyburn Road.
-- Continue 2 miles more on Bristol Pike and (when that becomes one-way north) go right on Mill Creek Road for a half-mile and then left onto Fallsington-Tulleytown Road for a mile and a half into Tulleytown.

--The F-T Road ends bearing right onto Main St., which becomes Radcliffe St as you continue south three and a half miles into Bristol.
-- Turn right onto Market St, go two blocks and go left on Wood, then right onto Mill St under the railroad bridge and left on Otter St.
-- After 0.7 miles on Otter St get onto Rt 13 South (Bristol Pike)
-- After 6.3 miles Rt 13 crosses the Poquessing Creek, where it becomes Frankford Ave. On 1781 Sept 2 the French first division camped on the hilltop to the right of the Poquessing Creek. This was in the town of Red Lion.

-- Go straight on Frankford Ave. for another 11.0 miles

-- After the road crosses under I-95 take a right onto E Laurel St and after 0.3 miles turn left onto North Front St.
-- After 1.0 miles on North Front St. go right (west) onto Market St.
-- Stop in a parking garage in the next several blocks if you want to spend some time visiting the many historic sites near Independence Square. See notes below for attractions to visit while in Philadelphia.

-- After 1.0 miles on Market St. follow the traffic flow to the right around Penn Square (City Hall) until you are back at Market St. on the other side.
-- After 0.7 miles more on Market St. -- and just before the bridge over the river -- take a left onto 23rd St.

-- The French army's first division camped along the riverbank near the PECO building on 1781 Sept 3 and 4 (a day of rest).
-- After 0.4 miles on 23rd St. and just after crossing South St. bear right onto Gray's Ferry Ave.
-- After 1.8 miles Gray's Ferry Avenue crosses a bridge and ends at Woodland Ave.
-- Go left on Woodland Ave. After 0.5 miles it crosses a bridge, turns right, and becomes Main St. in Darby.
-- After 1.0 miles on Main St. turn left onto Rt 13 (south).
-- After 5.5 miles on Rt 13 south cross under I-95 Chester. On the way north in 1782 the French army camped at a place (now called Washington Park) next to Weidner Univ. To make a side-trip there continue 1.0 mile more on Rt 13 and turn right onto Melrose St. After 0.5 miles on Melrose St. turn right onto East 18th St.

-- After the bridge continue for 3.8 miles to where Rt 13 jogs left and then after 4 blocks jogs right. At about this place the French First Division camped on 1781 Sept 5. This is the town of Marcus Hook, where Washington received word that French Adm. de Grasse's fleet had entered the Chesapeake Bay without encountering any British warships.
-- Continue 2.6 miles more on Rt 13 and enter the state of Delaware shortly before the road dips to pass under a railroad track. To the right just after the underpass you will see the Robinson House (before the intersection with Naamans Road). This was an inn during the Revolution -- Rochambeau and his officers probably had lunch there in 1781. It has been restored for use as a museum.
The route north essentially re-traced the same path in reverse.

Other Revolutionary-Era Sites in PA

In Philadelphia the Independence Hall Visitors Center site can help you plan a day or more of activity at

  • Carpenters' Hall -- site of the First Continental Congress and the initial (1775) negotiations for French support for U.S. independence
  • Constitution Center -- The National Constitution Center in historic Philadelphia is America's most interactive history museum. Located just two blocks from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, it is the only museum devoted to the U.S. Constitution and the story of we, the people.
  • Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell [Nat. Park Service site]
  • Independence Seaport Museum --was the South Street Seaport -- has several old-style sailing ships.
Visit other Revolutionary War sites at
  • Brandywine Battlefield, site of the Sept 11, 1777, battle, which had the largest number of combatants of any battle during the Revolution.
  • Fort Mifflin -- a key part of Philadelphia's defense against attack from the river, it held out for six weeks after British troops took the city, depriving them of supply by boat and buying time for the Continental Army to fortify Valley Forge. The restored fort is located just north of the Philadelphia International Airport.
  • Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau can help you plan a day or more of activity at the encampment where the Continental Army spent the winter of 1777-78.

Also nearby: Germantown, site of a major battle in 1777.

These and many other sites near Philadelphia are listed on the website of the
Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area.


Food and Lodging near the W3R

We hope to have information and links here later.

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