text: seven walking tours through historic Philadelphia

A Man Full of Trouble Tavern

Society Hill 16

Society Hill 17

At 125-127 Spruce Street is A Man Full of Trouble, the only tavern remaining from Colonial Philadelphia. It was built about 1759 on the banks of Little Dock Creek, (long since filled in and lost to view), in an area in which mariners, cordwainers and dockhands swarmed — and patronized this inn.

Because it was a tavern with the intimacy and scale of an inn, A Man Full of Trouble had a different appeal from the grand houses we have visited. The rooms are low ceilinged and the tavern room itself, for eating and drinking, is warm and inviting. Superb English Delft china, old pewter and a set of Windsor chairs owned by the first Chief Justice, John Jay, are all on view. Pipe smokers dropped money in an "Honesty Box" — which demanded a penny and then the honesty of the pipe smoker who would take only one pipeful of tobacco.

When the cellar, which contained the kitchen, was excavated, archaeologists found glass, china and other artifacts which were been pieced together and exhibited. The maids and the hired men slept on cots down here — very 18th-century communal. There are musket slots on the landings between the first and second floors for defending the tavern against attack, and in the attic a room where men off the ships often slept four in a bed. It may be difficult to imagine how it was done, but sailors were smaller in stature then or, maybe, just less demanding.

Society Hill