text: seven walking tours through historic philadelphia

Washington Square

Washington Square
Photo by Beyond My Ken

Many of those Revolutionary War soldiers buried in the square died while being held as POWs in the Walnut Street Prison, formerly located on the northeast corner of the square. Both Colonials and British at various times controlled the jail. During the war both factions subjected captives at the Walnut Prison to deplorable conditions — no heat, lack of food, beatings. After the war, the jail's most famous prisoner was Robert Morris, who helped finance the Revolution — ironically he landed in debtors' prison. Washington did not forget Morris' loyal service and often visited the financier while he was jailed. And it was from this prison yard that Jean-Pierre Blanchard made his epochal balloon ascension in 1793 with Washington and hundreds of Philadelphians watching him. His flight was successful and he thus became our first aeronaut!

Washington Square and West