There is an alley in Old City, between Church and Market, between 2nd and 3rd that is still paved with cobblestones. If you stand towards the end at night and squint your eyes so that the electric lights go fuzzy and don’t turn your head too much, you can imagine that you have left the modern era and are standing in any of the past four centuries.
Up above, towards the mouth of the alley, the two buildings on either side of you join to form one, bricks placed in shaky rows, so different from the militaristic bricks of modern buildings. There are forged metal balconies and fire escapes (okay so the fire escapes only take me a century and a half or so back).
I can picture housemaids, with their mob-capped heads, slopping the contents of their employers’ chamberpots out onto the street. Women walking, wrapped in long, dark clocks to protect them from the cold, trying to keep their toe-skimming skirts out of the muck and mud of the street. A doctor, making a house call, wearing a tall black hat, bag of remedies in one hand, while the other grasps at his lapels, keeping them joined against the wind. As he approaches his destination, he takes a minute to wipe the mess of the street off his shoes using the ubiquitious boot scrapers that are installed beside the stairs.
Horses pulling carriages, their hooves clacking against the surface of the street. Gaslights flickering and illuminating corners and casting shadows.
This is why I live in Philadelphia.