An explanation for non-Philadelphians: these phones are part of the Underground Franklin Museum, the city’s trippy tribute to the real Big Ben. Visitors use the phones to call D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Paine and other famous people who wax poetic about Benjamin Franklin and his various deeds.
Alas, the Franklin Exchange is on the fritz. Out of order, the sign says. A technical glitch? Possibly. The service has always been spotty, connecting people to Washington when they dial Jefferson. So awkward.
Or maybe everyone got cell phones and neglected to provide the Park Service with their updated contact information. Or perhaps, as a friend suggests, the historical figures are on strike, and we are witnessing “history’s first time-traveling labor dispute.”
Aside from the phone exchange, the best part of the Underground Museum is the neon tribute to Dr. Franklin.