A fire early Saturday morning in a manhole at Fourth and Market Streets knocked out power to 400 customers around Independence Mall and parts of Philadelphia’s Old City, forcing a number of area attractions to close for the day.

Among those affected were Fox 29 News, the National Museum of American Jewish History, the Liberty Bell, the Independence Visitor Center, and Independence Hall.

About 20 customers remained without electricity as of Saturday evening, including the Liberty Bell, said Peco spokesperson Jennifer McFadden.

She said the remaining customers were expected to have electricity restored or be powered by generators sometime Saturday night.

The National Museum of American Jewish History closed Saturday because of the power outage and plans to reopen Sunday.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
The National Museum of American Jewish History closed Saturday because of the power outage and plans to reopen Sunday.

A sign on the entrance to the Jewish Museum cited the power outage for its closure, saying the facility would reopen Sunday.

Larry and Karen Denenberg, of Chestnut Hill, were surprised to find the museum closed for the day. The two had hoped to see the “Sara Berman’s Closet” exhibit.

“It’s an absolutely beautiful day, so we aren’t that disappointed,” Larry Denenberg said. They planned to head on to Rittenhouse Square, he said.

Also pursuing a Plan B was Binod Choudhary, 60, of Somerville, N.J. His family is visiting from India and had planned to spend the day at Philadelphia’s historic sites.

“We didn’t realize something like this could happen,” he said, standing in front of the closed Independence Visitor Center. They were headed to the riverfront and the Museum of the American Revolution, which, although nearby at Third and Chestnut Streets, was unaffected by the power outage.

The Liberty Bell also closed for the day, but Independence Hall was able to reopen after it had its power restored.

A Peco crew was dispatched to the area around 10 p.m. Friday after reports of a small number of power outages, McFadden said.

“We had crews on site troubleshooting an issue with underground cables,” she said. The fire was reported about 1 a.m. There were no injuries to the crew, she said.

Flames were seen spouting from the manhole as Philadelphia Fire Department crews arrived on the scene.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

“We are still waiting for all the smoldering to stop to fully assess the site,” McFadden said.

The outage knocked Fox 29 off the air, but at 2 p.m. it resumed broadcasting, announcing on Twitter, “WE’RE BACK!”

National Park guide Thomas Hastings had his hands full acting the part of city guide as he helped direct visitors to other sites that were open. Most were understanding, he said.

“We did give a lot of tickets out for Independence Hall,” he said. The tickets had to be handwritten because the printer was down at the visitor center, he added.

“We made do,” Hastings said.

National Park Guide Thomas Hastings helps Binod Choudhary, who was in town with family to visit the city's historic sites.
Mari A. Schaefer
National Park Guide Thomas Hastings helps Binod Choudhary, who was in town with family to visit the city's historic sites.