THE SECOND time was the charm for William Penn's steps.
Neighbors of the Wood Street Steps - a worn stone staircase between rowhouses that connects Water and Front streets in Old City - have lobbied the state to post a marker to alert passersby to their historic importance. The steps are the last remaining of about a dozen such staircases that William Penn ordered built in 1684 to ensure public access to the increasingly congested Delaware River waterfront.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission's five-member panel of historians, who judge whether such sites are marker-worthy, rejected the Wood Street Steps in 2011, saying the site lacked statewide historical significance.
But the panel's membership changes every year. So this year, the steps got a thumbs-up.
"Ultimately, the fact that the steps were commissioned by Penn and the fact that they were critical to Philadelphia - at that time pretty much synonymous with Pennsylvania - commerce and transportation, tipped the vote to approval," said Karen Galle, the commission's historical-marker program coordinator.
The blue marker will be dedicated at the steps at a noon ceremony on Oct. 12.
The Philadelphia Historical Commission in 1986 designated the 10-foot-wide steps as historic property. They're also listed on the city's Register of Historic Places, which protects them from development.
But neighbors see the steps as an extension of the city's Historic Mile and hope the marker will draw tourists, or at least history buffs who will revere the steps as much as they do.
Besides the Wood Street Steps, the commission approved two historic churches and a medical pioneer in Philadelphia for markers, too:
* Old St. Mary's Church, 252 S. 4th St., Center City: Founded in 1763, Old St. Mary's Church was a fixture in Philadelphia during colonial and Revolutionary times. It was the first cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Philadelphia. Worshippers included George Washington, John Adams and Commodore John Barry.
* Pennepack Baptist Church, 8732 Krewstown Road, Bustleton: The congregation formed in 1688, and its church is believed to be the first Baptist meetinghouse in Pennsylvania.
* Walter M. Golaski (1913-1996): An engineer best known for developing the first practical artificial blood-vessel replacements, called dense knit dacron vascular prostheses. The marker will be placed near 34th Street and Lancaster Avenue in University City.