top of page
Deborah Sampson
George Washington with William Lee

All About Second Story Tours

James Forten
Joseph Brandt

Our company, Second Story Tours, is built on our passion for igniting curiosity in the history of America and the people who built it. We strive to present a "second story" to the traditional narrative to include those who have always been a part of American history but have rarely had a voice.


After long careers working in museums and historic places in Philadelphia, we became passionate supporters of accessible history for all. Our vision includes teaching the next generation to be good stewards of the rich, historical landscape that is the birthplace of our nation: our beloved city of Philadelphia. 

Meet the Team


Alison English

I’m Alison and I'm one of the co-founders of Second Story Tours. I’m passionate about field trips.  That sounds strange, I know.  But after spending the last 12 years of my career helping teachers book field trips for various historical sites and museums, I have seen the good, the bad, and the boring of student-focused tours and programs.  I believe that field trips should be fun, high-energy, and engaging and that students connect with history best when they see themselves reflected in the narrative.  I also believe that field trips shouldn’t be a burden for teachers, who let’s face it, have more important things on their plates than planning an annual field trip.  It’s why I set out to create a better field trip model.  One that is easy for teachers to plan, supports their classroom work, and most importantly is fun, engaging, and exciting for students. 

I'm Michelle, the other co-founder of Second Story Tours. As a curator and object specialist in museums for many years, I got to explore stories of lots of different people through things they owned. I was fortunate to handle some incredible objects like Betsy Ross’s eyeglasses and George Washington’s tent. Objects can tell powerful stories, but there is nothing quite like the feeling you get walking the streets of Philadelphia. As a Minnesotan who came to Philly for college (Go Explorers!), I fell in love with the narrow brick-lined alleys, the hidden gardens, and charming colonial homes. There’s something about walking the historic streets that makes me feel curious about  the people who lived and worked here long ago. I want students to experience that feeling and it is the reason I started Second Story Tours - to connect students with Philadelphia’s uniquely rich and diverse history and instill a life-long fascination with the people who built our city and our nation.

Michelle Presnall
Lorna Howley photo.jpg
Lorna Howley

Hi I'm Lorna. I am a freelance artist currently serving as Artistic Director for Second Story Tours. Growing up in New Orleans, I was surrounded by captivating storytellers, and community members sharing the complicated history of NOLA and its people. In Philadelphia I found my voice and have been privileged to share the history of this amazing city. I have been directing, writing and performing history-based programs in Philadelphia's historic district since 2006. These programs include storytelling, costumed interpretation, puppet shows and interactive tours for the public and school groups.

Our Guides

Mark Marano headshot.jpg
Mark Marano
Courtney Mitchell
Joseph DiOrio

Mark is a Philadelphia-area actor and a lover of history. As a performer who enjoys entertaining as well as educating, he's excited to be a member of the Second Story team, embracing the nuances of American history that often get overlooked. When working as a guide, he infuses energy and humor into his narratives, believing that if they're laughing, they're listening.

Courtney is an dynamic and talented performer who brings her trademark energy to all her tours. She has 10+ years of experience telling stories in Philadelphia’s historic district, and is a veteran guide on the Second Story team. Courtney’s theatrical style is perfectly suited to bring the stories of the Revolutionary-era to life and inspire learners of all ages.

Joe is a South Philly born and raised actor, storyteller, tour guide, and history enthusiast. While he loves performing and teaching theater, he also loves to share the history of Philadelphia, the city he adores. Being a part of Second Story Tours means he can share a deep and hidden history of the City of Brotherly Love, opening the door to a lifelong love of history for his guests.

Jenna McLaughlin headshot.jpg
Jenna McLaughlin
More Guide Profiles Coming Soon!

Jenna was born and raised in Philadelphia. With a Bachelors in Performance Theatre from West Chester University, she brings every ounce of her training and passion for theater to her tours. She is multi-talented – a true Renaissance woman, enjoying reading, performing, teaching, painting, and writing.  Tied with her love of performance is her love of her nieces and nephews as well as her fur babies, Pebbles and Weasley. When she’s not giving tours or in a show, you can find her hanging out in the historical district, large iced coffee in hand.

Becky Fleckner

Becky is a Philadelphia based actor, director, teaching artist and tour guide. She has been in the industry for over 20 years and holds two degrees in Theater. With a background in improv, she values human connection above all else. She loves making history and learning fun! When she's not touring around old city you can find her working on theater and art projects with people of all ages, from 5 to 99.

bottom of page