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Elfreth’s Alley: The picture-perfect street in Philadelphia referred to as “Our nation’s oldest residential street”

Ian Harvey

Nestled in the Old Neighbourhood between the North 2nd Street and North Front Street in Philadelphia, there’s the delightful picturesque street called Elfreth’s Alley. Besides being a National Historic landmark, this street is also a reminder of the early days of Philadelphia with 32 houses built between 1728 and 1836.

Referred as the ‘Our nation’s oldest residential street’ by 1702, the story of the alley dates back from the 18th century when she was named after Jeremiah Elfreth, a blacksmith and property owner.

Back then, the alley’s residents were mostly traders, glassblowers, shipwrights, and furniture builders who lived on the street with their families. The Federal and Georgian-style houses were then common in Philadelphia and by 1770’s, one-third of them were headed by women.

Elfreth’s Alley in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  Photo Credit

Elfreth’s Alley in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  Photo Credit

 

The north side of the alley nearest N. 2nd Street  Photo Credit

The north side of the alley nearest N. 2nd Street  Photo Credit

As time passed by, and industry began to change, the alley and its architecture started changing too. During the late 19th and early 20th century, factories surrounded the street.

The first stove factory took place in a row of the residential houses in 1868. However, by 1900, because of the waves of immigrants, the neighborhood became an Irish nest.

In the mid-1930’s, to preserve the alley’s 300-year-old architecture and structure, the Elfreth’s Alley Association was formed and helped to save the street from demolition. EAA also lobbied the city to restore the street’s old name to ‘Elfreth’s Alley’.

Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia  Photo Credit

Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia  Photo Credit

Elfreth’s Alley is America’s oldest residential street Photo Credit

Elfreth’s Alley is America’s oldest residential street Photo Credit

 

The Elfreth’s Alley Museum  Photo Credit

The Elfreth’s Alley Museum  Photo Credit

Today, the alley is an exceptional example of the looks of the early American architecture built between the 1720’s and 1830’s. The picture-perfect street became famous mostly because of its urban environment, old-fashioned flower boxes, the rare 18th-century working-class houses and the Elfreth’s Alley Museum.

Located in 124-126 Elfreth’s Alley, the museum presents an 18th century home of a pair of dressmakers. The entrance ticket costs only $5 per person and provides a guide that contains information about the museum’s history, as well as about the other houses of the alley and their inhabitants.

Historic Elfreth’s Alley homes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, dressed up for the holidays  Photo Credit

Historic Elfreth’s Alley homes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, dressed up for the holidays  Photo Credit

 

Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia, PA. Photo Credit

Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia, PA. Photo Credit

Elfreth’s Alley Association takes care of the valley’s guests and provides many celebrations each year. They’re the hosts of a 70-year-old event called ‘Fete Day,’ held in early June, which celebrates Alley’s versatile ethnic patrimony. They also host many other events for Fourth of July, Halloween, and Oktoberfest or organize celebrations during the Christmas holidays.

Read another story from us: The Shambles: One of Britain’s best preserved Medieval streets

According to many, visiting the impressive alley is an unforgettable experience, while smelling the freshly baked bread in the morning, getting lost in time by walking down the street’s pavements.