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Elfreth’s Alley

The nation’s oldest continuously inhabited street

Elfreth's Alley

While a modern city has sprung up around it, Elfreth's Alley preserves three centuries of evolution through its old-fashioned flower boxes, shutters, Flemish bond brickwork and other architectural details. Credit: Courtesy of C. Ridgeway

Description

Overview

Butchers. Bakers. Candlestick-makers. Named for blacksmith and property-owner Jeremiah Elfreth, Elfreth’s Alley was home to the 18th century artisans and trades-people who were the backbone of colonial Philadelphia. Three hundred years later, the houses on this itty-bitty, cobblestone street are still hot properties.

While a modern city has sprung up around it, the Alley preserves three centuries of evolution through its old-fashioned flower boxes, shutters, Flemish bond brickwork and other architectural details. Two adjacent houses, built in 1755, are now a museum and are open to the public. Tiny by modern standards, the two homes were considered average size in their day. During the 19th century, eight families (27 people) shared the two homes, a situation not uncommon for the era.

History

During the 18th century, most businesses were home-based. Over the years, grocers, shoemakers, cabinetmakers, tailors and others worked out of the first floor of their Elfreth’s Alley houses. That changed during the 19th century Industrial Revolution, when people worked in neighborhood factories. Today’s service economy and technology have resulted in a growing trend to a return of the home-based businesses.

Deck the Alley

Date: December 6, 2014
3-7 p.m.

The residents of Elfreth’s Alley open their doors for the annual Deck the Alley open house on Saturday, December 6 from 3 to 7 p.m.

Admission to Deck The Alley — $25 for adults, $10 for kids under 16 and $60 for families — includes seasonal refreshments, colonial carolers and an appearance from jolly old Benjamin Franklin himself.

Enjoy fireside holiday stories, a talk on Philadelphia’s holiday history by Philadelphia tour guide Ed Mauger and a special appearance by Belsnickel, a colonial “cranky Santa.”

All proceeds support the education and preservation programs of the Elfreth’s Alley Museum. For more info on Deck the Alley, click the button below.

Deck the alley

Elfreth’s Alley Museum

Located in the only homes open to the public year round, the Elfreth’s Alley Museum offers visitors guided tours and gifts. The tour, which tells the story of two dressmakers who ran a sewing business at Elfreth’s Alley, costs $5 per person.

Museum Tour Hours

April–September:
Friday-Sunday: Noon-5 p.m. *The last tour of each day leaves 20 minutes prior to closing.

November–March:
Closed

Group tours are available. Call ahead to book your reservation.

Insider Tip

Residents open their homes to the public only twice a year, during the aforementioned “Deck the Alley”, and June’s Fete Day.

For more on Elfreth’s Alley, visit their official website below.

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