The nation’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street
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. Over 300 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.
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.
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.
Residents open their homes to the public only twice a year, during the aforementioned “Deck the Alley”, and June’s Fete Day.
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In the neighborhood
401 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19106
- Best Western Plus: Independence Park Hotel
- Penn’s View Hotel
- Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel
- Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District
- Holiday Inn Express
- The Lokal Hotel
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at Penn’s Landing
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Museums & Attractions
320 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
- Walnut Street Theatre
- Independence National Historical Park
- St. Stephen’s Protestant Episcopal Church
- Congress Hall
- Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church
- City Hall
- National Liberty Museum
- First Friday
- The Irish Memorial
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