The Johnson House
Historic Site, Inc.
A vital stop on the Underground Railroad
It’s easy to imagine 19th-century freedom fighters Harriet Tubman and William Still meeting at this Quaker home in Germantown, owned by four generations of the abolitionist Johnson family. Rustic hardwood floors, cabinets and the building’s stone and brick exterior, as well as a third-floor attic where runaway enslaved Africans were hidden, reflect the building’s auspicious past.
The house, built with outside-and-inside shutters, still has damage from musket rounds and cannonballs shot during the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Germantown in 1777. Despite the Quakers disdain for the large and extravagant, the Johnson House was one of the largest homes in Philadelphia.
Various slavery artifacts, including collars and ankle shackles, are on display with an exceptional array of educational material in rooms that feature history lectures, art shows and other special programs.
Constructed in 1768, the Johnson House was inhabited by the Johnson family until 1908. During the 1800s, the home became vital to the Underground Railroad movement. Harriet Tubman was sheltered and fed here with the enslaved Africans she would often later guide to Lucretia Mott’s nearby home in Cheltenham.
Reading ahead about the Underground Railroad and the history of the abolitionist movement in Germantown will be good preparation for the tours and lectures.
Children’s quizzes are available relating to local maps and other exhibits.
Nearby Historic Marker
A few blocks south, at 5109 Germantown Avenue, is a marker commemorating Francis Daniel Pastorius, a prolific writer fluent in seven languages and the leader of America’s first formal anti-slavery protest.
In the neighborhood
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