Philadelphia November 01, 2017
The Oldest Street In America Is Right Here In Philadelphia And It’s Amazing
Elfreth’s Alley is a historic street between Race and Arch, off of 2nd Street. It is the oldest residential street in the United States, and it dates back to 1702. The entire alley is a National Historic Landmark. I’m sure you’ve strolled this street while exploring Old City, but do you know about the incredible history behind the alley? Read below to learn more about how it was almost razed to make room for factories.
Elfreth's Alley is named for one of the street's earliest residents, a blacksmith named Jeremiah Elfreth.
Throughout the 18th and 19th century, the alley was home to tradesmen including silversmiths, glassblowers, carpenters, and shipwrights working at the nearby docks.
The colonial homes and cobblestones you see today are typical of Philadelphia architecture at the time.
Elfreth's Alley has remained mostly unchanged over 315 years, and walking the street today is like taking a step back in time.
As time went on, the primarily English street became more and more diverse.
By the early 1900s, Elfreth's Alley was dominated by Irish immigrants working nearby along the waterfront.
The alley was threatened by change in the late 19th century.
The neighborhood surrounding Elfreth's Alley was not immune to the industrial revolution. Stove factories popped up on residential blocks in the 1860s, and soon more factories took over the surrounding streets. The location close to the docks and waterfront made this prime real estate for development. Eventually, factories surrounded Elfreth's Alley.
In 1934, the Elfreth's Alley Association was founded to preserve the historic street.
The street was then officially recognized as "Elfreth's Alley," rather than Cherry Street, and the Association saved the street's historic homes from demolition.
The 32 houses remaining on Elfreth's Alley were built between 1728 and 1836.
The street is still primarily residential, but there is a museum at 124 and 126 Elfreth's Alley. The Museum is dedicated to interpreting the history of the street and sharing its stories with all who visit.
The alley is one of the most interesting spots in Philadelphia — and many who stumble upon it by accident are not even aware of its incredible history!
When you walk the alley, you're walking in the footsteps of America's founding fathers, and founding citizens.
Elfreth's Alley is a popular spot for artists and photographers.
You'll notice many depictions of the famous alley on postcards, posters, and in the bins of matted photographs for sale at street fairs and on First Fridays all year long.
Elfreth's Alley is wonderful to stroll anytime, but it is most alive during the holiday season.
"Fête Day" in early June is one of the largest celebrations in the Alley, but you may be more farmilar with their Deck the Alley celebration. 13 of the historic homes open up their doors and show off stunning displays of holiday decor. If you're a fan of Christmas Carols, this street will be your paradise in just a few short weeks!
Old City is full of incredibly walkable streets that are filled with history, but none quite as impressive as the oldest residential street in the country! They are absolutely worth exploring, though — check out this list of
Philadelphia’s most walkable streets and get to exploring your hometown.