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America's Oldest Street

on Fri, 07/11/2014 - 19:36

If you lived at Elfreth's Alley since the beginning you might need to "Meet the Neighbors" 3,000 times. That's the number of people said to have lived here over the last 300 years.

Elfreth's Alley is a street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which is referred to as "Our nation's oldest residential street," dating to 1702. there are 32 houses on the street in the Old City section, which were built between 1728 and 1836.

Elfreth's Alley is named for Jeremiah Elfreth, an 18th-century blacksmith and property owner. Among the alley's residents were tradesmen and their families, including shipwrights, silver and pewter smiths, glassblowers, and furniture builders. The Georgian and Federal-style houses and cobblestone pavement of the alley were common in Philadelphia during this time. Benjamin Franklin once lived here although no one is sure in just which house.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industry changed the residents and nature of the street. Eventually, factories surrounded Elfreth's Alley. The city's waterfront was only a few blocks away. and successive waves of immigrants, lured by the nearby jobs, moved onto the street; in 1900, the neighborhood was overwhelmingly Irish.

Eventually, efforts were made to restore the original nature of the homes. For more than 70 years, Elfreth's Alley has celebrated "Fête Day" in early June, which celebrates the Alley's diverse ethnic heritage. "Deck the Alley," is an annual self-guided tour of 13 private homes festooned with Christmas and holiday decorations, and also includes caroling.

Nearby is Christ Church, Firemans' Hall and the Betsy Ross House. Looking toward the Delaware River is the commercial and tourist area known as Penn's Landing. There's also an imposing view of the Ben Franklin Bridge nearby. The street is literally a hidden historical gem in a diverse city.

Today, all but one of the homes is privately owned. A recent realtor website listed a unit for sale at $795,00. One home serves as a museum for visitors. All have been lovingly restored.

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