Philadelphia's Lost Waterfront
Elfreth's Alley & Bladen's Court
Turn right here, to walks up this unique alley. We'll return here afterward to carry on along Front street.
This is Philadelphia's famous Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the United States. Take your time wandering up this popular tourist attraction while I tell you about it.
Elfreth’s Alley was opened in 1702 by two property owners who combined their land to create a subdivision through the city block they owned. The alleyway’s namesake was Jeremiah Elfreth, a blacksmith who rented several houses on the block to sea captains, stevedores, shipwrights and craftsmen. The alley has been home to all sorts of people in its more than three hundred years, from wealthy friends of Benjamin Franklin to immigrant families.
During the Industrial Revolution, Elfreth’s Alley became an enclave for European immigrants seeking new lives in North America. So they were not all that different to the Quaker settlers who lived in caves by the Delaware River. The tiny row homes are excellent examples of Philadelphia’s Colonial, Georgian and Federal housing of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most are private dwellings to this day.
The alley had become an impoverished neighborhood by World War I and faced possible demolition. In 1934, a group of individuals formed the Elfreth’s Alley Association to save several houses from being torn down. They later helped rescue the alley from other threats, including construction of I-95.
Let's turn around now, if you haven't yet. Make your way back to Front Street to continue the same way you were going.
You might want to take a look at Bladen's Court, which will be on your left before you get back to Front Street. This is basically an alley within an alley that leads into a romantic courtyard with a very old lantern and hand pump. It's just too bad that noise from nearby I-95 can be heard in this charming place.
When you are ready, return to Front Street, and continue walking, keeping the high wall on your left.