Photo: William C. Sharpless House, ca. 1886, 5446 Wayne Avenue, Germantown, Philadelphia, PA. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Photographed by User:Smallbones (own work), 2011, [cc-by-1.0 (creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed June, 2015.
Germantown is a National Historic Landmark.
The Colonial Germantown Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 (boundary increase in 1987). Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination documents.
The numerous houses within the district illustrate the Germanic character of the early town, the diversity of occupations of its citizens and the Americanization of the community. However, many of the buildings' integrity has been destroyed. Following are a few brief descriptions of several structures which have managed to retain some degree of integrity within the urban sprawl.
Loudoun, 4650 Germantown Avenue, exemplifies the post-Revolutionary transformation of Germantown as Thomas Armat, a Philadelphia merchant, erected the house around 1801. Earlier Philadelphians had built homes in Germantown, but Armat's estate reflected the increasing domination of Philadelphia over Germantown. The house stands on a steep rise, on ground used as a hospital site during the famous battle. Despite the later addition of the front porch and various changes in the interior, the house's striking location and inherent dignity establish it as a significant structure of the district.
Grumblethorpe, 5267 Germantown Avenue, is an early example of a Germantown house built by a Philadelphian, John Wister, a merchant who built it as a summer house in 1744. The house represents the ultimate development of Germantown's own architectural style. The original structure is a two-and-a-half story stone building with a pent roof on all sides. A recent restoration has undone some alterations of 1808, and the house's exterior and interior now reflect the best of the inherent Germantown taste and style.
Wyck, 6026 Germantown Avenue, carries one back to the earliest days of Germantown, for the original section of the house was built in 1690 as a farm house. Expanded in the 18th-century and remodeled in 1824, the house, with its large plot of ground, brick terraces, arbor, smoke house, and granary, is a reminder of Germantown's agricultural beginnings. Of added interest is the fact that the British established a field hospital at Wyck during the Battle of Germantown. The house is rectangular in plan, the narrow side facing Germantown Avenue. It has three floors and an attic. The same family has owned Wyck since 1690.
Dirck Jansen built the Johnson House, 6306 Germantown Avenue, in 1765-68 for his son John Johnson, who was a tanner. The tannery stood behind the house, which is two and a half stories high, made of stone with a pent roof on the front and a gable roof.
Colonial Germantown's interest in education is represented by the Concord School, 6313 Germantown Avenue. Built in 1775, the stone, stucco covered, two-story building stands 25 feet back from the street. The school's original bell and belfry top the roof. Inside the schoolroom occupies almost the entire first floor. The teacher's desk used in the first years and ten pupils' desks still sit in the room. A library formerly occupied part of the second floor, which is now lived in by a caretaker.
The original part of Upsala, 6430 Germantown Avenue, 1755, is hidden from view by the front section, which is a fine example of later Georgian with some Federal features. This section dates from 1798-1801, about the time of the construction of Loudoun. The front section of Upsala is stone, two and a half stories high. A handsome portico and door lead to the interior.
Cliveden, 6401 Germantown Avenue, served as British headquarters during the Battle of Germantown. As a result, Cliveden still exhibits cannon ball and musket shot scars. Built by Benjamin Chew in 1763-64, this handsome Georgian building and its lovely grounds form a dramatic end to the western end of the district. A national historic landmark itself, this recently restored structure is one of America's great historic houses.
The landmark boundary marks the original boundaries of Germantown designated in the early 18th century maps of German Township; beginning at the NW corner of the intersection of West Apsley Street and Germantown Avenue running approximately 200 feet SW along West Apsley Street to the SW corner of Loudon Park, then N 750 feet to the NW corner of Loudon Park, then E 200 feet to the rear property line of lots on the West side of Germantown Avenue, then NW 5,200 feet to the SE corner of Vernon Park, then SW 700 feet to the SW corner of Vernon Park, then, 200 feet to the NW corner of Vernon Park, then E 1,000 feet to the rear property line of lots on the West side of Germantown Avenue, then N 5,300 feet to the SW corner of Germantown Avenue and West Sharpnack Street, then NE 400 feet to the intersection of East Sharpnack Street and the rear property line of lots on the east side of Germantown Avenue, then SW 1,100 feet to the NW corner of "Cliveden," then 590 feet NE along Cliveden Street to Morton Street, then SE 335 feet along Morton Street to East Johnson Street to Germantown Avenue (Cliveden consists of 235,650 square feet, more or less), then continuing SW 11,250 feet along the rear property line of lots on the East side of Germantown Avenue to the intersection of the said rear property lines with East Apsley Street, then along East Apsley, SW 200 feet to beginning. Germantown Historic District consists of approximately 4,939,150 square feet or 113 acres, more or less, as shown on the survey map of the Germantown Historical Society.
In its earliest years, Germantown enjoyed unusual political freedom. Penn granted the community a charter in 1689, which became effective in 1691 that made Germantown a borough on the English order. Freedom evidently encouraged practices that displeased the proprietor and in 1707 the young town lost its charter. For many years after Germantown existed as a township, and then around the middle of the last century it became part of Philadelphia.
Although Germantown opposed an effort by the proprietary party to provide educational opportunities for the children in Germantown, the town established a school in 1749. Known as the Union School, it subsequently became the Germantown Academy. In March 1775, a second school, the Concord School, was established in upper Germantown to serve those children.
Industrial development paralleled the religious and educational growth in Germantown. William Rittenhouse founded America's first paper mill in 1690, creating a paper industry that operated until the middle of the 19th century. Christopher Sower's printing establishment made Germantown a center of the German press. In 1743 he published his famous German Bible, the first Bible printed in America in an European language. Textile mills and tanning yards flourished prior to 1800. Other occupations also contributed to the growth and wealth of the town.
The American Revolution and the winning of independence decisively affected Germantown. During the war, the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777, turned the peaceful community into a battlefield. Some years later Washington returned to Germantown because of the yellow fever in Philadelphia. He and his cabinet met in Germantown during November 1793, returning to Philadelphia around December 1. Most important, the post-Revolutionary years sped up the Americanization of Germantown. General political, economic, and social events destroyed the community's remnants of isolation, and its unique character receded into history.
Germantown, founded in 1683 by a group of Netherlanders fleeing religious persecution, contains some fifty 18th and early 19th century structures representing an architectural heritage of considerab1e interest. The settlement remained predominately Dutch until 1709, when large numbers of Germans began to settle there. By the 1750's Germantown had acquired the decidedly Germanic character that it was to retain for the remainder of the 18th century. Along historic Germantown Avenue between Windrim Avenue on the east and Upsala Street on the west are buildings which vary greatly in integrity but may still enable one to contemplate the flourishing early Germanic community, the diversity of occupations of its citizens and the gradual Americanization of its culture.
Religious persecution in Europe led to the establishment of Germantown. William Penn, traveled to the continent in 1671 and again in 1677, spreading the virtues of the Quaker doctrine. Francis Daniel Pastorius, rose to leadership, contacted Penn, obtained land, and directly stimulated migration.
The sailing of a number of Netherlanders to Pennsylvania in 1683 led to the founding of Germantown. Pastorius arrived on August 20 of that year, the other settlers reached Philadelphia on October 6, 1683. Germantown remained predominantly Dutch until 1709, when large numbers of Germans began to settle there. Those immigrants overwhelmed the settlement and gave it a decidedly Germanic character for most of the 18th century.
Germantown developed as a German-American community in a largely unhindered way, and by 1758 about 350 houses stood in the town, most of them occupied by Germans. German immigration had reached a peak between 1749-54, and the Germanic influence held sway for many following decades. Religion, education, and industry stand out in eighteenth-century Germantown. Diversity of beliefs existed in the community. German and Dutch Quakers in 1688 issued a protest against slavery, the first in English American Mennonites and Dunkards both established the first churches of their respective denominations in America in Germantown. As the 1700's wore on, religious belief stayed strong.
The Colonial Germantown Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965, and was included in the National Register of Historic Places in the following year. In 1974 the National Park Service prepared a National Register Nomination Form which improved the documentation of the district and clarified its boundaries. The 1974 nomination form primarily addressed the district's 18th century significance. In 1983 the National Park Service accepted added information which extended the period of significance to World War II and further explained the district's significance in terms of architecture, commerce and community planning. The boundaries of the Historic District were further extended in 1987.
The extension of the Colonial Germantown Historic District is integral to the district's commercial and architectural significance as represented in the 1983 added information for the district. In fact, the architectural and commercial history of the existing district and the extension are intertwined to such a degree that one finds difficulty to separate them using any set of criteria. Community planning does not play such an important role generally upon the twelve blocks included in this enlargement; at least not in a conscious and discernible role during their formative years. On the other hand, these nominated blocks do contain an area of significance not shared by the existing district for a number of past and present educational institutions located within the extension have either left their mark upon or continue to influence this area today.
One should realize, however, that this extension should not stand upon its own significance. It was nominated as a warranted enlargement of the existing district: their significances and histories are tied closely. For example, the wide range of architectural styles and dates of construction, and the equally wide range of types of uses and building materials, found within the Colonial Germantown Historic District, which are considered of significance to the existing district, are mirrored throughout the enlargement. Therefore, this essay will focus upon the relationships between the existing district and this enlargement, demonstrating why the northern boundary of the Colonial Germantown Historic District is in fact an unjustified boundary and that it should be redrawn some twelve blocks to the north along the old right-of-way of the Ft. Washington Branch, Pennsylvania Railroad, a boundary which now serves as the southern boundary of the Chestnut Hill Historic District.
The original nomination had a contradictory northern boundary. In 1982-1983, the parameters of the district were revised to securely fix this northern boundary at Sharpnack Street and to recognize the continuing value of Germantown Avenue to the southern communities incorporated in Germantown Township before 1854 and within the 22nd Ward after the Act of Consolidation of the same year. This new nomination, requesting for an extension of the boundaries of the existing district, argues that the north boundary is awkwardly located with no historical or architectural grounds for its present placement and that Germantown Avenue has had as equal an impact to the growth, development and commerce of the central communities within the old Germantown Township as it has to those located in the southern and northern reaches. Therefore, the entire length of Germantown Avenue from Windrim Avenue to the junction of the Avenue with the Chestnut Hill Historic District should be included on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the same district.
Germantown Avenue began as an Indian path from the Delaware River into the interior of Pennsylvania. When Francis Daniel Pastorius brought the original German settlers to Pennsylvania in 1683, he and William Penn agreed on a grant of 5700 acres bordering this path. Known as German Township or Germantown Township, it was divided into four villages: Germantown, 2750 acres, extending from the present Wayne Junction to Carpenter Lane (6900 block); Cresheim, 884 acres, from Carpenter Lane to Mermaid Lane (7700 block); Sommerhausen, 900 acres, from Mermaid Lane to Rex Avenue (8700 block), and Crefeld, 1166 acres, from Rex Avenue to Northwestern Avenue (9800 block). This arrangement did not last long. However, it became apparent that the residents of Germantown Township routinely considered that the township was split into two sections: Germantown as described above, and the "hind part of Germantown" encompassing the areas of Cresheim, Sommerhausen and Crefeld. This distinction was eventually eliminated by the beginnings of the 19th century. However, in 1844, the township was divided again when Germantown was granted borough status and the remaining areas stayed as the township. Ten years later, the consolidation of the city and county of Philadelphia brought an end to borough and township forms of government. Germantown Borough and Germantown Township became one again as part of the 22nd Ward of the City of Philadelphia. Not until 1965 would the old township be completely broken apart into various wards and other political districts.
Owing to the various systems of government experienced by the lower part of Germantown Township between Wayne Junction and Carpenter Lane, this section has historically been considered under one name: Germantown. However, a late 19th century development west of Germantown Avenue between Hortter Street (6600 block) and Carpenter Lane is known as Pelham. This includes several buildings along Germantown Avenue. In recent years, the blocks above Washington Lane (6300 block) have been claimed as part of the neighborhood of Mt. Airy, even though it includes the Germantown landmarks of Cliveden and Upsala. Generally, present-day Mt. Airy includes most of the old Cresheim Village below Cresheim Creek (7600 block), and the neighboring community of Chestnut Hill all of Sommerhausen, Crefeld and the portion of Cresheim above Cresheim Creek. This nominated extension of the Colonial Germantown Historic District includes those sections of Germantown Avenue which traverse what once was Cresheim Village and the extreme northern part of Germantown. All of these blocks now serve as the center of the Mt. Airy community.
In conclusion, at no time in the long history of Germantown has the present northern boundary of the Colonial Germantown Historic District formed any political or neighborhood dividing line. Therefore, this boundary fails to be justified on any historical grounds.
Germantown Avenue started as that Indian path and was enlarged into a road for the convenience of not only the residents of Germantown Township but also for residents of communities lying farther away from Philadelphia. Thus, Germantown Avenue has served as a major transportation and commercial artery of Pennsylvania since near the founding of this province. Not only did the existence of Germantown Avenue help to open up the interior of Pennsylvania, but the many feeder roads into it connected mills, farms and industries to it. Soon wagons filled with goods of all types were using this road, stopping at the various inns, taverns and hotels lined along it. As a result, Germantown Avenue brought economic prosperity to both Germantown proper and to the outlying areas of Germantown Township, as well as to communities in Montgomery County.
Germantown Avenue itself underwent substantial changes over the years. It became the Germantown & Perkiomen Turnpike in 1801. The new turnpike company improved and paved the road, allowing even greater use of it than before. The dual introduction of the new mass transit systems in the mid-19th century (railroad and street car) affected Germantown Avenue in upper Germantown and Mt. Airy in different ways. The establishment of the Reading Railroad through eastern Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill in 1854 had a great effect upon the development of residential Germantown and Chestnut Hill. The street car line, on the other hand, had an immediate and lasting effect upon the commercial nature of the Avenue when it arrived in 1859 and terminated in the 6700 block.
The early history of land division in Germantown mirrored that of Philadelphia. Each of the original purchasers received a "town lot" and additional acreage in the "sidelands." These sidelands included the eastern and western borders of the township and the area above Washington Lane. Germantown Avenue's importance to the community as a whole became even greater as it was the only thoroughfare between these town lots and those in the sidelands. Soon, subdivision of the original lots in the sidelands to non-Germantown residents opened the way for smaller villages to be formed, including Beggarstown, or Franklintown, at the intersection of Germantown Avenue and Hortter Street, Mt. Pleasant at Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Mt. Airy at Mt. Airy Avenue, Chestnut Hill around the intersection of Bethlehem Pike, and Mechanics Town at Bells Mill Road.
As "Main Street," which was the common name for Germantown Avenue from Wister Street to Chestnut Hill Avenue, this road served as the center for all community activities. The hotels, inns and taverns were patronized not only by travellers but also by local residents. Churches, stores, schools, graveyards, and houses lined this road. Unlike many "Main Streets" which have become largely commercial in nature, Germantown Avenue has continued to retain a fair amount of its mixed usage, especially within the boundaries of the extension.
Germantown Avenue has an unbroken 300-year heritage of residential use. A fair number of houses, detached, semi-detached, and rows, still line the road today. Many of the earliest houses have been converted to other uses. However, such 18th and 19th century landmarks as the Cresheim Cottage (7402-7404 Germantown Avenue), the Garrett House (7048 Germantown Avenue), and the Walters House (7425 Germantown Avenue) retain their original use. Rows of early 20th century housing in various places throughout the extension continue this residential tradition into this century.
The turnpike company was abolished in 1874 and the city assumed the responsibility for this street. The road bed was replaced with "rubble stone" which remained until the mid-1920s when the current Belgian Block was installed. The horse car line gave way to the electric trolley in 1894 and the line was extended into Montgomery County in 1894-1896.
Several major churches were established along Germantown Avenue early in its history. These were often located in the middle of the township to serve all of this inhabitants. The German immigrants who founded the township transplanted the Lutheran religion into their new village, where it still occupies a prominent position throughout Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. St. Michael's Lutheran Church at 6669-6679 Germantown Avenue (founded 1728) served as the mother church for all of the Lutheran churches within this area, for all of these churches can trace their heritage back to it. Another Germanic sect was the Church of the Brethren, or Dunkers (Dr Dunkards). Founded in Germany in 1708, members of this sect emigrated to Germantown in 1719 where they founded the American Mother Church in 1723. However, the congregation did not erect an edifice until 1770. This structure, sitting at 6611-6613 Germantown Avenue within the extension, stands as the oldest surviving ecclesiastical building along Germantown Avenue within the old township.
The extension also includes several major private, public and ecclesiastical institutions, including the Lutheran Home for Aged and Orphans, the Lutheran Theological Seminary, and the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (now Spring Garden College). The city government is represented by the old fire station building at 6825 Germantown Avenue, the present fire station at 6900 Germantown Avenue, the Lovett Library, a branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, at 6945 Germantown Avenue, and the Mt. Airy Playground at 7001 Germantown Avenue. Other buildings standing within the district still mark the activity of other institutions in the past, i.e. the Mt. Airy Chapter of the International Order of Odd Fellows Building at 7201 Germantown Avenue.
Thus Germantown Avenue in the extension has served many of the same non-commercial purposes as it does within the district already entered upon the National Register of Historic Places. As a result, it has been the focus of most community activities and planning during the existence of the communities which border it.
However, the chief importance of Germantown Avenue lies in its role as a commercial artery. This is the area of significance especially stressed regarding the existing district, as amended. For almost 300 years, commercial activity has been spawned and nurtured along this street. At first, these enterprises were small "cottage industries" operated out of private homes. In the mid-19th century, especially after the opening of the railroad and horse-car lines and the transformation of Germantown into Philadelphia's first suburb, buildings were erected solely for commercial purposes. In Germantown, these buildings included the Parker's Hall, Langstroth Building and Butcher Building, all constructed between 1851 and 1860. Further up the avenue, in the areas covered by this enlargement, similar commercial structures went up at 6536-6538 Germantown Avenue and 6661-6663 Germantown Avenue. They may not have been as fancy as those in Germantown proper, but they served the same general purpose.
Stores in Colonial and early Federal days were often rooms within the proprietor's house. It is likely that some of the houses today remaining from this period were used for stores at one time or another. Millers and farmers from the area would bring their products to Germantown Avenue and exchange them for necessities. Great general stores were known to exist in Germantown and Chestnut Hill during this period: similar enterprises were probably also in operation in Mt. Airy.
Eventually two separate commercial centers evolved within present-day Mount Airy. The lower one was centered by the terminal of the horse car line. This terminal location, greatly enlarged, presently serves as the bus repair shops of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. The commercial buildings in the 6500, 6600, 6700 and 6800 blocks became integrated into the shopping area within the upper limits of the existing district. The buildings at 6536-6538 Germantown Avenue, with their mid-19th century commercial storefronts still relatively intact, represent the changes found in commercial architecture during the period of change surrounding the installation of the street car line in the 1850s.
This upper shopping area, in the 7000, 7100 and 7200 blocks, forms the heart of the Mt. Airy commercial center. This became defined early with buildings such as the Shermer House (7167-7169) and the Odd Fellows Hall (7201), both of which were built in the Civil War era. A number of establishments were found along Germantown Avenue during the mid-19th century, many of them agricultural in nature. Wheelwrights, saddlers, harness makers and carriage works were among the businesses located in Mt. Airy in 1861.
It was in the early 20th century that the business community of Mt. Airy decided to improve conditions within the bounds of the upper shopping area. The construction of new buildings in the 1910s and 1920s, i.e., the Mt. Airy National Bank, the Tourison Building, the Rogers Building, the many houses and commercial stores erected by Robert Killough, brought a new' vitality to Germantown Avenue. Many of the older structures were removed. Although this caused much of the Colonial heritage in this stretch to become lost, it reinforced the commercial nature of the street and made the statement that Germantown Avenue would continue to be important to the bordering neighborhoods as a commercial center. However, what was occurring in Mt. Airy was not unique to Germantown Avenue for similar changes, with the replacement of early buildings for new ones, was taking place around the intersection of Germantown and Chelten avenues.
Throughout the histories of Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, Germantown Avenue has served as a single unifying force, both in an historical sense and in a commercial sense. These neighborhoods still rely upon the shopping districts lining Germantown Avenue for many of their necessities, much as they did in the eighteenth century. However, although the present northern boundary of the Colonial Germantown Historic District cuts through the middle of the 6500 block, the same types of uses along Germantown Avenue may be found on both sides of this boundary and the overall importance of Germantown Avenue in a commercial sense to the communities which border it remains the same.
Architecturally, both the existing district and the extension contain a hodgepodge of styles. Despite attempts to classify the area in architectural terms, no one style really predominates and sets the theme for the district. This is a strength of the district, for as it was stated in the rewritten nomination for the existing district in 1982: "While largely consistent in scale and material, the stylistic range of the district fully parallels the changing fashions of American Architecture from the Colonial through the modern period."
The architecture, and the architects who designed much of it, carry no small significance either locally or nationally. Indeed, the examples of Colonial and Federal buildings found both within the existing district and within the enlargement served as models for much of the Colonial Revival architecture in the Philadelphia area during the early 20th century. There was indeed a "Germantown Colonial" style during this later period which featured the stone construction, side-gabled shapes, pent eaves and other details of the earlier structures. Nationally prominent architectural firms such as Cope & Stewardson, Mantle Fielding, Duhring, Okie & Ziegler, and Horace Wells Sellers, relied heavily upon these models for their designs. Granted, many of the prime examples of the early buildings are located within the existing district. But additional samples, some excellent in quality, i.e., the Gorgas House at 6901 Germantown Avenue and the Hiller Homestead (7331), are situated in the extension.
Another facet of the architectural significance of both the existing district and the extension stems from one's ability to trace the evolution of the rural adaptation of the accepted styles during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Housing styles did not appreciably change from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries. The small side-gabled 2 1/2-story dwellings seen at 6540-42, 6657-59 and 6618 Germantown Avenue are but later examples of the same style of architecture built throughout the Philadelphia region during the 18th century. The basic shape, as seen in the rude stone building of the Beggarstown School erected in 1740 at 6669 Germantown Avenue, changed but little when the St. Michael's Parsonage was erected next door at 6671 Germantown Avenue in 1855. The shape became formalized, and had some decorations added, but generally the residents of the area were comfortable with it and did not tinker with it.
The middle of the 19th century brought many changes to the communities bordering Germantown Avenue. Architectural changes included the adaptation of new styles to the basic rural farmhouse of the period. The Leibert House (6926) and the St. Michael's Parsonage (6671) stand as excellent examples of this adaptation. The first houses built in strict interpretation of styles appeared in the 1850s, i.e. the Italianate Garrett House (7048). Despite its widespread use in Germantown, few houses of this period still remain along Germantown Avenue within the Central Germantown core. Details of the Italianate were used extensively for commercial architecture throughout the remainder of the 19th century. The store buildings at 6536-6538 Germantown Avenue are notable in their retention of these details.
The advent of the horse car line and suburban railroads, and the increasingly popular notions regarding the separation of residence and workplace generated new conceptions in commercial architecture. The stores found throughout Germantown Avenue which date to the 1850s, 1860s and 1870s i.e. the Hadden and Springer buildings in the 6600 block and the Royal buildings in the 6800 block) demonstrate that buildings were being designed and built with planned commercial spaces within them. The fire station at 6825 and the Odd Fellows Hall at 7201 Germantown Avenue are superlative examples of planned commercial and institutional spaces tailored to the needs of the rural areas of Philadelphia: in other words, not architecturally ornate but generally no-nonsense utilitarian structures.
Architects actually found the upper Germantown and Mt. Airy sections of Germantown Avenue a more fertile ground for their creations in residential, commercial and institutional design during the last two decades of the 19th century than central Germantown. A number of locally and nationally prominent architects designed important buildings both within the existing district and in the enlargement. These buildings stand as examples of Germantown Avenue's continuing evolution as a commercial core and as prime selections of the various types of architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The developers of Pelham, Wendell & Smith, commissioned William L. Price to design two Flemish styled buildings at 6620-6624 and 6640 Germantown Avenue in 1895. In addition to Price's work, Thomas P. Lonsdale designed a house and store for James Johnson at 7119 Germantown Avenue (1898), Hazlehurst & Huckel contributed a Queen Anne house at 7047 (1886), the Wilson Brothers (1890-1892) and Cope & Stewardson (1892-1897) worked on the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf campus, Geissinger & Hales (18BB) and Otto Frotscher (mid-1890s) planned the original buildings of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, and Frederick Newman designed a new wing for the Lutheran Orphanage (1896). The original chapel, since demolished, of the Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church was built in 1883-1884 from the plans of George T. Pearson. Finally, T. Frank Miller replaced the old St. Michael's church building with a new edifice in 1896.
Most of the architects mentioned above are among the top echelon of Philadelphia architects during this period. The Wilson Brothers, for example, designed the Reading Terminal and the Wayne Junction station for the Reading Railroad. Cope & Stewardson, at this period with the original partners, contributed many academic buildings including the dormitories and several classroom buildings at the universities of Pennsylvania and Princeton. Hazlehurst & Huckel were known for their many Queen Anne styled houses throughout Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, Germantown and North Philadelphia. Lonsdale designed the original buildings composing Temple University. And Pearson is one of the few architects to successfully make the transition from the Victorian styles of the late 19th century to the Revival styles of the early 20th century.
The period of progress begun in the late 19th century continued without respite into the early 20th century. Joseph Huston's Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church (1901) and T. Frank Miller's Ascension Lutheran Church (1902) led this wave of architect-designed commercial and institutional buildings which lasted until the Depression. Styles changed dramatically, following the tastes of American architecture. No longer were the Victorian styles in vogue. The Queen Anne, Victorian Gothic and Second Empire had given way to the new Revival styles including the Gothic for church and academic buildings, and Colonial and Georgian for residences and commercial structures. Watson & Huckel's Georgian Revival design for Miss Gorgas' store at 7152 Germantown Avenue exists as a good small example of this change in style. Lawrence V. Boyd designed two Colonial Revival buildings: Clement Lowe's house at 6630 (1904) and the Post Office at 6700 Germantown Avenue (1909). Thomas & Churchman also contributed a major Georgian Revival structure: the Pelham Trust Company at 6740 Germantown Avenue in 1907. At the extreme north end of the extension stands John T. Windrim's Colonial Revival design for Walter Shipley's coal office (1915).
The embracement of the Revival styles occurred all along Germantown Avenue. The examples indicated in the nominated extension have counterparts throughout the existing district, thus reinforcing the argument that the two are inextricably related architecturally. Many of the later buildings, especially those erected as residences or for institutional use, draw many of their details from the earlier 18th and 19th century Colonial and Federal structures located along Germantown Avenue.
The continuing influence of professional architects into the 1920s helped change Mt. Airy's major commercial district in the 7100 and 7200 blocks in the same manner in which they altered the face of central Germantown, transforming it from a 19th century village with small shops within buildings erected for residential uses to a commercial center with buildings constructed primarily for commercial uses. These architects and their commissions included J. Ethan Fieldstein (7136-71401, William H. Lee (Sedgwick Theatre, 7133-7141), Tunis & Baker (Tourison Building, 7200-7206), and Norman Hulme (Mt. Airy National Bank, 7208-72101. The Sedgwick Theater and the Tourison Building are both prime examples of Art Deco architecture: the Mt. Airy National Bank is a late example of the Colonial Revival. The Colonial Revival did make a comeback within the extension especially within the campus of the Lutheran Home for Orphans where several buildings or this style were designed by Herman Hiller in the 1920s and by Heacock & Hokanson in the 1930s.
Surprisingly, Mt. Airy's chief contribution to American society has been the educational facilities located along Germantown Avenue. The earliest extant school building in Germantown, the Beggarstown School, is located at 6669 Germantown Avenue, built in 1740. The Allen estate became the site of several leading schools of their respective ages. In 1807, the Rev. Francis Xavier Brosius started the Mt. Airy Seminary in the Allen mansion. It later became the American Classical & Military Lyceum, a school which counted a number of prominent Americans among its graduates and professors.
After the close of the Lyceum, the property served as a summer and permanent residence of William Rogers and James Gowen. Gowen demolished the old Allen mansion to build Magnolia Villa. At heart, he was an avid agriculturist and established the Mt. Airy Agricultural Institute in the old Miller Homestead at 7331 Germantown Avenue, next to Magnolia Villa. This pioneering school for scientific farming eventually led to the establishment of the Pennsylvania State University.
Since 1888, the Allen-Gowen property has again served as an important educational institution: the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Another major institution, the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, opened the doors of its new campus less than one block away in 1890-1892. In 1984, the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf sold this campus to the Spring Garden College, another venerable Philadelphia school. Thus, the tradition of higher education which had marked Mt. Airy's history for almost 200 years is destined to continue.
In summary, the Mt. Airy extension of the Colonial Germantown Historic District deserves to be included onto the National Register of Historic Places because it contributes in no little way to the history of Philadelphia and it expands and strengthens the significance of the existing district. The northern boundary of the existing district is drawn awkwardly with no justification on any historical, architectural or commercial grounds. In fact, some of the more important historical structures of Colonial Germantown stand just outside the existing district. The focus of both the existing district and the enlargement, Germantown Avenue, possesses the same significance, both nationally and locally, for both areas. The character of the two are similar, in architectural styles, in uses, in building materials, and in their various developments. The enlargement of the Colonial Germantown Historic District would reinforce the main argument for its original inclusion onto the National Register: that it acted, and has continued to act, as the major catalyst for the development of the various communities within the boundaries of the old Germantown Township.