Old City Historic District
(Front St. to 5th St., Walnut St. to Wood St.)
The Old City Historic District was placed on the National Register in 1972. Text here was excerpted from a copy of the original nomination document.
The Old City area is part of the original 1682 plan of the city of Philadelphia as laid out by Thomas Holme, surveyor for the province's proprietor, William Penn. In terms of architectural style and historic significance it remains one of the most important parts of the city. It includes some of the city's famous residences, historic churches, important financial institutions, and perhaps most importantly rare surviving 19th century commercial districts, probably without equal in the United States for their extent and diversity.
Although the area possesses some significant buildings, some of which have been restored, equally as important is the promise of the area for future renovations into a residential-commercial neighborhood. It is relatively isolated from the bustle of the large retail and office buildings of the city's center. Superjighways border it to the north and east. Soceity Hill, a sucessfully restored and preserved historic residential district, borders it to the south, and the Independence National Historic Park, encompassing some of the most historically significant buildings in the nation, borders much of the area to the west.
Opened in 1702-04, Elfreth's Alley is the oldest unchanged and continuously inhabited street in Philadelphia; an example of the survival of a part of colonial America's largest city.
The dwellings fronting Elfreth's Alley are a unique representation of Philadelphia architecture. Half of those now standing were erected either before the middle of the 18th century or before the opening years of the Revolution, while the other half were constructed in the post-colonial and Federal years. For more than 250 years Elfreth's Alley has been continuously occupied. The population today numbers almost 100 persons.
The houses, of two and three stories, are typical urban dwellings of the period with their facades flush on the sidewalk, low ceilings and deep cellars. Elfreth's Alley is a remarkable survival of colonial America which can be viewed today in an unexploited, authentic atmosphere.
Source: National Historic Landmarks Program
National Register of Historic Places
5th Street • Front Street • Walnut Street • Wood Street