Saturday, March 20, 2010

Elfreth's Alley

When I lived in Oceanside, I considered my house to be pretty old, at least by California standards. It was a 1923 Craftsman-style and it was in a neighborhood of homes from the teens to the 1950s. Being originally from Philadelphia though, I know that a house from the 20s really isn't all that old so today, after breakfast with a friend, I visited the oldest, continuously-occupied residential street in the U.S. to check it out.

Elfreth's Alley is located just west of (the) 95 (freeway) and just south of the Ben Franklin Bridge in downtown Philadelphia. It's a small street with about 30 or so homes on it and was first developed in 1702. Here's a shot from the west end of the street that shows how narrow the street really is:

The street was occupied by craftsmen and artisans during the 1700 and 1800s. In the 1900s until about the 1950s, it was mostly run down and almost demolished several times but was saved by local preservation groups. For much of it's history, Elfreth's Alley has been a great example of the melting pot of America. Residents have included pretty much every immigrant group from Europe that sought a better life in the U.S. Nowadays, tour groups walk up and down a street that's priced out of reach of most.

One thing that's cool that you'll see on houses in downtown Philadelphia, and all along Elfreth's Alley are called Fire Marks. These plaques, issued by insurance companies to be placed on the outside of a building, were originally used in Europe and found their way across the pond. The fire marks would indicate to the fire brigades, which were usually private groups, that the building was insured and by whom and if they should put out the fire. It's small in this photo but you can see one on this house half-way between the second and third floors:

Here's a close up of one fire mark:

...and another one:

Oh yeah, for my friend Ri who always says that my photos are "Here-I-am" shots, here I am at Elfreth's Alley Philadelphia:

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