Elfreth’s Alley with Julia Dent

We’re heading back over to the USA for another guest post! This time, Julia Dent of Through Julia’s Lens, talks us through one of her favourite heritage sites in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. Over to Julia:

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Philadelphia is known for its history- it’s the birthplace of America, after all! Most people visiting the city go to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, and while I definitely recommend visiting them, there are lots of lesser known historical sites in Philly, from the Betsy Ross House to Eastern State Penitentiary.

And one of my favorite historical spots in Philadelphia is Elfreth’s Alley. Never heard of it? Don’t worry, I didn’t know anything about it until I moved to Philadelphia! It isn’t a famous place and nothing all that important happened there like all the events at Independence Hall, but it’s the oldest residential street in the United States and it’s a different way to experience history.

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So for a little history, Elfreth’s Alley became a street in Philadelphia in 1702, and it has 32 homes today. The street actually wasn’t in the original plans for Philadelphia at all, but as more people moved to the city, it became crowded and tradesmen realized that they needed an easier way to get down to the ports. Elfreth’s Alley began as just a cart path near the Delaware River, until people started building more homes there in the 1720s and 1730s.

Elfreth’s Alley was named for Jeremiah Elfreth, a blacksmith and one of the property owners on that street when it was first being built up. It continued as a residential street until people wanted to tear it down in the 1930s to develop the area with new buildings. Thankfully, people fought back and got the street preserved as a National Historic Landmark in the 1960s.

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Today, people actually still live in all the homes on Elfreth’s Alley! It’s really cool to see that people are able to use these historic landmarks as their homes because they’re actually living in a piece of history. It’s free to visit Elfreth’s Alley and just walk around and see the houses and little courtyards. One of the reasons I love visiting this lesser known historic site is because unlike a museum, you can actually stand in the middle and be surrounded by history. You can walk on the cobblestone streets and take all the time you want, and you aren’t blocked with ropes from getting close to the buildings like in many historic sites. Plus, it’s a great spot to take photos, and there are lots of couples in Philadelphia who take their engagement or wedding photos there!

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If you’re interested in learning more about Elfreth’s Alley when you visit, there is a museum in one of the houses that is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. They do guided tours on the weekend, and you can schedule group tours too. They also have fun events throughout the year. Elfreth’s Alley hosts a pop-up art gallery on the first Friday of every month from April to October, and in the summer, they celebrate Fete Day so you can really feel like you’re in the 1700s. Fete Day has colonial music and games, and you can peek inside some of the homes. The event I think is coolest is Deck the Alley around Christmastime. You can tour some of the homes, and since it’s near Christmas, they are decorated for the season! Elfreth’s Alley also has Christmas carolers and other holiday activities throughout the street. It’s one of the best Christmas celebrations in Philadelphia!

So if you’re visiting Philadelphia (which I highly recommend you do!), you should explore more than just the main attractions. The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are amazing pieces of history, but visiting places like the Betsy Ross House and Elfreth’s Alley will give you a rare glimpse into the lives of people in colonial America. Elfreth’s Alley is an awesome way to experience history outside of museums!


To see more from Julia, take a look at her blog throughjuliaslens.com. You can also catch her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. If you do nothing else today, please check out her Instagram – it’s so gorgeous!

If you have an idea for a guest blog on Holme & Away, let me know! Head over to my Guest Bloggers page for more information and contacts.

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