04 November 2010

Pickelodeon: Elfreth's Alley

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Elfreth's Alley

Philadelphia is a city rich with American history. Not only is it the birthplace of the United States of America, but it also served as the nation's first capital. The city is home to a number of fantastic historical sites such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Powell House, and many more. However, many tourists (and locals) too often overlook one of the most fascinating historical sites in the city, Elfreth's Alley.

Elfreth's Alley was originally formed in 1702 as a path to connect the hustle and bustle of industrial 2nd Street to the Delaware River. In 1712 people began to build houses along the alley. Today, the oldest house still standing was constructed in the mid 1720's, making Elfreth's Alley the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the whole of the US.

When visiting historical sites, one typically hears of the famous, wealthy and/or important people who once lived or worked there. At Elfreth's Alley, you instead learn of everyday American life. The residents of the alley were known as the "Lower Sort," or working poor. The people who lived and worked on this street were the average, everyday Americans of their respective times.

Elfreth's Alley was considered a slum from the time people first lived there all the way through the middle of the twentieth century, when several of the houses were condemned. Luckily, the fledgling Elfreth's Alley Association (EAA) was able to rescue and restore many of the houses. Today, 29 of the 32 buildings on the alley are currently lived in and therefore are off-limits to the public.

Still, Elfreth's Alley is well worth the visit. The EAA owns buildings 124 and 126, through which they operate a gift shop and museum house. Tours of the museum house are only $5, making it one of the most affordable tours you'll find. Furthermore, the EAA holds special events annually in conjunction with the residents of the alley in which some residents graciously open their houses to visitors for special tours. One of these events is their Fete Day, which occurs each year in June. The other is the Deck the Alley celebration, typically held on the first Saturday of December.

Next time you find yourself wandering Old City looking for something to do, swing by Elfreth's Alley. They are open from 10-5 Tuesday through Saturday, and 12-5 of Sundays. For more information, visit their website at www.elfrethsalley.org.

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