Dating to 1702, Elfreth's Alley is a cobblestone lane in Old City, between North 2nd Street & North Front Street and Arch & Race Streets, and is billed as “our nation’s oldest street.” Named for an 18th-century blacksmith who lived and worked here, this block-long wander features Federal and Georgian-style brick buildings that once served as shops and houses for a variety of Philadelphia tradesmen: glassblowers, pewter smiths, furniture makers, shipwrights and more.
By the early 20th century, the character of the surrounding neighborhood had turned into a seedy waterfront, a decidedly undesirable spot for tourists. By the mid-1930s, the Alley was threatened with demolition, but was saved by a neighborhood association; now a National Historic Landmark, it remains one of the city’s most rare examples of 18th-century architecture.
While the street itself is essentially a living museum, houses No. 124-126 actually comprise a small museum that details daily life in the Alley’s heyday. Residents of modern-day Elfreth’s Alley open their doors to the public twice a year for holiday celebrations: mid-December’s Christmas-themed “Deck the Alley” and the Alley’s own “Fete Day” in early June.
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