text: seven walking tours through historic Philadelphia

Welcome to the Historic District, North of Market Street

Statue of Tamanend
A look down Elfreth's Alley

William Penn envisaged a beautiful waterfront for his city — something similar to the Embankment in London — but this was not to be. The area early became a scene of great commercial activity, and wharves, warehouses and taverns sprang up as they have for centuries in waterfront cities throughout the world. The district is thus one of the oldest and most historic in the city, for it was from the banks of the Delaware that Philadelphia grew westward toward the Schuylkill River.

There have long been dwellings here — Elfreth's Alley is considered the oldest continually inhabited street in the United States — but they were modest homes in contrast to the larger ones to be seen in the more affluent Society Hill. Perhaps this is the reason for the 19th-century attitude toward those who were born or lived "north of Market." They were beyond the pale socially. However less socially acceptable and less affluent these residents were, they were still craftsmen and artisans, a solid, sturdy lot, the backbone of the young colony and the even younger republic.

Historic District, North of Market Street