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Germantown, Philadelphia

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Title: Germantown, Philadelphia  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: List of Philadelphia neighborhoods, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Manayunk, Philadelphia, List of sites of interest in Philadelphia, Ogontz, Philadelphia
Collection: 1683 Establishments in the Thirteen Colonies, 1689 Establishments, 1854 Disestablishments, German-American Culture in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, German-American History, Germantown, Philadelphia, Historic Districts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Municipalities in Philadelphia County Prior to the Act of Consolidation, 1854, National Register of Historic Places in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Populated Places Established in 1683
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Germantown, Philadelphia

neighborhood, former borough
A large stone mansion
Country United States of America
Commonwealth Pennsylvania
County Philadelphia
City Philadelphia
Founded October 6, 1683
Incorporated August 12, 1689
Consolidated February 2, 1854
Founded by Francis Daniel Pastorius
 • Total 3.327 sq mi (8.62 km2)
Elevation[2] 240 ft (70 m)
Population (2010)[3]
 • Total 75,935
 • Density 23,000/sq mi (8,800/km2)
Demonym(s) Germantowner
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
ZIP code 19144, 19138
Area code(s) 215

Germantown is an area in Northwest Philadelphia. Founded by German Quaker and Mennonite families in 1683 as an independent borough, it was absorbed into Philadelphia in 1854. The area, which is about six miles northwest from the city center, now consists of two neighborhoods: 'Germantown' and 'East Germantown'.

Map of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania highlighting Germantown Borough prior to the Act of Consolidation, 1854

Germantown has played a significant role in United States, and the residence of many notable politicians, scholars, artists, and social activists.

Today the area remains rich in historic sites and buildings from the colonial era, some of which are open to the public.


  • Boundaries 1
  • History and demographics 2
  • Education 3
    • Primary and secondary schools 3.1
      • Public schools 3.1.1
      • Charter schools 3.1.2
      • Private schools 3.1.3
    • Higher education 3.2
    • Other teaching institutions 3.3
    • Public libraries 3.4
  • Transportation 4
  • Parks and recreation areas 5
  • Historic sites 6
    • National Historic Landmark Districts 6.1
    • National Historic Districts 6.2
    • National Historic Landmarks 6.3
    • National Register of Historic Places 6.4
    • Gallery of historic houses and architecture 6.5
    • Other historic sites 6.6
  • Notable people 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Plan of lots in Germantown, PA in 1689, showing lot owners in 1689 and 1714.

Germantown stretches for about two miles along Germantown Avenue northwest from Windrim and Roberts Avenues. Germantown has been consistently bounded on the southwest by Wissahickon Avenue, on the southeast by Roberts Avenue, and on the east by Wister Street and Stenton Avenue,[4] but its northwest border has expanded and contracted over the years. When first incorporated as a borough in 1689, Germantown was separated from the rural Germantown Township by Washington Lane;[5] later, the border was expanded to Carpenter and East Gorgas Lanes;[6] it was then rolled back to Washington Lane in 1846,[4] and remained there until the borough was absorbed into the city of Philadelphia in 1854.

Modern borders of Germantown and East Germantown, Philadelphia

Today, the western part of the former borough is the neighborhood known simply as 'Germantown' (though is sometimes called 'West Germantown') and the eastern part is the neighborhood of 'East Germantown'. While the boundary between the two neighborhoods is not well-defined and has varied over time,[7] these days 'Germantown' usually refers to the part of the former borough that lies west of Germantown Avenue, up through West Johnson Street, and 'East Germantown' to the part that lies east of Germantown Avenue, up through East Upsal Street.[8][9][10]

The neighborhood of Mount Airy lies to the northwest, Ogontz and West Oak Lane to the northeast, Logan to the east, Nicetown-Tioga to the south, and East Falls to the southwest.

The majority of Germantown is covered by the 19144 zip code, but the area north of Chew Avenue falls in the 19138 zip code.

History and demographics

Pictures from Old Germantown: the Pastorius family residences are shown on the upper left (ca. 1683) and upper right (ca. 1715), the center structure is the house and printing business of the Caurs family (ca. 1735), and the bottom structure is the market place (ca. 1820).

Germantown was founded on October 6, 1683, by German settlers: thirteen Quaker and Mennonite families from Krefeld.[11][12] Today the founding day of Germantown is remembered as German-American Day, a holiday in the United States, observed annually on October 6. On August 12, 1689, William Penn at London signed a charter constituting some of the inhabitants a corporation by the name of "the bailiff, burgesses and commonalty of Germantown, in the county of Philadelphia, in the province of Pennsylvania." Francis Daniel Pastorius was the first bailiff. Jacob Telner, Derick Isacks op den Graeff and his brother Abraham Isacks op den Graeff, Reynier Tyson, and Tennis Coender were burgesses, besides six committeemen. They had authority to hold "the general court of the corporation of Germantowne", to make laws for the government of the settlement, and to hold a court of record. This court went into operation in 1690, and continued its services for sixteen years. Sometimes, to distinguish Germantown from the upper portion of German township, outside the borough, the township portion was called Upper Germantown.

Seal of Germantown, 1691

In 1688, five years after its founding, Germantown became the birthplace of the anti-slavery movement in America.[13] Pastorius, Gerret Hendericks, Derick Updegraeff and Abraham Updengraef gathered at Thones Kunders's house and wrote a two-page condemnation of slavery and sent it to the governing bodies of their Quaker church, the Society of Friends. The petition was mainly based upon the Bible's Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Though the Quaker establishment took no immediate action, the 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery was a clear and forceful argument against slavery and initiated the process of banning slavery in the Society of Friends (1776) and Pennsylvania (1780).

The Battle of Germantown, 1777

When Philadelphia was occupied by the British during the American Revolutionary War, British units were housed in Germantown. In the Battle of Germantown, on October 4, 1777, the Continental Army attacked this garrison. During the battle, a party of citizens fired on the British troops, as they marched up the avenue, and mortally wounded British Brigadier General Agnew. The Americans withdrew after firing on one another in the confusion of the battle, leading to the determination that the battle resulted in a defeat of the Americans. However, the battle is sometimes considered a victory by Americans. The American loss was 673 and the British loss was 575, but along with the Army's success under Brigadier General Horatio Gates at Saratoga on October 17 when John Burgoyne surrendered, the battle led to the official recognition of the Americans by France, which formed an alliance with the Americans afterward.

During his presidency, Deshler-Morris House in Germantown to escape the city and the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. The first bank of the United States was also located here during his administration.

5442 Germantown Avenue, The Deshler-Morris House (1773)

Germantown proper, and the adjacent German Township, were incorporated into the City of Philadelphia in 1854 by the Act of Consolidation.

Italians began settling Germantown in 1880, and comprised an active and vibrant part of the community.[14]

The significant changes that occurred in Philadelphia's demographics at the start of the 20th century caused major shifts in Germantown's ethnic makeup as well. When the first wave of the Great Migration brought more than 140,000 African Americans to the city from the South, long-established Philadelphians started to move to the outskirts. During this time, many German, Scots-Irish, and Irish families moved to Germantown.[15]

During the 1940s, a second mass migration of African Americans from the south to Philadelphia occurred. While the majority of middle-class African American newcomers first settled in North Philadelphia, the housing shortages in this area that followed the end of World War II caused later arrivals to move instead to the Northwest. This led to a wave of new housing construction. To meet the housing needs of the growing numbers of African American families moving into southern Germantown, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority allocated $10.6 million for the creation of public housing.[15]

Between 1954 and 1956 Germantown experienced an influx of lower-income African Americans, resulting in a decline in property values and triggering a "white flight" of the majority of white residents to the suburbs.[16] The demographic shift caused a slow but steady decline in central Germantown's upscale shopping district, with the last department store, a J. C. Penney branch, closing in the early 1980s.[17]

The current demographics of Germantown reflects this shift. As of the 2010 US Census, Germantown proper is 77% black, 15% white, 3% non-white Hispanic, and 2% Asian,[3] and East Germantown is 92% black, 3% white, 2% non-white Hispanic, and 2% Asian.[3]

Eugene Stackhouse, a retired former president of the Germantown Historical Society says that the demographic transition of Germantown into a predominantly black neighborhood was the result of the now illegal practice of blockbusting. "It was a great disgrace. Cheap houses would be sold to a black family, then the realtors would go around and tell the neighbors that the blacks are invading," said Stackhouse.[18] The practice was used to trigger panic selling.[17]


Primary and secondary schools

Public schools

Germantown is zoned to the School District of Philadelphia, as is all of Philadelphia. Public schools located in Germantown include the Anna L. Lingelbach School (K-8), the John B. Kelly School (K-6), the John Wister Elementary School (K-6), the Hill Freedman Middle School (6-8), the Theodore Roosevelt Middle School (7-8), the Fitler Academics Plus School (1-8), and the Martin Luther King High School (9-12). The Robert Fulton Elementary School and Germantown High School, a regional public high school located in Germantown, were both closed in 2013.

Charter schools

The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf

Mastery Charter Schools operates the Mastery Charter Pickett Campus (7-12, MCPC) in Germantown.[19] The school opened in August 2007.[20] The charter system headquarters is located at Pickett.[20][21] Germantown Settlement Charter School (5-8), Imani Education Circle Charter school (pre-K to 8), and the Wissahickon Charter School's Awbury Campus (6th-8th) is located in the neighborhood . The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, a private state-chartered school, occupies the former site of Germantown Academy, which moved to Fort Washington, Pennsylvania in 1965.

Private schools

Germantown's private schools include the DePaul Catholic School (K-8), Waldorf School of Philadelphia (PreK-8), the High Street Christian Academy (K-4), the Germantown Islamic School, the Green Tree School (special education, ages 6–21), and two Quaker schools: Germantown Friends School and Greene Street Friends School.

Nearby private schools include Mount Airy's Revival Hill Christian High School (9-12), Blair Christian Academy (PreK-12), Islamic Day School of Philadelphia (PreK-5), Project Learn School (K-8), Classroom on Carpenter Lane (K-2), and Holy Cross School (K-8), as well as Chestnut Hill's Springside School (PreK-12), Chestnut Hill Academy (K-12), and Crefeld School (7-12). The William Penn Charter School (commonly known as Penn Charter), the oldest Quaker school in the world, is located in nearby East Falls.

Higher education

La Salle University's 'West Campus' is in Germantown, centered on the old Germantown Hospital buildings and property, which it purchased in 2007.[22] Other universities and colleges close to Germantown include Drexel University College of Medicine's Queen Lane Medical Campus, Arcadia University, Chestnut Hill College, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Philadelphia University, and Saint Joseph’s University.[23]

Other teaching institutions

Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library

Settlement Music School, the largest community school of the arts in the United States, operates one of its six branches in Germantown.

Public libraries

Free Library of Philadelphia operates public libraries. The Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library is located in Germantown. The library was given its current name in 2002, after Joseph E. Coleman, a member of the Philadelphia City Council.[24]


"Old Ironsides", 1832

The first railroad in Philadelphia was the Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown Railroad, which linked Germantown to a station at 9th and Green Streets in Center City. It opened in 1832, and was initially powered by horses.[25] The inventor Matthias W. Baldwin built his first commissioned steam locomotive for the new railroad. Nicknamed Old Ironsides, it eventually reached a peak speed of 28 mph.[26]

Route 23 trolley on Germantown Avenue, 1985

Today two SEPTA Regional Rail lines connect the neighborhood to Center City: the Chestnut Hill West Line with stops at Queen Lane, Chelten Avenue, and Tulpehocken stations; and the Chestnut Hill East Line with stops at Wister, Germantown, and Washington Lane stations.[27]

The neighborhood is also served by bus routes 18, 23 (formerly a trolley line), 26, 53 (formerly a trolley line), 65, H and XH, J, and K.[27]

Parks and recreation areas

Germantown has numerous parks and recreation areas. These include:

  • Awbury Arboretum, a historic 55 acre arboretum and estate
  • Carpenter Park
  • Clifford Park
  • Cliveden Park
  • Cloverly Park
  • East Germantown Recreation Center
  • Fernhill Park
Francis Cope House, offices of the Awbury Arboretum

Historic sites

National Historic Landmark Districts

National Historic Districts

National Historic Landmarks

National Register of Historic Places

Other sites listed separately on the NRHP:

Gallery of historic houses and architecture

For a more complete gallery of contributing properties in the Colonial Germantown Historic District see here

Other historic sites

The Concord School (1775), 6308 Germantown Avenue

Notable people

Martin Grove Brumbaugh, Governor of Pennsylvania
Bill Cosby, comedian, actor, musician, author, educator
Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers
Connie Mack, winningest manager in MLB history
Theodore William Richards, first American to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Patti Smith, musician and visual artist
Jeremiah Wright, pastor

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Reuters: German American Day 2008
  11. ^ The Library of Congress: Chronology 'The Germans in America'
  12. ^
  13. ^ Di Giacomo, Donna J. Italians of Philadelphia. Arcadia Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0738550205, 9780738550206. p. 9.
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b "Pickett Campus : About." Mastery Charter Schools. Retrieved on September 10, 2012. "Our Location 5700 Wayne Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19144"
  20. ^ "Contact Us." Mastery Charter Schools. Retrieved on September 10, 2012. "Address: 5700 Wayne Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19144"
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Education." Mt. Airy USA. Retrieved on January 20, 2009.
  23. ^ "Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library." Free Library of Philadelphia. Retrieved on October 19, 2012.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Matthias William Baldwin," in Lance Day and Ian Mcneil (eds.), Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology. London: Routledge, 1995; pg. 39.
  26. ^ a b
  27. ^ NRHP Focus
  28. ^ National Park Service
  29. ^ National Historic Landmarks
  30. ^ Wyck House
  31. ^ Hood Cemetery
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ a b
  37. ^
  38. ^ Singer, Natasha. "Robert L. McNeil Jr., Chemist Who Introduced Tylenol, Dies at 94", The New York Times, June 3, 2010. Accessed June 4, 2010.

External links

  • , 1874Scene in Germantown, Pa.Art by Joseph Ropes (1812–1885),
  • , c. 1820Market Square, GermantownArt by William Britton,
  • Atlas of the Late Borough of Germantown, 22nd Ward, City of Philadelphia, 1871
  • Chronology of the Political Subdivisions of the County of Philadelphia, 1683–1854
  • Clickable map of Historic Germantown (Independence Hall Association)
  • Germantown Historical Society
  • Germantown general court records, 1691-1701; includes land disputes, apprenticeships, sales of goods, personal matters, etc.
  • History of Old Germantown (1907), online version
  • Incorporated District, Boroughs, and Townships in the County of Philadelphia, 1854 By Rudolph J. Walther
  • Northwest Philadelphia, The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia
  •, Historic Photographs of Philadelphia, City Archives
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