Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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

Germantown is a neighborhood in the northwest section of the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, about 7–8 miles northwest from the center of the city. The neighborhood is rich in historic sites and buildings from the colonial era, a few of which are open to the public.

Germantown stretches for about two miles along Germantown Avenue northwest from Windrim and Roberts Avenues. The boundaries of Germantown borough at the time it was absorbed into the city of Philadelphia were Wissahickon Avenue, Roberts Avenue, Wister Street, Stenton Avenue and Washington Lane. Today, the next neighborhood to the northwest, Mount Airy, starts around Johnson Street, although there is no universally recognized exact boundary. Nicetown lies to the south and Logan, Ogontz, and West Oak Lane lie to the east.



Pictures from Old-Germantown. The top two houses are that of the Pastorius family, the one on the left around 1683 on the right around 1715. The center structure is that of the house and printing business of the Caurs family, shown around 1735. The bottom structure is the market place show around 1820.
Seal of Germantown, 1691

Germantown was founded by German settlers, thirteen Quaker and Mennonite families from Krefeld (Germany),[1][2] in 1681. Today the founding day of Germantown on October 6, 1683, 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.

In 1688, five years after its founding, Germantown became the birthplace of the anti-slavery movement in America. 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 The 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, was an unusually early, clear and forceful argument against slavery and initiated the process of banning slavery in the Society of Friends (1776) and Pennsylvania (1780).

When Philadelphia was occupied by the British during the American Revolutionary War, several units were housed in Germantown. In the Battle of Germantown, in 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 inspirational battle was considered an important victory by the feisty Americans. The American loss was 673; the British loss was 575. The battle is called a victory by the Americans because along with the Army's success under Brigadier General Horatio Gates at Saratoga on October 17 when John Burgoyne surrendered, it led to the official recognition of the Americans by France, which formed an alliance with the Americans afterward.

During his presidency, George Washington and his family lodged at the 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)

Louisa May Alcott, author of the novel Little Women, was born in Germantown in 1832. Germantown proper, and the adjacent German Township, were incorporated into the City of Philadelphia in 1854 by the Act of Consolidation.

Bright April, a 1946 book written and illustrated by Marguerite de Angeli, features scenes of Germantown of the 1940s while addressing the divisive issue of racial prejudice experienced by African Americans, a daring topic for a children's book of that time. Selected digital images of this book are available here.


Market Square Presbyterian Church and Civil War Monument, Market Square

Germantown, as are all areas of Philadelphia, is zoned to schools in the School District of Philadelphia. Germantown High School is in Germantown.

Germantown is the location of the private Quaker schools Germantown Friends School, Greene Street Friends School, and The William Penn Charter School, the oldest Quaker school in the world. The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf occupies the former site of Germantown Academy, which moved to Fort Washington, Pennsylvania in 1965.

Historic sites

National Historic Landmark Districts

National Historic Districts

  • Awbury Historic District
  • Tulpehocken Station Historic District[3]

National Historic Landmarks

Other historic sites

The Concord School (1775), 6308 Germantown Avenue

Notable residents

See also


External links


Coordinates: 40°02′37″N 75°10′55″W / 40.04361°N 75.18194°W / 40.04361; -75.18194

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