Colonial Germantown Historic District

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Colonial Germantown Historic District
Location Both sides of Germantown Avenue, between Windrim Avenue and Sharpnack Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Area 113 acres (46 ha)
Built 1683
Architect Multiple
Architectural style Colonial, Georgian, Federal
NRHP Reference # 66000678[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[2]
Designated NHLD June 23, 1965[3]

The Colonial Germantown Historic District is a designated National Historic Landmark District in the Germantown and Mount Airy neighborhoods of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania along both sides of Germantown Avenue. This road followed an Indian path from the Delaware River just north of Old City Philadelphia, through Germantown, about 6 miles northwest of Center City Philadelphia, and on to Pottstown. Settlement in the Germantown area began, at the invitation of William Penn, in 1683 by Nederlanders and Germans under the leadership of Francis Daniel Pastorius fleeing religious persecution.[2][4][5]

Colonial Germantown was a leader in religious thought, printing, and education. Important dates in Germantown's early history include:[6]

  • August 16, 1683, Pastorius arrives in Philadelphia
  • October 25, 1683, Lots are drawn for land among Pastorius's followers and settlement begins
  • 1688, first American anti-slavery protest published
  • 1690, first paper-mill built in America is built near Germantown
  • 1705, possibly the first portrait painted in oil in America painted by Christopher Witt in Germantown
  • 1708, first Mennonite Meetinghouse in America built in Germantown
  • 1719, first Dunkards in America arrive in Germantown
  • 1743, first Bible printed in America in any European language (in this case German), printed by Christoph Sauer
  • 1760, Germantown Academy founded
  • 1762, invasion of the Paxton Boys
  • 1770, first American book on pedagogy written by Christopher Dock and published in Germantown
  • October 4, 1777, Battle of Germantown
  • 1793, during the Philadelphia Yellow Fever Epidemic, President Washington and his cabinet move to Germantown
  • 1794, Washington spends two months in Germantown to avoid the heat in Philadelphia
  • July 20, 1825, General Lafayette visits Germantown
  • June 6, 1832, railroad from Philadelphia to Germantown opens

Historic designation and extent[edit]

The district was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. The original district included the 4500 to 6600 blocks of Germantown Avenue (between Windrim Avenue and Sharpnack Street). In 1987 the district was expanded north to the 7600 block of Germantown Avenue (up to Cresheim Valley Drive), which is the southern boundary of the Chestnut Hill Historic District. The district's two parts contain 579 properties, of which 514 are considered contributing, and only 65 non-contributing. The northwest Philadelphia area, which promotes itself as "Freedom's Backyard,"[7] contains 11 historic districts listed by the National Register of Historic Places, as well as 58 separately listed properties.[8] Eight state historical markers are located on Germantown Avenue. Nearly complete inventories prepared for the National Register of Historic Places, both for the original district and for the expanded area are available.[9][10] A 1907 inventory of historic buildings in the area was printed in the "History of Old Germantown."[11]

Selected contributing properties[edit]

Contributing properties in the district include the following. Even street numbers are on the west side of Germantown Avenue, odd numbers on the east. Original construction dates may be approximate.

Name Image Address Date Note
Loudoun Mansion 4650 Germantown Loudon.JPG 4650 Germantown Ave.
40°01′32″N 75°09′39″W / 40.0256°N 75.1607°W / 40.0256; -75.1607 (Loudoun Mansion)
1801 Built by Thomas Armat, additions 1829, 1850, 1888, rehab 1864. Stucco on rubble with wood trim. Federal style.
C. W. Schaeffer Public School Schaeffer School 1876.JPG 4701 Germantown Ave.
40°01′36″N 75°09′38″W / 40.0267°N 75.1605°W / 40.0267; -75.1605 (Schaeffer Public School)
1876 Listed separately on NRHP. Three stories in stone with wood trim. Designed by L. Esler in the Italianate style.
Mehl House Mehl-House-HABS PA,51-GERM,6-1.jpg 4821 Germantown Ave.
40°01′41″N 75°09′41″W / 40.0280°N 75.1615°W / 40.0280; -75.1615 (Mehl House)
1744 Stone with wood trim in the Federal style. Brick ell built in 1933.
Ottinger House 4825 Germantown.JPG 4825 Germantown Ave.
40°01′41″N 75°09′42″W / 40.0281°N 75.1616°W / 40.0281; -75.1616 (Ottinger House)
1748 Colonial and Federal styles.
Lower Burial Ground 4901 Gate.JPG 4901–21 Germantown Ave.
40°01′44″N 75°09′44″W / 40.0289°N 75.1621°W / 40.0289; -75.1621 (Lower Burial Ground)
1692 Now called Hood Cemetery.
Baroque Revival style entry gate designed in 1849 by William L. Johnston.
Baynton House 5208 Germantown Boynton.JPG 5208 Germantown Ave.
40°01′52″N 75°10′04″W / 40.0310°N 75.1677°W / 40.0310; -75.1677 (Baynton House)
1798 Two and one-half stories. Brick with stone and wood trim in the Federal style.
Conyngham-Hacker House 5214 Germantown Ave.JPG 5214 Germantown Ave. 1796 Listed separately on the NRHP. Two and one-half stories. Stone with wood trim in the Federal style.
Howell House 5218 Germantown Ave.JPG 5218 Germantown Ave. 1798 Listed separately on the NRHP. Built for William Forbes. Two and one-half stories. Stone with wood trim in the Federal style.
Theobald Endt House 5222 and 5226 Germantown.JPG 5222 Germantown Ave. 1730. Rebuilt 1802. AKA Handsberry House; built by Theobald Endt. Two and one-half stories. Stucco on stone with wood trim in the Federal style.
Bechtel House 5222 Germantown.JPG 5226 Germantown Ave. 1730
Rebuilt 1802
Once the home of Rev. John Bechtel. Two and one-half stories. Stone with wood trim in the Colonial style.
Grumblethorpe Grumblethorpe Front.JPG 5267 Germantown Ave.
40°01′56″N 75°10′06″W / 40.0322°N 75.1683°W / 40.0322; -75.1683 (Grumblethorpe)
1744 Listed separately on NRHP. Additions in 1750, 1799, 1806, 1819. Owned by John Wister, an important site during the Battle of Germantown. Stone with wood trim in the Colonial style.
Wistar's Tenant House Grumblethorpe Tennant.JPG 5269 Germantown Ave. 1745 Listed separately on NRHP. Addition in early nineteenth century. Stone with wood trim in Colonial style.
Clarkson-Watson House Clarkson Watson House.JPG 5275 Germantown Ave. 1745 Additions/alterations in 1775, 1825, 1870, 1910. Stucco on stone with wood trim in Federal style/Colonial style.
Germantown Friends School
and Meeting House
GermantownFriends.jpg 5400 Germantown Ave.
40°01′57″N 75°10′19″W / 40.0325°N 75.1719°W / 40.0325; -75.1719 (Germantown Friends Meeting)
1869 Meeting founded 1690. This parcel acquired 1693 and used as a burial ground. Previous meeting houses built 1705, 1812. School founded 1845. Several school buildings on site.
Masonic Temple of Germantown 5425 Germantown.JPG 5423–27 Germantown Ave. 1873 Additions/alterations 1915, 1920. Three stories, stone with wood trim in the Gothic Revival style
A previous house on this site was the birthplace of Louisa May Alcott.
Germantown White House 28-5442GTA-DeshlerMorris.jpg 5442 Germantown Ave.
40°02′02″N 75°10′18″W / 40.0338°N 75.1718°W / 40.0338; -75.1718 (Germantown White House)
1772 Listed separately on the NRHP. AKA the Deshler-Morris House. Additions/alterations 1840, 1856, 1868, 1887, 1898, 1909. HQ of General Howe during Battle of Germantown. Temporary residence of President George Washington 1793-94. Stucco on stone with wood trim in the Federal style.
National Bank of Germantown 5500 Germantown Bank.JPG 5500–04 Germantown Ave.
40°02′03″N 75°10′23″W / 40.0343°N 75.1730°W / 40.0343; -75.1730 (National Bank of Germantown)
1868 J.C. Sidney original architect. Additions/alterations 1890, 1907, 1930. Stone with wood trim in the Renaissance Revival style.
John Fromberger House 5501 Germantown HABS Boucher.jpeg 5501 Germantown Ave.
40°02′04″N 75°10′19″W / 40.0345°N 75.1719°W / 40.0345; -75.1719 (Germantown Historical Society)
1796 Multiple renovations; now houses the Germantown Historical Society. Brick with stone and wood trim in the Federal style.
S.S. Kresge Store 5549 Germantown Kresge.JPG 5549-53 Germantown Ave.
40°02′06″N 75°10′24″W / 40.0350°N 75.1734°W / 40.0350; -75.1734 (S.S. Kresge)
Georgian Revival style
Loyal Order of Odd Fellows 5619 Germantown.JPG 5615 Germantown Ave.
40°02′08″N 75°10′27″W / 40.0356°N 75.1741°W / 40.0356; -75.1741 (Odd Fellows)
1860 New facade 1940. Three stories in brick with stone and pressed metal in the Georgian Revival style.
C. A. Rowell Department Store 5627 CA Rowell Germantown.JPG 5627 Germantown Ave. 1949 Rear section originally Germantown Trust (1929). Georgian Revival style by architect Herbert Beidler.
First Presbyterian Church
in Germantown
5700 Germantown Cheltan.JPG 5700 block Germantown Ave.
(35 West Chelten Ave.)
40°02′06″N 75°10′31″W / 40.035°N 75.1754°W / 40.035; -75.1754 (First Presbyterian Church)
1871+ Attributed to architect T. Roney Williamson, Richardson Romanesque style
Vernon-Wister House 5700 Germantown.JPG 5708 Germantown Ave.
40°02′09″N 75°10′36″W / 40.0357°N 75.1766°W / 40.0357; -75.1766 (Vernon-Wister House)
1803 Federal style, purchased by John Wister, grandson of Wister at Grumblethorpe
Vernon Park branch
The Free Library of Philadelphia
Germantown Free Library.JPG 5708 Germantown Ave.
40°02′11″N 75°10′35″W / 40.0365°N 75.1764°W / 40.0365; -75.1764 (Vernon Park branch library)
1907 Now housing the Center in the
A Carnegie Library; designed by Frank Miles Day & Brother
Germantown Townhall 5900 block Germantown Townhall.JPG 5900 block Germantown Ave. Never actually served as the town hall[12]
Wyck House 6026 Gtown Wyck.JPG 6026 Germantown Ave.
40°02′24″N 75°10′43″W / 40.0399°N 75.1785°W / 40.0399; -75.1785 (Wyck House)
1690 (part) Listed separately as a National Historic Landmark. 1824: remodeled by William Strickland
Mennonite Meetinghouse Germantown Mennonite Meeting.JPG 6119 Germantown Ave.
40°02′29″N 75°10′45″W / 40.0413°N 75.1791°W / 40.0413; -75.1791 (Mennonite Meetinghouse)
1770 Listed separately on the NRHP. Congregation established in 1688 as first Mennonite church in America. One and one-half stories, stone with wood trim in the Colonial style.
John Johnson House 6306 Germantown J Jr.JPG 6306 Germantown Ave. 1768 Listed separately as a National Historic Landmark. A stop on the Underground Railroad. After 1918, home of the Women's Club of Germantown.
Concord School House Concord School Gtown.jpg 6309 Germantown Ave.
40°02′38″N 75°10′52″W / 40.0440°N 75.1811°W / 40.0440; -75.1811 (Concord School)
1775 Possibly built by Jacob Knor. Two and one-half stories, stone with wood trim.
Upper Burial Ground 6311 Upper Burial Ground.JPG 6311–17 Germantown Ave. 1693 "Axe's Cemetery," land donated by Paul Wolfe, wall built 1777.
Cliveden Cliveden Mansion, Philadelphia, HABS PA-1184-88.jpg 6401 Germantown Ave.
40°02′47″N 75°10′56″W / 40.0465°N 75.1821°W / 40.0465; -75.1821 (Cliveden)
1763-67 Listed separately as a National Historic Landmark. Estate of Benjamin Chew, an important site during the Battle of Germantown. Built by William Knor. Two and one-half stories with wood trim in the Colonial style.
Upsala 6430 Germantown.JPG 6430 Germantown Ave.
40°02′48″N 75°11′00″W / 40.0467°N 75.1832°W / 40.0467; -75.1832 (Upsala)
1798 Listed separately on the NRHP. Two and one-half stories with wood trim in the Federal style. Rear sections perhaps built earlier.
Daniel Billmeyer House 6504 Germantown D Billmeyer.JPG 6504 Germantown Ave.
40°02′54″N 75°11′01″W / 40.0484°N 75.1837°W / 40.0484; -75.1837 (Daniel Billmeyer House)
1793 Listed separately on the NRHP. Stone with wood trim in the Federal style.
Michael Billmeyer House 6505 Germantown M Billmeyer.JPG 6505 Germantown Ave.
40°02′55″N 75°11′00″W / 40.0485°N 75.1834°W / 40.0485; -75.1834 (Michael Billmeyer House)
1727 Listed separately on the NRHP. Stone with wood trim in the Federal and German colonial styles.
Church of the Brethren 6611 Germantown Brethren.JPG 6611 Germantown Ave.
40°03′00″N 75°11′03″W / 40.0501°N 75.1841°W / 40.0501; -75.1841 (Church of the Brethren)
1770 First Church of the Brethren (Dunkards) in America
Winston Commons 6620 Germantown Philly.JPG 6620–24 Germantown Ave.
40°03′04″N 75°11′06″W / 40.0510°N 75.1851°W / 40.0510; -75.1851 (Winston Commons)
1895 Architect William Lightfoot Price
St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Germantown 6671 Germantown St Mikes.JPG 6671 Germantown Ave.
40°03′08″N 75°11′05″W / 40.0521°N 75.1846°W / 40.0521; -75.1846 (St. Michaels)
1896-97 The congregation has used this site at least since 1728.
Beggarstown School Beggarstown School.jpeg 6669 Germantown Ave.
40°03′05″N 75°11′06″W / 40.0514°N 75.1850°W / 40.0514; -75.1850 (Beggarstown School)
1740 Listed separately on the NRHP.
Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church 7101 Germantown.JPG 7108 Germantown Ave.
40°03′31″N 75°11′24″W / 40.0585°N 75.1899°W / 40.0585; -75.1899 (Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church)
Sedgwick Theater 7135 Germantown.JPG 7133-41 Germantown Ave.
40°03′31″N 75°11′24″W / 40.0585°N 75.1899°W / 40.0585; -75.1899 (Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church)
1926-1928 Art Deco. William H. Lee architect.
Tourison Building 7200 Germantown.JPG 7200-06 Germantown Ave.
40°03′31″N 75°11′24″W / 40.0585°N 75.1899°W / 40.0585; -75.1899 (Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church)
1920s Art Deco. Tunis and Baker, architects.
Store 7203 Germantown.JPG 7203 Germantown Ave.
40°03′39″N 75°11′27″W / 40.0608°N 75.1909°W / 40.0608; -75.1909 (Store)
Mt. Airy Agricultural School 7331 Germantown.JPG 7331 Germantown Ave.
40°03′41″N 75°11′30″W / 40.0614°N 75.1916°W / 40.0614; -75.1916 (Mt. Airy Agricultural School)
Cresheim Cottage 7402 Gtown Cresheim Cottage.JPG 7402-04 Germantown Ave.
40°03′45″N 75°11′36″W / 40.0626°N 75.1933°W / 40.0626; -75.1933 (Cresheim Cottage)
Bockius House 7413 Germantown.JPG 7413 Germantown Ave.
40°03′48″N 75°11′34″W / 40.0634°N 75.1929°W / 40.0634; -75.1929 (Bockius House)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Staff (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b Listing at the National Park Service
  3. ^ "Colonial Germantown Historic District". National Park Service. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  4. ^ NRHP 1966? Nomination Form Enter "public" for ID and "public" for password to access the site.
  5. ^ NRHP 1987? Nomination Form Enter "public" for ID and "public" for password to access the site.
  6. ^ Jenkins, Charles Francis (1902). The guide book to historic Germantown. Germantown: Site and relic society. p. 170.  p. 7
  7. ^ accessed November 1, 2010.
  8. ^ Philadelphia Historic Resource Survey Inventory, Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, January 2007, p. 42
  9. ^ NRHP 1966? Inventory Enter "public" for ID and "public" for password to access the site.
  10. ^ NRHP 1987? Inventory Enter "public" for ID and "public" for password to access the site.
  11. ^ Garber, John Palmer; Naaman Henry Keyser; C. Henry Kain; Horace Ferdinand McCann (1907). History of Old Germantown. Germantown: H. F. McCann. p. 453. 
  12. ^ "Germantown Town Hall". Hidden City Philadelphia/Vimeo. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]