We really can’t confirm exactly how old our little row house is, but like many historic (old) home owners, finding out how old our house is, is a hobby, of sorts. It’s like a detective story where you have to find clues. So far we know:
- We have limey mortar and hand-made, slow fired bricks. I know this because they’re falling apart in places. I know the use of limey mortar puts the house before 1900 because most homes after that time use concrete.
- We have a sheriff’s repossession notice from 1877 so it’s older than that.
- A previous resident stopped by to see the house and I invited her in. She said that the opinion was that the house was around 200 years old, in 1995 when she lived there. She also said that at that time, you could cook in the kitchen fireplace and the window were original. The plumbing also exploded and was replaced so thankfully I don’t have to worry too much about that.
- Our neighbor’s think the row was built sometime in the 1830s. However, half of our neighbors have flat roofs and we have pitched so who knows if they were all built at the same time.
Philadelphia is notorious for sticking with what works, architecturally. You have little Federal row houses from 1650 to 1850, so style is not remotely a reliable metric. Proximity is no guide either considering the homes behind ours predate 1800 and we have new homes on our block.
I just discovered something new, a map from 1862 and our row house is marked down (the gray areas are homes on this map). So it looks like we were there from at least 1862. Anyway, thought I’d share. This map was created by former Historic Preservation Committee Chair Alfred Welljams-Dorof in 2007. It is based on Section 3 of the Atlas of Philadelphia (1862) by City Surveyor Samuel L. Smedley. See the entire map close-up.