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Germantown is a neighborhood in the Northwest Philadelphia section of the city of Philadelphiamarker, 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 Airymarker, starts around Upsal Street, although there is no universally recognized exact boundary. Nicetown lies to the south and Loganmarker, Ogontz, and West Oak Lane lie to the east.


Germantown was founded by German settlers - thirteen Quaker and Mennonitefamilies from Krefeldmarker (Germany), in 1681.Today the founding-day of Germantown on October 6, 1683, is remembered as German-American Day, a holiday in the United Statesmarker, observed annually on October 6.

On August 12, 1689, William Penn at Londonmarker 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 Britishmarker during the American Revolutionary War, several units were housed in Germantown. In the Battle of Germantownmarker, 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 Francemarker, which formed an alliance with the Americans afterwards.

For a time after the war, George Washington rented the Deshler-Morris Housemarker in Germantown to escape the central 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, the 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, is illustrated with 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


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

Germantown is the location of the private quaker schools Germantown Friends Schoolmarker and Greene Street Friends School. The William Penn Charter Schoolmarker, the oldest quaker school in the world, is technically located in the Germantown zip code, but is generally regarded as being in the adjacent neighborhood of East Falls. The Pennsylvania School for the Deafmarker currently occupies the former site of Germantown Academymarker, which moved to Fort Washington, Pennsylvaniamarker in 1965.

Notable Historic Sites

Historic District

The Colonial Germantown Historic District, which includes the 4500 to 7600 blocks of Germantown Avenue (between Windrim and Upsal Streets), has been designated a National Historic Landmark. It comprises 60 buildings, including:

Other National Historic Landmarks

Other historic sites

The Concord School (1775), 6308 Germantown Avenue

Notable residents

See also


  1. Reuters: German American Day 2008
  2. The Library of Congress: Chronology 'The Germans in America'

External links


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