Historic Resource Study
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The Revolution, Nationhood and Rapid Development, 1775-1801 (continued)

Cresson's Square, 1781-1800

As the new nation recovered from the Revolution, the city began to grow, especially on its western borders. When Philadelphia became the nation's temporary capital during the decade of the 1790s, the building boom accelerated to accommodate the government personnel, Congressmen and new businesses seeking space in the city. Insurance policies typically inform the pace and extent of real estate development, but on this section of the block, they were relatively few. The building boom can be inferred, however, by the seventeen carpenters resident on the block in 1787, all but one of who lived on "Cresson's Square" north of Cherry Street. Six of the seventeen had purchased their property -- Jesse Roe, Robert Evans, Samuel Goodman, Benjamin Thornton, Nathaniel Smith and Zachariah Lesh. These six remained for a range of years, clearly setting up shop on their property. The others may have been working for these men, or perhaps moved according to the job underway. Besides carpenters, numerous support artisans for the building trade, as well as construction suppliers -- plasterers, bricklayers, brickmakers, joiners painters, carvers, turners, and lumber merchants — were heavily represented on the block in 1787. The spike of construction citywide to prepare Philadelphia for the federal government is suggested by the forty pages that Alexander Coxe Prime compiled of local carpenters named in city directories from 1785 to 1800. [18]

Cherry Street and Cresson's Court

The 1780 tax record indicates that Caleb Cresson had built and moved into his home on the northwest corner of Cherry Street and Hoffman's Alley. Cresson then developed several of the lots along Cherry to his west. He had risen in wealth through judicious use of his land and rentals. He stood among roughly 20 per cent of the city's population as owner of his own house. [19] In 1792, the year of his 50th birthday, Cresson replaced his title as merchant with gentleman, indicating his financial stability. By then he was landlord for nearly half the north side of Cherry Street in the middle section. In 1786 he insured five separate houses, beginning with his own residence. Reflecting his prominence as a Quaker, his home was a large 3-story brick house, but "plainly finished". It stood 35 feet front on Cherry by 36 feet deep for 20 feet and 26 feet deep for 15 feet. The surveyor noted "plain, common winding stairs" and a way out to the roof, with a flat, railed-in roof deck. Cresson had "lately painted" the house inside and out, suggesting that he had corrected years of wear. A city survey listing all the lot widths in this section shows Cresson's house lot as 58 feet in width, with an adjoining lot of 32 feet 6 inches. This neighboring lot was regulated for Samuel Emlen in 1783 as two separate lots with 15'4 and 17'6 width. Evidently two houses already stood on these lots, because the 1782 tax record listed Mary Jennings and George Garrole living there. "S. Emlen" owned the entire north section of the block on the 1743 Parsons survey. This remnant of the Emlen ownership came to Caleb Cresson, no doubt by inheritance (his mother was an Emlen), sometime after the 1783 survey. His 1786 insurance policy included three three-story brick houses adjoining his residence, two with 11' 8 fronts and the westernmost with 18 feet, together exceeding by an inch or two the lot width regulated for Emlen in 1783. Beyond these three houses, Cresson insured one more 3-story brick house measuring 16 feet on Cherry, including half of a 3-foot alley. The house extended over the alley in wood and likely connected with John Lawrence's residence, the house built c. 1757 by Joshua Cresson, as noted in its insurance policy dated 1767. This row of Caleb Cresson houses together covered over 90 feet of Cherry Alley, nearly half the street facade within the middle section of the block. [20]

Caleb Cresson's impact on the block once he took up residence can only be conjectured. He continued to be a top taxpayer on Cherry Street after the war. The 1787 tax assessment record makes it clear he served as landlord for numerous tenants living on his still extensive property. In addition, many lot owners paid him annual ground rent. On the north side of Cresson's Alley he owned a house where widow Lehman lived, and on the south side. He got rent for his five small row houses. At that date the tenants were four men -- a carver, painter, plasterer and sailor -- and one woman head of household. On Cherry Street his rentals included tenants such as Rowland Sanderford, coachmaker, Thomas Lloyd, clerk, and Isaac Stroud, merchant–clearly a prominent set of neighbors. [21]

The directory of 1791 numbered Caleb Cresson's residence 43 Cherry Street. His household by the census of 1790 had 6 people, two men over 16, one under, and three females. He and his wife Annabella had two sons, John Elliot and Caleb Jr., who was 25 in 1790. A record of deaths in the yellow fever epidemic that devastated Philadelphia in 1793 lists "Caleb Cresson's wife" and Joshua and Peter Cresson. The wife may have been Annabella (nee Elliot), married to Caleb, Sr., or it may have been Caleb Jr.'s. spouse. John Elliot Cresson's diary for 1795 and 1796 indicates that his mother died in 1795, rather than 1793. The diary poignantly records his lingering grief over her death and his subsequent dismay when his father courted and married Jane Evans the next year. He felt "wounded and distressed" because he found his mother's memory painfully touching and sad. John started the diary while living at his father's house, but in 1796 he married and moved to a house his father built for him. The city directory for that year indicates his address as 49 Cherry and his occupation as conveyancer. John Elliot and his wife "Molly" often visited with their Moore and Vaux cousins, besides his own immediate relatives. John often felt morose and sickly. When low he was inclined to contemplate his own death. Nonetheless, he and Molly had at least seven children before his untimely death. Caleb Cresson, Sr. provided for John Elliot's widow and children in his will of 1816. [22]

The 1810 directory continued to list Caleb Cresson, Sr at his 43 Cherry Street address. That year, for the first time, son and namesake, Caleb Cresson, Jr., is listed as a merchant at 202 Mulberry Street. Perhaps the death of John Elliot brought Caleb's only remaining heir back to Philadelphia. Caleb Sr. died in 1816, possibly still living on the block he was instrumental in developing from a sparsely to a densely settled property over a span of half a century. Caleb Cresson Jr. died five years later at only 46 years old. There is no indication he had taken any interest in the real estate investments his father had spent decades in managing. [23]

Caleb Cresson owned and leased several adjoining dwellings that eventually were numbered 45, 47, 49 and 51 Cherry Street. The 1787 tax shows Rowland Sanderford, coachmaker and Thomas Lloyd, clerk, were his immediate neighbors in two similarly assessed houses. Isaac Stroud, merchant also leased from Cresson. In 1791 Jane Thomas, who ran a boarding house at 45 Cherry Street, and Joseph Thomas, perhaps her son, a shoemaker, at 47 Cherry Street likely had moved into the same two dwellings, as the assessments for the dwellings again were identical. By 1790-91 Cresson had two more rental dwellings, 49 and 51 Cherry. Elizabeth Roberdeau, a gentlewoman, sister of the prominent patriot, Daniel Roberdeau, was living with one other woman at the former address. She continued in residence until 1795, a few years before her death. John Elliot Cresson, Caleb's son, served as witness to her will. Henry Brame, (Bream) painter, and David Jenkins, brush maker, with their combined household members numbering nine, lived together as Cresson tenants at 51 Cherry Street. The tax record indicates that John Clore, a cabinetmaker, and John Braither, a watchman, were among the occupants of the house. [24]

As mentioned above, Caleb Cresson built a house for his son John Elliot in 1795, which the 1796 directory listed as 49 Cherry. Whether it was the same house numbered 49 Cherry that Elizabeth Roberdeau had occupied in 1791 is not clear. Because she appears again in the 1795 tax record and John Elliot doesn't, it seems that he may have replaced her at the house that year. Numbers 45 and 47 Cherry in 1795 stood empty, but the addresses were listed in the directory. Ashley Bower, laborer, had taken the lease for 51 Cherry. In 1801 Caleb's neighbors at 45, 49 and 51 Cherry Street had changed (and there was no listing for 47 Cherry). The clerk in the United States Mint, George Ehrenzeller, lived next door to him at 45, followed by Jacob Dehart, shipmaster at 49 Cherry and Daniel Carson, driver of the mail stage at 51 Cherry. [25]

The 1795 directory identifies Cresson's Court "between Cherry and Cresson's Alley" for the first time. Caleb Cresson's will of 1816 mentions "two tenements in the court" that formed the western border of his house lot. The entrance to the court likely was on Cherry Street along the western property line. The court in 1795 was home to five artisans–Jonathan Pencoath, bricklayer, Joseph Stockton, bottler, Mason Smith, house carpenter, Benjamin Crohen, shoemaker and John Fox, millwright. The directory indicates the last two lived together, suggesting four dwellings. The tax record, however, shows only two of the men, Smith and Crohen, occupying two Caleb Cresson dwellings with matching valuations. Likely, the five men all managed to live together in the two tenements. By 1801 the court had an entirely new list of occupants. That year the number dropped to four men, two shoemakers, a tin plate worker, and a watchman. The survey of the 1811 directory turned up at least five listings for the court, three of them women. Mrs. Walter ran a boarding house, Elizabeth Miller titled herself simply a widow, and Mrs. Jacob laid out the dead. The occupations of the men were bookbinder and laborer. The additional residents may have reflected what the 1815 will described as the "new tenement I sometime since built" near the other two in the same court. [26]

The section of Cherry Street from Caleb Cresson's property west to the 10-foot alley was sold off as lots before and after the Revolution. John Lawrence, a porter, was an early land purchaser. His appearance on the 1774 provincial tax and the 1787 tax ledger indicates he owned both the lot and ground rent. Lawrence remained on his lot until at least 1791, when the property was numbered 53 Cherry Street. The 1795 directory listed a huckster, John Amos, at Lawrence's address, but the tax record shows that Lawrence still owned the property. Lawrence died in August 1798, perhaps from the yellow fever that summer. In 1801 Hugh Smith, house carpenter, had taken residency, but this research did not identify the property owner at that date. [27]

Three properties west of John Lawrence's were bought up by members of the Smith family during the 1780s. The 1782 tax indicates that Widow Armit held title to the first lot west of Lawrence's. Mary Armit was Samuel Emlen's sister and Caleb Cresson's aunt. She evidently inherited the lot at Samuel's death in 1783. By 1787 Armit (spelled Armatt in the tax record) had sold the property to Thomas Smith, a carpenter, retaining the ground rent. [28]

Benjamin Cathrall, a schoolteacher, lived that year on a lot further west on Cherry as a tenant of Joshua Smith. By 1791 he had purchased the lot, still paying ground rent to Mary Armit, Caleb Cresson's aunt. His house was numbered 55 Cherry Street. Cathrall remained on this 16'6 by 130-foot lot through 1801, retaining his profession as schoolmaster. As a signer of the 1783 Quaker Anti-Slavery Petition to the Continental Congress, Cathrall affirmed that his fellow worshipers had already voluntarily freed their slaves and asked the new national government to interpose "to discourage and prevent so obvious an evil." Possibly Israel Burgoe, his free black tenant on Cresson Alley at the north end of the lot had once served Cathrall in bondage. A different possibility might be that Cathrall played a role in assisting Burgoe to become free or leased to him to demonstrate his intent to assist the free black community. Burgoe remained on Cresson's Alley for two decades, and listed himself in the 1811 "Coloured Persons" directory as living "near 19 Cresson's Alley." Burgoe's presence has special import, because the recent archeology on Block Three turned up many artifacts of African American origin at or near his Cresson Street address. [29]

Nathaniel Smith, like Thomas Smith, a carpenter, owned and occupied the next lot to the west in 1787, his dwelling valued at 275. He remained on the 16'6 foot lot in 1791 when it received the address 57 Cherry. In 1795 Deborah Smith, gentlewoman lived there, perhaps Nathaniel's widow. John Lohra, ironmonger, moved his hardware store from 41 Cherry Street, just east of Hoffman's alley, to 57 Cherry Street by 1801. The 1811 city directory suggests Lohra's financial success. He listed himself a hardware merchant at 73 Cherry (west of Sixth Street) and 139 High Street, the latter likely his residence. [30]

Joshua Smith, a bricklayer, owned the next lot to the west by 1787 and rented it to the schoolmaster Benjamin Cathrall. By 1789 Smith had moved into the house and by 1791 bricklayer Richard Smith, perhaps his son, was at the house numbered 59 Cherry Street. Four years later it appears Joshua Smith had died, for Rebecca Smith owned the lot and Hugh Smith, a carpenter, lived there. In 1801 bricklayer Dallapham Ridgeway was at 59 Cherry, probably as a tenant. [31]

Joseph Hewling (Hewlings, Hullings, Huling, Hurlings, Husling) another bricklayer, was resident on the street as early as 1779, and his name remained on the lot in city surveys after his death. The tax ledger of 1787 listed him as owner of the property with a dwelling valued at 250. He also had built two modest dwellings, each valued at 75, on the Cresson Alley end of his lot, one occupied by Fincher Hellings, a plaisterer, and the other by Michael Clime, a bricklayer. By 1790-91 Joseph Hurlings, bricklayer, lived at 61 Cherry Street, and had two dwellings on Cresson's Alley, with only one tenant, Robert Fullerton, a painter. Joseph Hewlings died in October 1793, likely struck down by the yellow fever, and his widow continued at the house in 1795. (The directory that year misspelled her name as Ann Hastings, gentlewoman). Early in 1800 Ann Hewlings died and by 1801 Jane Chapman had opened a boarding house at 61 Cherry. [32]

Finally, in 1787 James Guest owned the last two lots east of the 10-foot alley. He had purchased the western lot from Joshua Cresson and his wife and the other lot from Caleb and his wife in 1774. [33] By 1780 he had built a dwelling where "Sarah, a Negroe woman" lived. The house appears to be a Cherry Street property (based on the house valuation and place in the listing.) By 1787 he had two dwellings on the Cresson Alley side of his lots, one of them occupied by a black man named Joseph Martin and the other by Sampson Davis, a carpenter. [34] Next door, the estate owned an unfinished house, a vacant lot and a frame building, together valued at 150. James Guest himself, listed as a tailor, lived on Cherry Street in 1789, and his tenants besides the "Negroe Man" included two carpenters, Sampson Davis and Joseph Bartholomew, who likely were busy improving the property. Guest may have sold the Cherry Street dwelling the next year, as Edward Lynch, surveyor, lived there for the census, numbered 63 Cherry Street in 1791. The tax record lists him as owner of the property. (A city survey prior to 1814, however, showed James Guest as owner of a 38'13/4 stretch of Cherry Street, suggesting he may have only mortgaged the property.) Lynch had a household of eleven people, three adult men, two boys 16 or younger, and six women. In 1795 Edward Lynch again was recorded in the tax record at this location, but when the city directory was compiled that year William Davidion, Teller of the Bank of the United States, had taken his place. In 1801 yet another occupant, merchant James Todd, lived at 63 Cherry. The address number continued to be the last before the alley, while 67 was the first after the alley, indicating that a lot for 65 remained vacant. Perhaps the side yard of 63 Cherry had been reserved as open space and that airy aspect attracted the higher-end professionals as renters. [35]

Two Cherry Street addresses, 41 and 67 Cherry Street, actually were located on the back end of Fifth and Sixth Street lots, the former east and the latter west of the north-south 10-foot alleys. Ebenezer Robinson built two 3-story brick tenements, each 13'4 by 15', on the north side of Cherry back of his dwelling and insured them July 7, 1792. He had occupied his lot at Fifth and Cherry Street for nearly thirty years (see Fifth Street below) and likely built the houses as rentals in anticipation of the ten-year residency of the federal government in Philadelphia. In 1790, two individuals shared the address, shopkeeper Jacob Ackley who apparently did not live in the house, and Abraham Ackley, cedar cooper. The tax record lists only one clerk, Frederick Miller, living in a house owned by Ebenezer Robinson. Five years later the 1795 directory listed John Lohra, ironmonger, at 41 Cherry, but before his name without an address Sarah Sims, widow, ran a boardinghouse and John Sims, painter and glazier, shared the property. The tax record clarifies the 1795 directory listing by showing that John Sims and John Lohra each occupied a dwelling and lot assessed the same and owned by Ebenezer Robinson. As Robinson built his two Cherry Street houses exactly the same size, it figures they would be taxed the same. William Robinson, carpenter, perhaps Ebenezer's son, Thomas Pickens, another carpenter, and George Vanleer, clerk, all lived under John Sim's roof. Evidently John lived with widow Sarah Sims, likely his mother (but not named in the tax), who ran a boarding house. Widow Sims and John Sims appear at 39 Cherry in the 1793 Directory, confirming the conjecture that they lived together in one of the two tenements. John also listed himself that year with Henry Sims, a cabinetmaker, on the east side of Fifth, just above St. Michael's Church. Their joint business continued at that address, eventually numbered 35 and 37 North Fifth through 1803, while their residences apparently remained on Block Three. In 1796 John Sims was listed in the directory at 54 Cherry, across the street from Sarah Sims' boardinghouse. Henry Sims was listed on Cresson's Alley in 1796, where he remained at least until 1800, when his address was 11 Cresson's. The 1801 directory didn't show Sarah Sims at 41 Cherry, but John Sims was there with the same occupation. Also listed at 41 Cherry were William Garrigues, measurer of carpenters work, and James Ralph, grocer, corner of Fifth Street. In this case, the grocery store actually seems to have been part of Robinson's house at the corner. [36]

The property numbered 67 Cherry Street west of Starr alley was not part of the Cherry and Sixth Street lot, like 41 Cherry Street was at the Fifth Street end. Carpenter Christlieb Bartling developed the property after he purchased two lots from the Cressons prior to the Revolution. One of the lots faced Cherry and connected with the back end of the second lot above Cherry on Sixth Street. According to the 1780 effective supply tax Bartling was living on his Cherry Street property and may have been building the two adjoining houses on 14-foot lots that were noted on a pre-1814 city survey. The tax of 18,300 for his property that year exceeded most of the others for the block, suggesting he already had built a house on the Sixth Street lot, which did not receive a separate tax listing. Bartling evidently prospered, for the tax assessor listed him as a board merchant in 1787. His last appearance on the tax list for this block was in 1789, and by 1791 he had opened a tavern, the Sign of the Buck, in Second above Race, where he kept the best liquors and boarded travelers. Sadly, relocation near the waterfront probably exposed his wife and daughter to yellow fever brought to the nation's capital in the summer of 1793 by French refugees fleeing a slave rebellion in today's Haiti. Although the wife and daughter escaped the city, both died, victims of the most devastating tragedy to hit Philadelphia during the decade. [37]

Jacob Hoffner, Senior, gentleman, was listed at 67 Cherry Street in the 1790 census/1791 directory. This likely was the same man who in 1767-68 operated the sign of the Sun in Race near Fourth Street. The 1791 tax ledger located him on a lot owned by Christlieb Bartling. A 1792 city survey shows the lot with two brick houses side by side. Jacob Hoffner, schoolmaster, was listed among the victims of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. In 1795, however, either he or his son and namesake, continued at the same location as schoolmaster. The tax assessment for that year gave a separate entry for "Jacob Hoffner's estate, frame school house." Hoffner continued at 67 Cherry as schoolmaster in the 1796 and 1797 directories. The following year he appeared as keeper of the Prune Street debtors' prison, where he apparently died. The 1799 directory found only a listing for Lucy Hoffner, widow, on South Third Street. His schoolhouse no doubt quickly found use in the hands of other tenants, as did 67 Cherry, which by 1801 had a gentlewoman, Catherine Riddell, living there. That year, too, the directory added a 69 Cherry Street with John Weaver, an accountant, and Francis Zenss, grocer. In 1797 the city surveyed the lot at the corner of Cherry and Sixth Streets for Francis Zenss, which indicates that his grocery and the accountant both occupied the house on the corner. Whether the second of the two houses built by Bartling ever received a street address prior to 1800 has not determined. [38]

Clearly the 1780s brought numerous men of the building trades to Cherry Street, several from the Smith family. Many if not all the residents either were intermarried or shared a common religious background as Quakers. Benjamin Cathrall, the schoolmaster, who first rented from a Smith and then purchased 55 Cherry Street from a Smith family member, likely was married to a Smith. Benjamin's will of 1805 names Sarah his wife and sister, Hannah Cathrall. Sarah Cathrall's death followed two weeks after her husband's. She named Nathan Allen Smith -—perhaps her brother–as executor, while Sarah Smith and Jane and John Elliot Cresson served as witnesses to her will. Benjamin Cathrall may have been the son of Edward Cathrall, a Quaker from Burlington, New Jersey, where Samuel Emlen, Sr. was a member of Meeting. Edward Cathrall was a founding member in 1757 of the New Jersey Association for Helping the Indians. Samuel Smith drew up the original document for the Association and several other Smith family members participated in this Quaker-only effort. Benjamin Cathrall followed this example by signing a 1783 "Address from the Yearly Meeting of the People Called Quakers," a petition earnestly soliciting the Continental Congress to "discourage and prevent so obvious an Evil" as the slave trade. By 1787 Cathrall lived on Cherry Street at Joshua Smith's house, and by 1791 had purchased the lot a few doors east formerly owned by carpenter Thomas Smith. These several family associations suggest that all the neighbors' families had known each other for several generations. [39]

Joseph Hewlings, (Hellings, Hulings, Huling) long-term neighbor on Cherry Street also had interconnections with the Smith and Cathrall families. He died in October 1793, likely a victim of the yellow fever epidemic. His will, like Sarah Cathrall's, named Nathan Allen Smith as an executor. Ann Hewling, perhaps his wife or sister, named Joshua R. Smith as executor and Benjamin Cathrall as witness. Since neither Hewlings mention a Smith or Cathrall as relatives in their wills, the ties may stem from the Friends Society, rather than kinship. A William Henlings, along with Edward Cathrall and Samuel Smith, was a founder of the New Jersey Association for Helping the Indians in Burlington, New Jersey in 1757. Considering the variance in the spelling from Hewlings, Hulings or Hellings during the 18th century, it seems likely that the Hewlings family also originated from the same Quaker Meeting across the river from Philadelphia. [40]

John Lawrence, porter, another long-term resident on Cherry Street (# 53), also had family ties on the street. When he died in August 1798 (perhaps from yellow fever that year), he named a daughter, Sophia Umbehend, possibly the daughter-in-law of the butcher, Jacob Umbehend (Umpchamp), who had lived for many years across the street on the south side of Cherry Street. [41]

Cresson's Alley

Cresson's Alley to the north of Cherry Street typically provided tenement income for the owners of Cherry and Race Street properties. Usually the owners built dwellings on the back end of their properties and leased or sold them with their lots to artisan or laboring class families. The 1790-91 census and directory compiled by Clement Biddle, and the tax assessment ledger of 1791 together provide an idea of the extent of development by that date and something of the demographics in the tenant houses along the alley.

The census lists twenty-three households, seventeen of them given an address number in the directory. Those who had no Cresson's Alley street number included one Race Street lot owner, whose address was Race Street in the directory, and five African American households. Eight even numbers ran along the south side of the alley -- 2, 6,18, 20, 26, 28, 30,and 32 -- and nine on the north — 1, 5, 9, 19, 21, 27, 29, 31 and 33. [42] Most of the residents were artisans —a tailor, two shoemakers, a carpenter, plasterer, brick maker, currier, two silversmiths, a watch maker and two blacksmiths. Near Fifth Street there was a tobacco store (Daniel Robelet's), and mid-block, a biscuit baker (Barney Shank). Ann Marshall at 26 Cresson's Alley was the sole spinster.

The tax ledger indicates who lived in Caleb Cresson's row of five small tenements at the southwest corner of Hoffman's Alley: Ann Marshall, John Balance [Barnes in census], plasterer, Mahlon Clothier, breeches maker, Charles Mase [Hayes in census], laborer, and Thomas Meyer, currier. On the north side of the alley three of the properties owned by two blacksmiths, David Reese and Valentine Hoffman, and carpenter John Logg registered no inhabitants because these men owned the entire Race Street lot to Cresson's alley, and had set up their business in the back lots. Together these Cresson Alley households by the 1790 census numbered ninety men, women and children.

In addition to these ninety, the census indicates that five households on Cresson's Alley were occupied by 25 African Americans headed by Jane Kimble, Cuff, Joseph Williams, Moses Moore and Israel Burgaw. The 1791 tax ledger places Burgaw in a very modest dwelling on property owned by Benjamin Cathrall, presumably at the north end of his Cherry Street lot. The other four African American households were grouped together between addresses numbered 6 and 18. It seems likely that most lived on the north side of the alley, because in 1795 African Americans George Tapsies, waitingman, Hester Vandergrief, cook, and Isaac Timber, sweep, were specifically listed on that side, toward the western end. None of these individuals can be further identified: they are absent from the 1791 and 1795 tax ledgers, as well as the 1795 and 1801 city directories, suggesting that they had moved away or that they fell below the tax level and directory entry fee. [43]

Israel Burgaw (Bergo, Burge), however, lived on Cresson's Alley for many years. The 1795 directory lists him as a sawyer, again on the south side of Cresson's Alley. The 1801 directory appears to place Burgoe, "woodsawyer," on the north side of the street, next to 17 Cresson's Alley. (Biddle's 1791 directory established the rule that odd numbers fell on the north and east side of city streets.) The 1811 directory of "Coloured Persons" listed him a wood sawyer "near 19 Cresson's alley." The address suggests that he may have lived in a back building, rather than directly on the alley. As a wood sawyer in Philadelphia Burgoe's life was hard. Like men working in the other occupations heavily populated by African Americans (waggoner, carter, draymen, porter, and chimney-sweeps), Burgoe faced arrest and a dollar fine to be paid before the Mayor or Aldermen, anytime he refused to work when "unemployed in actual services." The city officers also set the price of wood per cord, assuring him no incentive for personal advance. While he continued in a humble occupation and home, Burgaw won distinction in the African American community as a founding member in 1794 of St. Thomas African Episcopal Church. This church, an outgrowth of the Free African Society, was the first organized and built by African Americans in this city. Its 264 founding members established an institution that would serve as a pillar of self-respect and self-help in the troubled racial climate of the late 18th and 19th century. [44]

The 1795 directory makes no attempt to number any of the listings for Cresson's Alley. It names twelve individuals along the north side of the alley, including the three African Americans mentioned above. Andrew Lex, butcher, owned the entire Race Street lot along the western ten-foot alley. [45] His dwelling on Race this year was rented out, and he evidently lived near his butcher shop on the alley end of the lot. Heading east along Cresson's Alley his neighbors were a blacksmith, laborer, French upholsterer, a doctor, shoemaker, joiner, seamstress and scrivener. It was a rising mix, as three on the list clearly fit into the middling class. By 1801 the occupants had once again changed. Israel Burge is the only recognizable African American in a list that gave no racial identification. Others on the north side of Cresson's can be inferred by the odd-numbered address: two carvers and gilders (#5 and 7 Cresson's Alley), a gentlewoman (#9), a cabinetmaker (#11), shoemaker (#13), house carpenter (#15), sailor (#17), and, unnumbered, Burge and Sarah Smith, "tayloress."

The south side of Cresson's Alley in 1795 had a similar display of craftsmen, shopkeepers and women. In Caleb Cresson's five tenements running west from Hoffman's Alley widow Ann Marshall still was in residence (see above listings for 1790-91), but now had an occupation as a huckster, or fruit seller. Robert Carr, a brass founder, Margaret Roney, mantua maker, Charles Mease, a laborer, and Charles Hollick, shoemaker, all paid rent in this Cresson row. Robert Carr among them lived nearly a decade on Cres0son's Alley. He listed himself as a brassfounder there from 1793 to 1801. [46] Living further west, also on Caleb Cresson property, were house carpenters Lambert Smith and James Sterling, whose houses were both valued at 110, higher than the Cresson row of five. Benjamin Smith, who the directory named a sawer, likely instead, was a tailor, as given in the 1791 directory and 1795 tax ledger. Smith owned his lot, and next door to him were three tenants renting from the Joshua Smith estate, possibly Benjamin's father. West of that, Robert Fullerton, a glazier or painter, and Matthew (Mattias) Amherst (Armbuster) lived on property owned by Joseph Hewling's estate, and next door two other renters leased houses from the James Guest estate. All of these alley dwellers lived in modest dwellings assessed in the 50 to 80 range. Israel Bergo appeared next to Benjamin Smith in the 1795 directory, but was noticeably missing in the tax record that year, as was any entry for Benjamin Cathrall's property, probably because the assessor when going down Cherry noted, "dwelling and Back house," to include the Cresson Street side. [47]

By 1801 Cresson's Alley had witnessed nearly a complete turnover of residents. Nine women, three of them under one roof, lived on the alley working as as seamstress, spinners, washerwomen, hucksters or in one case, as a tayloress. Israel Burge remained the sole identifiable African American. Some of the properties now had been assigned numbers, 6 and 12 for the south side, and 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17 next, on the north side. Those on the north side seemed to have more status by occupation–a minter, two carver and gilders, a gentlewoman, cabinetmaker, house carpenter and "tayloress," all suggesting a solid middle rank. John Bierbourn, the minter, likely worked at the United State Mint then located on Seventh Street below Arch, just over a block away. [48]

Hoffman's Alley

Hoffman's Alley, as officially called in the 1790 census, was named after Valentine Hoffman, who owned the adjoining Sassafras or Race Street lot. The census listed eleven heads of household on the alley, one of whom, Joseph Lewey, was African American. Seven free black people beside himself lived with Lewey. Nothing more is known about Lewey or his several other residents, nor about where on Hoffman's Alley he lived. Nine of the eleven listed in the census showed up in the 1791 directory with Hoffman's Alley addresses numbered l, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Lewey fell between numbers 1 and 3, suggesting he lived at the back end of the Fifth and Race lot. Laborers, the lowest class of workers, occupied most of the houses. Their families/friends, in one case numbering as many as nine other people, crowded into the small dwellings. A shoemaker, wheelwright, saddler, and tobacconist also lived on the alley. Daniel Reblett, tobacconist, at 6 Hoffman's Alley, had an another listing as Daniel Roblet, tobacconist, at 2 Cresson's Alley in the 1791 city directory. The two combined numbers indicate he occupied a house near the southwest corner of the two alleys. None of the eleven named individuals on Hoffman's Alley, however, showed up in the 1791 tax ledger, a fact that is both confusing and unclear in its meaning. [49]

By 1795, after more than twenty years on Fifth Street, Jesse Roe, carpenter, had moved to the back or west end of his lot that fronted on Hoffman's Alley. Roe simultaneously rented his Fifth Street house to Doctor Benjamin S. Barton, perhaps to recoup financial loss through rental income. The 1795 tax described his new situation as a dwelling and "frame shop opposite." In 1787 Roe had purchased another lot across Hoffman's Alley next to Caleb Cresson's home lot, where he evidently ran his carpentry shop until 1805, the last year he was listed in the directories. [50]

John Heiss lived next door to Jesse Roe on Hoffman's Alley in 1795, on the back end of Reading Howell's Fifth Street lot. In 1794 Howell had insured a substantial new building on Hoffman's Alley that measured 16 by 17-foot and stood five and a half stories high, with two cellars deep. That building also had two back buildings, a 3-story 18 by 10 _' and another 2-story that measured 15 by 10 feet. Considering the size of this building, Heiss' occupancy may have been the first of several tenants planned for the space. [51]

Nine other Hoffman Alley listings are given in the 1795 directory, at one of which three laborers lived together. The 1795 directory names no African Americans on Hoffman's Alley, but the noticeable demographic change is the addition of seven women, titling themselves huckster, schoolmistress, seamstress, widow, and in two cases, omitting any title. The tax ledger lists "Widow Kiggins" —the directory's "Hannah Keegan, schoolmistress,"– in a dwelling owned by Robert Evans, the carpenter who purchased and developed a large lot on Fifth Street at Cresson's Alley. Hannah Keegan likely lost her husband, moved to a small affordable house on Hoffman's Alley, and supported herself as a teacher, perhaps in Jacob Hoffner's schoolhouse on Cherry Street.

A printer, Samuel Cremmings (Cumings in the 1795 tax ledger) lived in a modest dwelling on Robert Evans' ground facing Hoffman's Alley. The directory also listed Charles Guyer, a shoemaker and John Siscar, stage driver, but these two did not appear in the tax ledger. Most interestingly, Hoffman's Alley was home in 1795 to a pump-maker, Isaac Dixy, a fact that might explain recent archeological evidence of 18th century pumps and pump parts in this vicinity on Block Three. Dixy was one of only three individuals with a street number, 8 Hoffman's Alley, an address on the west side of the alley. Unfortunately, the tax record that year does not corroborate Dixy's presence on the block, which may suggest his temporary occupancy. [52]

The rapid turnover on Hoffman's Alley is emphatically illustrated by the 1801 directory, which yields only two of the occupants' names from the 1795 directory listings. Jesse Roe, house carpenter and Apolomo Hickner (Apollono Hiltner), huckster, are the two, and all the rest of the individuals replaced the former residents. Several of the artisans now catered to a more educated or middle income audience. They offered skills as cabinetmaker, mantua maker, picture frame maker, bookbinder and coachmaker. The bookbinder, John Craft, may have been on the back end of Ebenezer Robinson's Fifth Street lot, if the 1800 Trade Directory's listing for Duncan Robinson, printer, at 19 Hoffman's Alley reflected the same printing business. Another house carpenter, Nicholas Weirick, may have worked with Jesse Roe, or Robert Evans at Cresson's Alley. Only two laborers in 1801 recalled the alley's character in 1790. Sarah Dexter, listed as a washerwoman, likely was the widow or daughter of James Dexter, African American coachman and community leader, who had lived for most of the decade (1790-1798) on Ebenezer Robinson's property at 84 N. 5th Street. Sarah's dwelling apparently faced the alley, at the back end of that Fifth Street lot. [53]

By 1811 Hoffman's Alley supported three women, one a widow and two teachers. There were still two carpenters living on the alley, although Jesse Roe no longer was among them. Not a single name gleaned from the 1811 directory matched the directory listing from a decade earlier. The rotation of residents continued. [54]

Starr Alley

Starr Alley, like Hoffman's, most often was simply labeled a ten-foot alley in the deeds and surveys. On its west side Starr Alley was bordered by the back end of the Sixth Street lots. A sale advertisement as early as 1778 showed that on two Sixth Street lots at the corner of Race, the only buildings faced onto "an alley ten feet wide." Philip Hall described them as tenements, both two-stories high, with good cellars, the southern one of frame construction. The 1795 directory is the first to name and include Star alley (research did not identify anyone of that name owning property on the block). The 1795 directory simply gave its location as between Cherry and Race Streets, while the 1801 directory located the alley "from Cherry Street between 63 & 67." Although set out by the Cresson brothers when they began developing their property in the 1760s, Starr Alley had no separate entry in the 1790 census or first directories.

The 1795 directory listed eight entries on the alley, Isaiah Evans, a plaisterer, Adam Boyer, tinman, Mary Wynemore, washer, Jacob Grace, laborer, Catherine Chrise, knitter, Albright Fogel, stocking weaver, and two shoemakers, Jacob Crager and Jacob Book. Two of these names are recognizable. Isaiah Evans owned the second Sixth Street lot south of Sassafras Street, but evidently lived on the alley end of it. Adam Byard, tinman, lived in a frame house on property owned by William Martins. Martin's name did not appear in the deed research to identify which lot he had purchased along Starr Alley, but the tax assessor suggests the answer. An earlier entry next to Widow Abington indicates that William Martins also owned and leased out a house on Sixth Street numbered 87 in the directory, or the second lot on Sixth above Cresson's Alley. The frame house, then, likely stood on the alley end of the lot. [55]

In 1801 only four people were entered in the directory for Starr Alley, three men and a woman, a huckster, or fruit seller. As no number addresses are given, it is difficult to be sure where on the alley these properties stood. Matthew Walker ran a soap boiler and tallow chandler shop, a business notorious for its repugnant odors. In 1795 Walker had listed himself at 73 North 6th Street, the second lot above Cherry Street, and evidently in the intervening six years had opened the soap and candle shop at the Starr Alley end of the lot. Robert Sharp, tin plate worker, apparently kept the business that tinman Adam Boyer ran in 1795. Stephen McGill, the third man, made a living as a blacksmith. In 1811 the directory assigned numbers to some of the buildings on the alley. A rapid check of that alphabetized listing found five addresses -- 2, 4, 6, 16 and 20 -- all situated on the west side of the alley, where a tailor, hatter, laborer, widow, and shoemaker resided. [56]

Fifth Street

Fifth Street between Cherry Street and Cresson Alley supported several stable, middle class families or their tenants through the quarter century following the Revolution. Ebenezer Robinson, brushmaker, was one of the earliest residents on the street. In 1766 he purchased a large lot (20 by 80 feet) at the corner of Cherry Alley from the Cresson brothers and by the spring of 1768 his sizeable one-story house (18'6 by 44') with a broken pitch roof was ready to be insured. Robinson was resident for the census of 1790 when he lived with two women, presumably his wife and a daughter. The 1791 directory numbered his house 82 N. 5th Street. [57]

Robinson left evidence that he was a committed Quaker, civic-minded and enterprising. In 1783 he signed the Quaker Petition to Congress that implored the legislators to "so obvious an evil" as the "iniquitous trade for slaves to the African Coasts." Robinson joined other Friends attending the Yearly Meeting from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the western parts of Maryland and Virginia who signed this petition against the slave trade. In 1786 Robinson showed his concern for the public health when he advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette that he was drilling a well and figured a method to extinguish the "very dangerous" damps, or sulphurous fumes that delayed the completion of wells. He offered to prepare a machine for public use for other city wells, to be transported from his Fifth Street house by wheelbarrow. Like others on the block, he invested in real estate and built tenant houses for income. In 1791 he insured a "very plain," two-story house, measuring 20 by 15 feet with a one-story kitchen, 10' by on Fifth Street "two doors above Cherry" or next door to him. Robinson had purchased the lot from the Cresson brothers in 1772 and at some point had built this house, eventually numbered 84 N. Fifth Street. By 1790 a free black named James Dexter lived in the house, perhaps a sign of Robinson's commitment to gaining a better future for local African Americans. The following year Robinson took out a policy on two three-story houses (each 13' by 15') with kitchens behind his house, facing Cherry Street. These together were numbered 41 Cherry Street in the directory. [58]

Robinson listed himself as a brushmaker in each year's directory through 1798, except in 1796, when his title as gentleman suggested his success, and perhaps retirement from managing the business. He had developed his lot profitably, as the insurance and tax record indicate. In 1795 Christian Clementz ran a grocery in the house where he lived, while his two three-story rental houses on Cherry rented to several businesses, one a printing establishment on Hoffman's Alley. At his death in 1810 he was living in Bristol Borough outside Philadelphia, but still owned the Fifth Street property, which he left to his widow. At that juncture the property was defined as the "tenement and lot on the northwest corner of Fifth and Cherry Street." Whether the Duncan Robinson who ran the printing business in 1800 was his son, or whether the James Robinson who published the directories in the early 19th century was his relation has not been determined in this research. [59]

African-American James Dexter, coachman, occupied Robinson's "very plain" two-story tenement next door at 84 N. Fifth Street. [60] Dexter lived there with seven other free Africans in 1790, according to the federal census. [61] In 1794 Dexter was a founding member of St. Thomas African Episcopal Church, along with Sarah and Diligent Dexter, presumably his family members. [62] Dexter in fact had been instrumental in the church's founding. The very first organizational meeting was held at his home on December 12, 1792, when he served with Absalom Jones and four others as elders. Dexter was active on the building committee for the church, and in 1796 accepted a position on the vestry. Clearly he was among the elite of his community in a time when racial relations in Philadelphia were beginning to disintegrate. [63]

By 1799 James Dexter no longer occupied this property. Considering the fifty pounds annually bequeathed to him in 1795 by the will of John Pemberton, it seems likely that Dexter finally had the means to go into business for himself. He, then, may be the James Dexter, fruiterer, listed in the 1799 Directory and the New Trade Directory for Philadelphia 1800 at 34 North Fifth Street, half a block to the south. James Dexter is no longer listed in city directories after 1800. No death notice has been found for him. In 1801 Sarah Dexter is listed as a washerwoman on Hoffman's Alley, suggesting that she may have been living with him and at his death returned to the old neighborhood. In 1801 Widow Elizabeth Helm occupied 84 N. 5th Street. She perhaps was the mother or wife of Peter Helm, a German cooper and one of the heroic volunteer managers of the public hospital at Bush Hill during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. [64]

The third lot above Cherry Street, 86 North Fifth, was originally purchased from the Cressons in 1772 by house carpenter Jesse Roe. In 1774 he insured a new two-story house on Fifth Street where he still was in residence in 1790-91, but by 1795 he had moved to the west end of his lot, on Hoffman's Alley. [65] That year his former home on Fifth Street was leased to Benjamin Smith Barton, MD, (1766-1818) professor of natural history and botany at the University of Pennsylvania at Arch and Fourth Streets, a block to the southeast. Barton won acclaim as a naturalist through his teaching and several publications. While living on Fifth Street he published Memoir concerning the Fascinating Faculty which has been ascribed to the Rattle-Snake, and other American Serpents (February, 1796). He may also have already begun work on his Elements of Botany published early in 1800, said to be the first textbook on the subject in the Western World. Barton's writings were translated into several foreign languages and won him the title, "Father of American Materia Medica." By 1798 Barton had moved a block south, to 44 N. Fifth Street, where, at his friend President Thomas Jefferson's request, he tutored Merriweather Lewis on how to collect botanical specimens for the planned expedition across the continent launched in 1803 with William Clark. At his death in 1815, Barton ranked among Philadelphia's best known citizens. [66]

By 1801 Mary Reinholdt, gentlewoman, resided at 86 North Fifth Street, while Roe still lived on the Hoffman's Alley end of the lot. Widow Reinholdt still was in residence in 1810. If there were other tenants after that, they have not been identified here, but Jesse Roe at his death in 1814 was still recognized as a house carpenter from Philadelphia. Two daughters survived him, but whether he left the property to his heirs has yet to be determined. [67]

Reading Howell, prominent Philadelphia mapmaker and surveyor, moved to the next lot to the north, 88 N. 5th Street, as early as 1787. This was the companion lot originally purchased by John Harrison, another house carpenter, who likely partnered with Jesse Roe to build two adjoining two-story new houses exactly alike, both of which were insured on the same day, March 1, 1774. By 1794 Reading Howell had purchased the property and had the means to improve it. He added a third story to the house and at the same time insured a substantial new building "adjacent to the westward," or along Hoffman's Alley, that measured 16 by 17-foot and stood 5-1/2-stories high, with two cellars deep. That building also had two back buildings, a 3-story 18 by 10-1/2' and another 2-story that measured 15 by 10 feet. Such a large investment evidently served his mapmaking business, as well as his rentals. [68]

Reading Howell was son of John Howell, of Germantown Township. His wife, Mary Buzby, was daughter of Abraham Buzby, one of the first property owners on this block along Fifth Street below Cherry Street. Possibly this familial association prompted Howell to settle down and run his mapmaking enterprise from 88 N. 5th Street. [69] Before he moved to town, he lived in Chester County. During that time he spent several years surveying and exploring in Pennsylvania with Timothy Matlack and William Dean and buying up land in Chester, Luzerne and Northumberland Counties.

In the spring of 1790 Howell was commissioned by the state to explore the headwaters around the Delaware, East Branch of the Susquehanna, Lehigh, and Schuylkill Rivers. He also got advance funds to continue with his project (which he had been working on for at least two years) to complete a map of Pennsylvania. In August 1789 he advertised his intent to publish the map and called for private subscriptions to support the effort. At that date, before numbers had been assigned as address guides, he notified the public he was living in Fifth Street above Arch. The year before the map's debut, Howell offered a small map of Pennsylvania for sale. When published in 1792, the full-sized rendition (59 by 31 inches) provided the first map of Pennsylvania after the Revolution and introduced several cartographic features for the first time. President Washington wasted no time buying the large format version, for which he paid 7 pounds 88. Even so, the sale of his map evidently had some difficulties. In 1793 he published a long article in the Pennsylvania Gazette explaining that any errors would be corrected, but that the map had taken "the constant labour of six years" during which time he spared "neither money nor labour" on the project. He explained further that he had worked from "detached surveys from all over the state," which accounted for some errors. He encouraged the public to bring all corrections to him at 88 North Fifth Street so that he could enter them on the next edition. Evidently undaunted, Howell produced a map of New Jersey for sale the following year. [70]

Howell and his long-time neighbor, Robert Evans, were appointed to the odious task of local sanitation after the devastating yellow fever epidemic in the summer of 1798. They were directed "to apply for and search out all infected houses, bedding, clothing, &c." in their ward (South Mulberry) and to take what measures were necessary to purify the infected households. Howell continued at 88 N. 5th Street to 1801, but perhaps due to problems or success with his business, he moved to N. Third Street in 1802 and in 1811 lived on Spruce Street. Whether he sold or rented his Fifth Street property was not covered by this research. According to one record, he died in 1827 married to Catherine Y., having had eight children. [71]

By the close of the Revolution the long-term resident carpenter Robert Evans had already built up his large lot at the corner of Cresson's Alley. The 1780 tax divided Roberts Evans' 32 by 80-foot Fifth Street property into eight separate entries. He as carpenter was one, and the others included two widows, a joiner, blacksmith, schoolmaster and the "negroe," Nock. The tax assessment record helps to visualize how Evans improved his property. In 1787 he rented to three tradesmen--a silversmith, limner and carpenter--and a single woman, in three houses valued only at 50. His dwelling and shop, in comparison, were valued at 300. He also rented to three other middle class men, John Dundas and Charles Lyon, both clerks, and Nicholas Shultz, a musician, each living in a house valued at 300. The city directories indicate that the latter homes lined his lot along Fifth Street, while the smaller units were located somewhere on the back or west end of the lot. The 1791 directory, the first to establish a permanent numbering system for the city, identified his four Fifth Street houses as 90 to 96 N. Fifth Street. By that date Evans had secured even better tenants, a merchant, Cadwallader Evans (no doubt a relative) and two gentlemen, Robert Taggert and Samuel Hudson, heir to real estate on Block Two. Evans' success as a house carpenter gained him by 1801 the where withal to trade as a lumber merchant from the same property. [72]

Robert Evans' household in 1790 included three other men besides himself, two boys under 16 and four women and girls. With ten mouths to feed, Evans needed to be enterprising and his long career as a house carpenter proved him a success. His likely constructed all the buildings on his lot, but seemingly never insured them. His tenants increasingly reflected his own prosperity. In 1790 and 1795 merchant Cadwalader Evans and gentlemen Robert Taggart and Samuel Hudson were examples. Cadwalader Evans, likely a cousin, may have been boarding on Fifth while serving as a member of the Pennsylvania legislature representing the Welsh settlement of Gwynedd, Montgomery County, from 1790 to 1800. In 1792 the legislature appointed Cadwalader Evans as one of several Philadelphia commissioners for the Philadelphia to Lancaster "Artificial Road," the first extensive turnpike completed in the United States. The breadth of Cadwalader Evans' knowledge and acquaintance while he lived on Fifth Street may be suggested by his initiative begun after the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 to collect annual weather data to try to understand the cause of the outbreak. He continued this careful record over seventeen years and his findings recently were published from the collections of the American Philosophical Society. In 1800 Evans was unanimously chosen Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. His connections with the state government must have added to Robert Evans' comforts during these years. [73]

By 1801 the Evans properties showed a complete turnover in tenants. Robert Taggert had died in November 1798, perhaps a casualty of the virulent yellow fever epidemic that summer and early fall. [74] There were still two gentlefolk, John Buvet and Hannah Tulley, in 90 and 92 N. 5th, and a shopkeeper, Catherine Parker, in 96 N. 5th. Although Evans remained at 94 N. 5th for over a quarter century, little of substance is known about him or his property. At his death in 1808, he listed himself a lumber merchant, a logical business to cap his career. His will named Martha Ann and Sarah Evans, child and widow of his recently deceased son, Robert, and John Evans, another son, and John's daughter, Mary. [75]

The section of Fifth Street from Cressons Alley to Race Street was numbered 98 to 108 North Fifth Street in 1801. All the lots had a depth of 80 feet to the ten-foot alley created by the Cresson brothers. This section developed quite differently from the former group between Cherry and Cresson's Alley, with few individuals of note and little record of the physical setting, except through advertisements. In 1781, for instance, a 28-foot lot near Race Street had "four frame tenements, two stories high, with good garrets and cellars to each." Considering the breadth of the lot, these four wooden houses likely stood two on Fifth and two on Hoffman's Alley. [76]

In 1790-91 the census and directory showed only four addresses, 98, 100, 102, 108 N. Fifth Street. Two or more may have been the wooden tenements. The gap in the address sequence indicates that two lots in this section had not yet been developed. A barber, Jacob Seyfried, lived at 98 N. 5th, replaced in 1795 by a shoemaker, J. Christian Rittenhouse. Henry Nail (Nagel, Neil, Nagel, Nall), at 100 N. 5th moved onto his property during the Revolution. In 1784 Nagel purchased the adjoining lot to the south from Adam Eckhart who had bought it in 1765 from the Cressons. Henry Nagel died in 1796, leaving a widow, Christina, and five nephews and nieces in his estate. By 1801 Widow Nail had moved to 98 N 5th and had taken in boarders, Peter Deal, a laborer, and Daniel Vandershee, a hairdresser. John Dennis, another shoemaker, lived at 102 N. 5th Street throughout the decade.

Henry Meyer (Myer, Meyers), innkeeper, purchased the large corner lot (56 by 80 feet), and ran his establishment at 108 N. 5th for most of the decade. Meyer's property was regularly the tax assessor's first stop on the annual tour of the block as early as 1779. (Perhaps when the inn opened some grog helped the collector to make his rounds.) Very likely Meyer purchased the lot that year, after William Tod advertised it for sale. Tod first described the property as "A large lot of ground situated at the corner of Fifth and Race streets, with five good dwelling houses thereon; the lot has three fronts, a great part of which is vacant; it is well adapted for a tavern, or any kind of public business." Having failed to sell it, Tod again offered the lot at public sale in September 1779, when he noted that he planned to sell the property as three separate lots. The whole contained 56 feet on Fifth Street and 80 on Race, and had "five well finished tenements." Tod some years earlier had advertised the same property for sale with only a two-story brick dwelling, so he evidently oversaw the lot's further development. [77]

Henry Meyer likely won the bid at the public sale in 1779. That year he was identified as a carpenter in the tax record, which suggests he may have made further improvements on the property after buying it. During the Revolution Meyer himself did not show up on the tax record for this block, but an African American, John Brown, lived on the property in 1780-81, possibly watching over the investment and improving it (he received a personal tax, presumably on his trade). In 1781 Brown shared Meyer's property with five other people, four men and a woman, and the next year Brown was gone but six people still lived on Meyer's lot, including the same woman, Catherine Soust. These may have been tenants in the "five good dwelling houses" Tod had described on the lot. By 1787 Meyer had definitely established his inn, built stables and another house facing the ten-foot alley. His name continued in the directories through 1802 as innkeeper at 108 N. Fifth Street. That year it appears that he had retired as a "gentleman," living on North Third Street, while his son of the same name ran the inn. Henry Jr. first appeared at this address in 1793 as a hatter and continued to live at the address through 1797, exposing him to the operational needs of the inn. The family continued to hold the lot for many more years, for Henry Meyer appeared as owner in an 1829 survey of the adjoining lot to the south for Andrew Cash. [78]

Sassafras or Race Street

By 1775 Race Street had become "almost as frequented as any in town," partly due to a flurry of recent building on this block. [79] The lots along Sassafras Street between the two ten-foot alleys that ran north-south 80 feet from Fifth and Sixth Streets were sizeable. They all measured 130 feet in depth, or the distance south to Cresson Alley and had varying widths along Race, but averaged twenty feet. By the close of the century nearly every lot had been subdivided along its length, and either sold or leased as separate properties. While the record of sales and leases have not been fully researched, the tax ledgers, correlated with city directories, insurance policies, city surveys and newspaper references help to indicate the process of land development on the Race Street lots.

Sassafras Street underwent several ownership or occupancy turnovers during the 1790s. When the first city-sanctioned street numbers were given in 1791, the addresses for Race on this block ran from 164 to 190. Both these extreme numbers, however, were not included in the street-by-street directory of 1795, indicating that the structures at the back ends of the Fifth and Sixth Street corner lots did not always have a separate business address. The 1790 census and 1791 directory, for instance, listed Joseph Deimer's flour factory at 164 Sassafras. Deimer's place in the census record for Sassafras Street came before Valentine Hoffman's property that stood on the west side of the 10-foot alley. Apparently the factory was located in a building at the back end of Henry Meyer's corner lot. The assessment tax for that year and surrounding years, however, made no mention of Deimer, nor did he list himself in either of the 1785 city directories. Joseph Deamer [sic] does appear once more, in the 1793 directory, which located his grain and flour store at the corner of Fifth and Sassafras Streets. Henry Meyer in 1791 is taxed for a dwelling, stable and frame building. Perhaps the latter structure temporarily housed the factory/store, but there is no further mention of the business or building. By 1795 Meyers evidently had taken the entire property for the inn's use (the directory lists no 164 Sassafras and lists Meyer as the first entry above Fifth on Race), but by 1801 the address reappears as an engraving shop run by Frances Shallus. [80]

Valentine Hoffman ran a blacksmith shop on the first property west of the ten-foot alley. The alley eventually was named for him, Hoffman's Alley. Hoffman owned the 19-foot lot numbered 166 Sassafras Street from the Revolution through 1801. Hoffman never took out insurance on his improvements, possibly because the house was too close to his shop, making the danger from fire too high for a policy. His property by 1795 included "dwelling and back houses" which suggests he had also built on the Cresson's Alley end of his lot. Hoffman likely lived out his life on this property, as he still listed himself as blacksmith there in the 1811 Directory. At his death in 1812, he left his estate to wife Susanna, and to his seven children after her decease. [81]

In 1790 laborer Jacob Gross lived next door to the west, at 168 Sassafras, having bought the property from the Cressons in 1772 or before. By 1795 Caleb Cresson had purchased the lot back and leased it to a watchman, Mark Bower. The assessed value on the property remained low in comparison with his neighbors. In 1801 the directory listed no house number, but a man by the name of Kinney (with no occupation given) seems to have been in residence. [82]

The neighbor to his west, Zachariah Lesh (Lesher, Leschler) a carpenter at 170 Sassafras, had purchased the 20 by 130-foot lot prior to the Revolution and lived at this address at least until 1801. Like Robert Evans on Fifth Street, he arrived when the block needed development and remained for over 25 years, no doubt because the city nearby continued to expand at a rapid rate during the decade when Philadelphia was the national capital. In 1790 he shared his house with nine other people. In his will of April 1802 Lesh left his estate to his wife Maria and eleven children. [83]

In 1774, Caleb and his wife Annabelle sold the next lot west to Tobias King, a carter, who sold it to John Long (Lang), a tallow chandler, in 1788, when the property included a brick messuage, tenement and kitchen. Long was still living at this property as a tallow chandler (or soap boiler) in 1790-91 and 1795, when his property was numbered 172 Sassafras. Long by 1799 had built and insured a three-story house on the Cresson's Alley end of his lot, the rent for which may have allowed him to open a grocery store on Sassafras Street. He continued to operate as a soap-boiler, too, at 172 Sassafras through 1810, so that he managed two businesses on the property. Long also had opened a grocery on Vine Street by 1802, which a son of the same name evidently ran. In 1830 that John Long reinsured 172 Sassafras Street, indicating that the family retained the property for over four decades. The first John Long, however, left no will to further illuminate his life. [84]

John Hinchman (Hindman, Hersman, Henchman, Hentzman, Hinnman, Hanchman) at 174 Sassafras bought his lot from Caleb Cresson a few months before his neighbor T. King did in 1774. He, like King, was a carter by trade, but by 1787 he listed himself a brickmaker. In 1790 the census counted him as John Hersman a bricklayer, which may have been a misnomer, as the 1795 directory again listed John Hindman, brickmaker. John Hanchman in 1801 remained at 174 Sassafras as a brickmaker, with his relative (son?), Michael Hanchman, also a brickmaker. That the tax assessor assigned a Sr. to John Hindman's name in 1795 suggests that he had a son of the same name. The 1800 Trade Directory confuses the issue by having a John and Nicholas Hanchman as brickmakers at 174 Race St. and a brickmaker John Henchman at 200 Race Street on the next block west. The 1802 and 1803 directories, however, indicate that the father had retired and a namesake continued the business: John Henchman Sen., gentleman, 174 Sassafras, and John Henchman, brickmaker, at 198 Sassafras (Race) Street. No record of Henchman's death could be found (perhaps because of the wide variant of surname spellings), but he is not listed after 1804 in the city directories. He and neighbor Lesh, both with German names, shared a long record of residency on the street. His descendant, John Henchman, had the lot surveyed in 1819 and again in 1826, when it still measured 20 by 130 feet. The family had owned the property for more than half a century and had never sold off the southern half as a Cresson Alley lot. [85]

Jacob Sulcher (Sulgar, Sulger), a baker listed in 1791 at 176 Sassafras Street, appears to have been one of the original purchasers from the Cresson brothers, along with his neighbors to his east. (The original deed was not located in this research). He is listed on the 1774 and 1779 effective supply tax, along with the before mentioned Race Street owners. In 1779 and 1780 his property is among the higher assessments on this block, and the latter list indicates that he already had a tenant on the Cresson's Alley end of his lot. His comparative financial success may have influenced his decision to return to his "native country, Wirtemberg" in 1780, a plan that evidently fell through, despite his initial preparations. When he finally insured the property on Sassafras in 1793, the policy found two two-story dwellings side by side, each 20 by 20 feet. One featured an old broken-pitch roof. The backbuilding measured 16 by 40 feet, and the bake house was "built agreeable to law," or with the appropriate fire prevention. [86]

Jacob Sulger died in 1795, apparently an alcoholic, if John Elliot Cresson's diary can be trusted. His will named his wife Margaret as heir and executor, and at her death the estate went to the two children, Jacob Jr. and Dorothy Cooper. Ironically, Sulger wrote a codicil to the will only months before his death that protected his daughter's interest in the inheritance by excluding her alcoholic husband as part of the heirs. His wife renewed the insurance on the house in 1800, but may not have lived there, as there was no listing for 176 Sassafras in 1801. Margaret Sulger died in 1822 and her son Jacob Sulger, Jr. finally cancelled the policy in 1847, after more than seventy years of family ownership. [87]

The 1795 city directory listed Philip Cly, baker, at Sulger's 176 Sassafras property, and Margaret Zolliker, huckster, at the same address. This Margaret likely was Jacob's widow, with a more Germanic spelling of her surname. The tax assessment ledger that same year (likely before Cly took over the bakery), listed Jacob's son, Jacob Sulger, a barber. The tax also listed Richard Harper, Turner, in an adjoining dwelling owned by Jacob Sulger's estate. The two Sulger properties on Race may be explained by the misfortunes of the neighbor to the west, David Neas.

David Neas (Nice, Neiss, Neese, Kneis) appeared in the 1779 tax list as a nailor and in 1785 as a shopkeeper on Race Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets. In 1791 he listed himself a grocer (David Neese) at 178 Sassafras. Neiss, however, in 1789 had struggled with debt. His property was advertised for sheriff's sale as two lots, one on Race, the other on Cresson's Alley. The Race Street lot, measuring 20 by 65 feet, included a two-story brick house, a new back building and a smith's shop. The Cresson Alley property, also 20 by 65 feet, offered a two-story brick house with a kitchen and frame stable. A few months later another advertisement by Sheriff Ash described the Cresson's Alley property as "a certain Frame Blacksmith's Shop and Lot" for sale, which suggests that Neiss may have had such a shop on both ends of his property. He evidently pulled through this predicament, but not without losing some social status, for the 1789 tax list shows that although he still owned the lot, he was identified a laborer, the lowest work rank in the hierarchy. To help correct the problem, it appears that he shared the house with three boarders in 1787 and 1789. The 1790-91 census and directory show that David Neiss ran a grocery on Race and a blacksmith shop at 9 Cresson's Alley. By 1795, however, Neiss had evidently sold his lot to Jacob Sulger, for the directory that year listed Richard Harper, oval turner and engine maker, at 178 Sassafras and the tax record listed Harper living in a dwelling owned by the Sulger estate. David Cossart, cedar cooper, lived at 178 Sassafras in 1801, but without further research it is not evident whether he was Sulger estate tenant or the new owner. [88]

The next property to the west, eventually numbered 180 Race Street, had for some years belonged to the Fiss family. In 1779 Martin Fiss and John Fiss both appeared on the effective supply tax, the former next to Jacob Sulger. The next year John Fiss, sailmaker, alone was listed, this time one away from Sulger (Sulker). The 1787 tax assessment records list three John Fiss dwellings. John Fiss, sailmaker, had David Nice on one side in the record and John Ash, butcher and Fiss tenant on the other side. Several entries beyond John Fiss, the tax record noted another Fiss tenant, George Bruner, tailor. Evidently two of the three houses stood on Cresson's Alley, based on their low dwelling valuation. By 1789 John Fiss owned four houses near to each other, with one (presumed to be on Sassafras) assessed more than twice the value of the others.

The 1790 census placed Joseph Fiss, doctor, next to David Neese and the 1791 city directory gave Dr. Fiss' address as 180 Sassafras Street. Prior to moving into the house, Joseph Fiss had been boarding nearby with Archibald Woodsides, in a house not owned by the Fiss family. City surveys help to explain the property and various name associations. Two Race Street lots were regulated in 1790 for Martin Fiss. The surveyor noted that it had previously been surveyed for John Fiss, and marked the property adjoining to the east as "John Fiss house and lot". Martin Fiss, grocer, appeared as owner of a Sassafras dwelling and lot in the 1795 tax assessment, but the city directory that same year did not list him at 180 Sassafras Street. The same tax suggested he had sold one of the lots to Thomas Allibone whose estate rented the property to Lambert Wilmer, a flour merchant, who was listed in the city directory at 180 Sassafras Street that year. Martin Fiss died the following year. His will named John Fiss as his brother and Sarah as daughter, wife of Dr. Joseph Fiss. No member of the Fiss family appeared again in the directories until 1798, when they lived to the north and south of Race Street. Likely the widow and children sold the property. By 1801 the house at 180 Sassafras had been taken by James Bennett, bricklayer. [89]

Martin Fiss may have sold his lot, 182 Sassafras, to Jacob or John Greiner, gentleman and merchant, who are listed at that address in the 1795 directory. The Greiner family (John, the merchant) continued through 1801 at that address.

As early as 1779 Samuel Goodman occupied the next lot, eventually numbered 184 Sassafras. The 1780 tax list identifies Goodman as a laborer, joiner, evidently one of the numerous residents on this block in the building trades that year. By 1787, still at the same location, he had earned his title as carpenter. By 1789 Goodman had moved away and sold to George Weibel, baker, who by 1795 had leased his two dwellings, identified as "front and back" by the tax assessor, to a fellow baker, George Harman. (The directory misnumbers his address that year as 186, which belonged to Andrew Lex, not Weibel). In 1801 George Harman continues at 184 Sassafras, indicating that he, like fellow baker Jacob Sulger, a few doors to the east, prospered providing bread at this location. [90]

Andrew Lex, a butcher, owned and occupied the next lot on Race Street adjoining the western ten-foot alley as early as 1779. A city survey noted that Lex bought the lot from Isaac Barnet, a joiner, who had bought it directly from Caleb Cresson and wife in January 1774. In 1791, when the lot received the address as 186 Race Street, Lex must have been very busy. At the same address he had three men in the building trades — Harman Snyder, joiner, Adam Beyer, tinman, Josiah Cahoon, bricklayer — as well as a shoemaker. The 1795 tax assessed Lex for "dwellings fronting on Race Street and Alley," which might explain where these others lived. In that year the tax record still listed Andrew Lex as a butcher on his lot, but the city directory gave him no mention. Instead, the directory listed Jacob Vanseyver, bricklayer and George Herman, yet another baker, at 186 Sassafras, but this listing evidently was an incident of directory mistake (see above, indicating Harmon lived at 184). The 1801 Directory may help to explain Andrew's absence in the 1795 directory, for it lists Richard Lex, [91] butcher, at 186 Race, suggesting that Andrew had retired and his son took over the business. However the property was divided, it is clear that the lot had been developed to accommodate a variety of tradesmen and their shops. [92]

The two addresses west of the ten-foot alley (eventually known as Starr Alley) stood on the Sixth and Race Street corner lot. In 1790-91 a school keeper, Mariah Sharp, who lived with one other woman, listed at 188 Sassafras, and a sailmaker, William Smallwood, with a household of seven occupied 190 Sassafras. William Smallwood also was listed on Race Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets in the 1785 city directory, but as a shoemaker. The 1795 directory listed two businesses at 188 Sassafras, James Cassin, a soapboiler, and Joseph Johnson, a printer. This soap production may have been in place as early as 1780, when Jacob Winehart, chandler, was carrying on a prosperous business (based on his high tax valuation) next door to Andrew Lex, butcher. In 1787, as well, a tallow chandler, Christopher Mooney, occupied a William Smallwood property. The tax assessor in 1795, however, did not find James Cassin, soapboiler, in residence, but instead Widow Rudolph lived on a William Smallwood property that included both a dwelling and soap house. Her name came in a list that appears to be along Starr Alley, on the back end of the Sixth Street lots. The New Trade Directory for 1800 listed among the soap boilers William Cooper at 188 Sassafras. The 1801 directory assigns no street number for Joseph Arentrue, soap boiler and tallow chandler, but it is clear from his placement in the list for Race Street, south side, after Richard Lex (186 Sassafras) and before Sixth Street, that he had taken over the same soap manufacture. Thus it appears that the first structure west of the alley retained the same use for two decades. [93]

Despite the confusion over the street numbers, the directories make clear that separate tradesmen shared the Sixth Street corner lot and enjoyed Race Street addresses. The 1857 Hexamer and Loch atlas plan for this block shows the corner lot divided into three structures, one facing Sixth Street and two to the east facing Race, conveniently laid out as it appears to have been listed in 1790-91. [94]

Sixth Street

The real estate along North Sixth Street in the Cresson section falls into two blocks, between Cherry and Cresson's Alley and from Cresson's Alley to Race Street. The former six or seven lots were sold by the Cresson brothers before the Revolution and by 1790 appear to have been developed. Nicholas Rash's insurance for a new, plainly finished two-story dwelling with a cockloft issued two years after he purchased the lot in 1772 is the only policy found for the buildings. This property became the long-term residence of African American Robert Venable, and finally, his own property. [95]

The city directories beginning in 1791 record the residents of North Sixth Street as a typical mix of tradesmen, widows (who likely took boarders), and school teachers or office workers. Ten years earlier, in 1780, the tax assessment only seems to show four residents along the stretch of Sixth between Cherry and Cresson's Alley. Widow Thompson and Catherine Spence lived together on Widow Thompson's lot. George Thompson originally owned the lot, so the surveys tell us, the third above Cherry Street. Thompson, a chandler, was listed in the 1774 tax record next to Christlieb Bartling, the carpenter on the lot to his south. Widow Thompson evidently was leasing in 1791 to a joiner, Thomas Hallowell, and by 1795 had sold the lot to Matthew Walker, who listed himself as a chip-hat maker at 73 North Sixth Street. Walker took steps to insure his future on the property. He had the lot surveyed and seems to have taken over Thompson's former business, as he remained at the same address in 1801 but titled himself "soapboiler and candle manufacturer." Walker's apparent switch of occupations suggests the versatility of some tradesmen. [96]

During the 1780s only a few landowners appeared on the tax record to identify the Sixth Street lots, thus making this research inconclusive as to the physical development of the lots prior to the capital city decade. The corner lot at Cherry Street appears to have stood vacant during and just following the Revolution. The 1787 and 1791 tax records indicate that widow Brown owned the lot and leased it out. In the former year her tenant was a joiner, who may have been making improvements, and the latter year John Harper, blacksmith, was in residence, listed in the 1791 directory at both 69 Cherry and 69 North Sixth Street, a clear corner address. John Harper more often advertised himself as a saw maker. On July 4, 1788 he led the saw-makers and file-cutters in the Fourth of July parade in Philadelphia.

John Harper's shop at Sixth and Cherry Streets may have struck the very first coins for the U.S. Mint. In April 1792 Congress authorized the creation of the U.S. Mint and funds to purchase property to erect the mint on North Seventh Street. On July 31 the cornerstone of the building was laid. On July 9 President Washington officially acknowledged the appointment of Mr. Voigt as Coiner and authorized him to commence coining "the cents and half cents of copper and dismes and half dismes of silver." In the same letter he approved "the procurement of fifteen tons of copper," clearly already on stock.

Apparently while the Mint buildings were under construction, Mr. Voigt took the available copper and silver on hand to strike some coins. In April 1844 Jacob Eckledft, Chief Coiner for the Mint during the War of 1812, recalled that John Harper struck early dismes for the Mint in the cellar of his shop. "The coining machinery was in the cellar of Mr. Harper's, saw maker, at the corner of Cherry and Sixth Streets, at which these pieces were struck," he told Treasury official J.R. McClintock when interviewed. Harper listed himself as saw maker at 69 Cherry in the 1793 directory, but must have moved shortly thereafter. He makes no appearance again in the directories until 1796, when he listed as a saw-maker at 15 North Eighth Street. Harper didn't turn up in the two 1800 directories. Likely he was the John Harper identified as a gentleman at his death in Philadelphia in 1813. No other reference has been found in the letters of Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State at the creation of the Mint, or secondary sources on the history of the Mint and its first director, David Rittenhouse, that suggests Harper's interesting role in the first coinage of the United States. [97]

A city survey indicates that Adam Foulke sold the 22 by 52 1/2-foot lot on the north corner of Cherry to Francis Zenss in 1796. Zenss at that date ran a grocery at 76 N. 6th, on the west side of Sixth street, but the 1801 directory listed Francis Zenss, grocer, on the east side of Sixth Street, "at the corner of Cherry alley," presumably on the lot he purchased from Adam Foulke. Because he did not receive an address number, the record remains confusing. Zenss' listing falls between 63 and 71 N. 6th Street in the 1801 directory, but the 1795 directory identified 71 N. 6th as the last number before Cherry Street. The Thompson-Walker lot address was consistently numbered 73 N. 6th Street during the decade 1791-1801, and it is represented on a survey as the third lot north of Cherry, which would mean that the corner lot Zenss purchased logically would be 69 N. 6th Street. Regardless of the conflicting evidence, Zenss bought the corner lot and moved his business there in 1798 or sooner. [98]

Robert Cunningham occupied the 17'9 _-foot lot that became 75 North Sixth Street from at least 1787, when he made a living as a tavern keeper, through the close of the century. In 1787 he owned the lot with a dwelling and three small buildings next to Robert Venebald (Negro). The 1791, 1795 and 1801 city directories listed Robert Cunningham as a weaver at 75 North Sixth Street, two addresses from Robert Venable's lot, or the second lot south from Cresson's Alley. [99]

John McConnell, laborer, moved next door to Cunningham, to the property listed as 77 North Sixth. He owned the lot in 1780, when Leonard Rust, a taylor, lived there, and he himself occupied the lot in 1787 when the property had a dwelling and back building. The 1791 tax only recorded a dwelling, which suggests he sold off the back end of his lot (facing Starr Alley) with the building on it. McConnell's household in 1790 included only two women beside himself. He remained through the 1795 directory, but by 1801 a schoolmistress, Martha James, had taken up residence at this address. [100]

Robert Venable, a free black man, occupied for more than twenty years the next lot north, which finally received a street number, 79 North Sixth Street, in the 1801 directory. According to the tax record in 1780 Venable lived on a lot owned by Nicholas Rash, a Quaker. Rash had purchased the property from the Cressons prior to the Revolution, possibly to provide Venable and his family with their own home. Quakers at this point were mandated to free any slaves in their possession and many took an active role in the abolitionist movement. Further research may disclose more on Rash's motivations, but he clearly retained title to the land while Venable remained its occupant. In 1790 Robert Venable had four other free blacks in his household and in 1794 he was a founding member of St. Thomas African Episcopal Church. Venable made a living as a white washer in 1801, the first time a directory identified his trade. Evidently he eventually purchased the lot and had it surveyed on March 22, 1813. He did list himself in the 1811 directory at 79 North Sixth Street as whitewasher, but for some reason did not appear in the 1811 census directory of "Persons of Colour." The stability and resourcefulness he demonstrated suggests that further research would reveal more on the particulars of his life. [101]

Stephen Phipps purchased the adjoining lot at the corner of Cresson's Alley prior to the Revolution and maintained ownership throughout the century, giving this research a tool to identify the tax assessor's location in the record. Phipps never lived on the property but kept it as a real estate investment. In 1780-1 a butcher lived there. In 1787 a carpenter occupied the lot, suggesting some improvements in the works. The 1790 federal census showed a coachmaker, Rowland Sandiford, with a household of three women in residence. Sandiford had appeared on the 1787 tax ledger in a Caleb Cresson property nearby. Perhaps he expanded his business and needed more space which Phipp's 18 by 80-foot lot would have provided. The 1791 directory numbered this property 81 North Sixth Street. [102]

By 1795 David Mandeville, a scrivener (scribe or notary) had moved into the dwelling at 81 North Sixth and the following year four United States congressmen shared the residence. Three were members of the House Representatives: Benjamin Goodhue, Massachusetts, James Hillhouse, Connecticut, and Henry Glen, New York. Caleb Strong from Massachusetts was the only senator. This listing is the only record found that located federal congressmen in residence on the block. [103] In 1800-1801 David Mandeville worked as a clerk for the Bank of the United States, perhaps having made the right connections through his acquaintance with these four politicians. Evidently Agnes Carson, a gentlewoman, lived with him. She may have been running a boarding house there, for the next year she no longer was on North Sixth, but a Mrs. Carson ran a boarding house at 129 Arch Street. Oddly, the 1801 directory listed this address as 83 N. 6th, but the 1797 to 1800 and the 1805 to 1811 Directories all showed David Mandeville at 81 N. 6th. [104]

North of Cresson's Alley four or five addresses were listed along Sixth Street by 1791, numbered 83 to 91 N. 6th Street. In 1772 Frederick Walter, a bricklayer, purchased the first lot north of the alley, later numbered 83 N. 6th. In 1790-91 a watchman lived there, and in 1795 and 1801, a blacksmith. By 1774 William Hancock, a carpenter, John Yardley and Arnold Michenor had also purchased lots in this section. [105] Late that year Michenor insured a new, plain two-story house, still partially unfinished. His was the only policy found for this section of Sixth Street, but the dwelling was typical of construction on the block during the 18th century. [106]

An undated pre-1814 city survey shows that four adjoining lots at the corner of Race Street measured 20, 20, 18 and 18 feet on Sixth Street. The survey named as the lot owners Kruger (Krieger?) [sic] at the corner, Isaiah Evans, Jacob Hansel and George Felker. [107] These names helped to trace the four corner properties. George Felker, owner of the fourth lot below Race Street, listed himself as a shoemaker at 89 N. 6th in the 1795 and 1801 directories, but those same directories listed 91 North Sixth Street as this block's last address on Sixth Street. Counting backwards from 91 to the fourth lot, Felker would have received 85 N. 6th, and Evans and Hansel 87 and 89.

Isaiah Evans, plasterer, owned the lot one below the corner, according to the same city survey. Evans purchased the 22 by 80-foot property in 1775 from school master John Gartley, who had purchased it directly from the Cresson brothers in 1772. [108] The 1791 tax assessment recorded that Isaac [sic] Evans' lot had two dwellings with Herman Snyder, a joiner, as tenant. The 1795 directory listed Isaiah Evans on Starr Alley, instead of Sixth Street, whereas the 1795 tax assessment recorded that Josiah [sic] Evans had only one dwelling, where he lived, apparently on Starr Alley. It is not clear why the 1795 tax assessed for one dwelling and the 1791 tax for two, but it appears that a second dwelling did exist on the Sixth Street side of the lot. In 1800, Isaiah Evans advertised for journeyman plasterers to apply to work with him at 93 North Sixth Street. For the Trade Directory that year, however, Isaiah Evans listed himself as a plasterer on Starr Alley. Journeymen were evidently directed to his home, rather than his business located on the alley end of his lot. His Sixth Street address remains confusing, however, because both the 1795 and 1801 directories listed the last address before Race Street as 91 N. Sixth. [109]

Prior to the Revolution Leonard Kessler purchased the corner lot at Race Street from the Cressons. Two or more dwellings stood on this lot by 1790, likely one facing Sixth and the other(s) Race Street. The 1790 federal census and 1791 city directory listed two Race Street addresses west of Starr Alley, 190 Race occupied by William Smallwood, sailmaker, and Mariah Sharp, school keeper, at 188 Race Street. The 1795 tax record indicated that William Smallwood owned the corner lot and Widow Randolph lived there. The 1795 directory, however, did not reference 190 Race, but only listed James Cassin, soap boiler, and Joseph Johnson, printer, at 188 Race Street. That year the directory listed 91 North Sixth Street as the last property before Race Street, where Hannah Clark, widow and schoolmistress, [110] and Samuel Faulkner, china manufacturer, lived. In 1801 the listing for 91 N. 6th Street again showed two individuals, Sarah Fletcher, mantua maker, at the "corner of Race Street," and John Cress, a customhouse officer. The directories for 1800 and 1801 also continued to list a soap manufacture (soap boiler) at the east end of the lot, on Race Street west of Starr Alley. The undated city survey for this section of Sixth Street showed that Kruger or Krieger purchased the lot before 1814. [111]

The tax and city directory listings for the decade indicate that this section of Sixth Street had a frequent turnover of tenants, but the same records sometimes give conflicting evidence. In 1790-1791 several tradesmen lived at 83 to 91 N. 6th Street: James Guest, tailor, John Lambert, chair maker, [112] Philip Hasselback, a shoemaker, and Jacob Hansell, blacksmith. Hansell was the only of these also listed on the undated pre-1814 city survey as a lot owner, the third one south of Race Street. However the 1791 directory located Hansell at 91 N. 6th Street and 183 Race Street, suggesting a corner property, but the Race Street number, being odd rather than even, indicated a property on the north side of Race Street. Regardless, it is clear that Jacob Hansell, who was intermarried with the neighboring Lex family on Race Street, [113] occupied a property on or near the south corner of Sixth and Race. [114]

By 1795 three widows, Susannah Abington, Angela Joujoutte and Hannah Clark, occupied 85, 87 and 91 N. 6th. Clark. a schoolmistress, shared the address with a china manufacturer, Samuel Faulkner, who likely was her boarder. In 1801 Abington still was in residence at 85 N. 6th Street, but all the other addresses had new tenants. Joseph Tucker, a house carpenter, replaced Joujoutte at 87, George Felker, shoemaker, occupied 89, two lots away from the one he owned at the time of the city survey, and Sarah Fletcher, mantua maker, and John Cress, a customhouse officer, lived at 91 N. 6th Street. [114]


The Cresson tract developed rapidly and must have been a vibrant place to live with its mix of tradesmen during the last quarter of the century. Fifth and Cherry Streets attracted the most affluent residents, the alleys the least. By 1796 Sixth Street had gained sufficient appeal to attract four U.S. Congressmen as boarders at 81 North Sixth Street.

Joshua and Caleb Cresson were good planners to lay out the alleyways, as they facilitated the convenient development of the lots. Many of the property owners had cows, horses and other four-legged animals not tallied in the tax record. The tax records show that numerous early builders had chosen to construct frame, rather than brick dwellings. After several extensive fires, frame construction was finally outlawed within the city at the end of the century, but at these western limits the wooden buildings were tolerated for many years. Some of the lots probably enjoyed shade and fruit trees and small kitchen or flower gardens, such as Caleb Cresson wrote about in his diary. Likely the cross streets and alleys were not paved until late in the century, if the treatment of Fifth and Sixth Streets adjoining the more prominent State House area is any indication. [116]

The strong presence of Quakers on the block no doubt lay behind the instances of long-standing African-American residency (Dexter, Burgoe and Venable) within the Cresson section, and may have had further beneficial affect for the several other black families living along the alleys. In 1790 a joint committee of members from the Society for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery and the Free African Society took a census of free blacks in Philadelphia. They counted "about 250 families in the City, Northern Liberties and Southwark, making nearly 1000 persons of both sexes, almost 400 of whom were minors." [117] Free blacks, a clear and present minority in Philadelphia, faced increasingly virulent racial discrimination from that year forward into the mid-nineteenth century. Their lives on this block, in what may have been a pocket of tolerance, warrants further study.

Many of the families were inter-related, either by blood or through church circles. German names dominate the census, directory and tax lists of residents in the Cresson section. Considering the density of population, it is surprising to find only two listings for grocers —at Sixth and Cherry and on Race -- and a baker on Race as suppliers of food. The several market sheds nearby on High or Market Street must have been the communal market for the residents. Tradesmen flourished, with as many as nine different shoemakers, and scores of men in the building trades. Martha Washington while First Lady in Philadelphia made note of the difficulties and rewards faced by local tradesmen, particularly shoemakers, after the 1793 yellow fever epidemic. She wrote her niece: "the trades people suffered very much in the yellow fever-the shoe makers complain of the want of journeymen–I hope it will be better now the Congress is gone–every man must have some thing either to send or carry home — which constantly imployed the trades people." Life was a struggle, too, for many other city dwellers. When widowed, women often took in boarders to make ends meet. Some women worked for a living, teaching, sewing, or shopkeepers. The schoolhouse near Starr Alley and Cherry Street indicates a neighborhood with a healthy number of children. The stories about all these hard working people and their families have been largely lost to time, but the archeology of recent date may raise some conjectures when the artifacts are analyzed. [118]

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Last Updated: 05-May-2004