Location of the City

Short Tours Around the CityDwelling Houses and Stores

Philadelphia is situated on a Plain, nearly level, bounded on the East, by the River Delaware; and west, by the River Schuylkill; on the North, by the extensive Districts, and the Northern Liberties, Spring Garden, &c. and on the South, by Districts of Southwark, Moyamensing, Ate. It is situated in west Longitude, from London. 75 degrees, 8 minutes; and in north Latitude, 39 degrees, 75 minutes, and about 100 miles, in the course of the River, from the mouth of the Delaware; its Ovation above high watermark, ranges from a few feet, to 64, the highest ground being between Schuylkill Seventh and Eighth Streets. A few streams of water originally, crossed a part of the site of the City; but in the course of improvements, these have entirely disappeared. The immediate substratum of Philadelphia, is clay, of several colors and degrees of tenacity, beneath which, at various depths, from 20 to 40 feet, is found layers of coarse gravel, which, from its situation, is denominated second gravel.

Formerly the wells were sunk to various depths, and the water then supplied from them, was charged with the usual impurities, which penetrate through the layers of sand, gravel, &c such as carbonate of lime, nitrate of potash, salts o magnesia, and chloride of sodium; but happily, for the health and convenience of the Citizens, the (now) ample supply of water, from Fair Mount, has almost removed, all dependence on those depositories of impurities.

In 1794, the District of Southwark, was incorporated; and in 1803, the part known as the incorporated District of the Northern Liberties, obtained a Charter, it being divided into several Wards: since that time, Kensington has been incorporated, and Southwark also, was divided into Wards.

Anterior to 1800, the City proper, was divided into Wards, of very irregular bounds; but at that time, the Eastern Wards were bounded by Fourth Street, and the Western extended to Schuylkill. Subsequently, the limits of the Eastern Wards, were extended west wardly, to Delaware Seventh Street: And the Western still extended to Schuylkill. The number of Wards, at this time, is 15; viz. Beginning on the South side, and Eastern front, New Market, Pine, Dock, Walnut, Chesnut, High, Lower Delaware, Upper Delaware, 8 Wards, on the Eastern front; then beginning on the South side, and Western front, Cedar, Ward, Locust, South, Middle, North, South Mulberry, North Mulberry, 7 Wards, on the Western front.

The original Plan of the City, was by Thomas Helme, in 1683, in which, nine Streets, running East and West, are recognized, High, or Market Street, is 100, and Broad Street is 113 feet wide. Front Streets, on both Rivers, are 60, and Arch Street, 66 feet wide; all the other Streets, are 50 feet; and the 20 Streets, beside Broad, which cross the others, at right angles, are all 50 feet wide, except the front Streets, on both Rivers, which are 60 feet wide; and Water Street, and Penn Street, which are very narrow. The intermediate Streets, not known in the original Plan, Lombard, Locust, and Filbert, are 50 feet wide; and Cherry and George Streets, about 40 feet wide; and Sansom 60 feet wide; Girard Street, 50 feet, Commercial Street, 40 feet wide. New Street, Branch Street, Marble Street, Crown Street, Chester Street, Washington Street, Bonsai, Barley, Bread, Quarry, Quince, Juniper, and several other small Streets. Dock Street is the only avenue of the City, not crossed at right angles: It begins at the Dock Street landing, and winding in a serpentine course, of various widths, from 90 to 100 feet; finally, terminates in Third Street, near the Old United States Bank, on the site of which, (formerly) a vessel laden with West India Goods, from Barbadoes, was discharged.

The Creek, which (formerly) ran in the direction of this Street, was at one time, crossed by a wooden structure, the site of which, for a long time after its removal, was known as the Draw Bridge. The Creek was arched over, from Third to Walnut Street, at an early period; and in 1784, the arching over the Creek, extended to Spruce Street.

It was the intention of the Proprietor, to preserve a clear front, front Front Street, towards the river; and the first buildings, erected East of Front Street, were restricted to the height of the Bank, for the purpose of preserving an Exchange Walk; but further infractions having been committed, large blocks of buildings (without yards) were erected, and the narrow street, known as Water Street, was established.

By the Will of the late Stephen Girard, a fund has been established, for the improvement of Water Street, and the Eastern front of the City, to be designated, by the Title of "Delaware Avenue:" This (in time) will add much to the convenience, commercial importance, and beauty of the City.

The Streets, running East and West, with the exception of High (or Market) Street are named, from native trees. Beginning at the North; they are Vine, Sassafras, (or Race) Mulberry, (or Arch) High, (or Market) Chesnut, Walnut, Spruce, Pine, and Cedar (or South) streets; Union street, was not included, in the original Plan of the City; the same may also be said, of Decatur, North, and many other small streets.

Short Tours (Or Rides) Around Philadelphia

Almost every Avenue of the City, extending North and South, communicates with various roads, leading through improved Districts, in the immediate vicinity, affording delightful tours, for a few hours ride. On the North side, the villages of Frankford, Germantown, Manayunk, Francisville, Nicetown, the Settlements around Girard College, and the highly cultivated Districts, intervening, all give life and spirit, to the elegant scenery.

On the South, the highly cultivated garden spots, known as the Neck, the Naval Asylum, the Moyamensing Prison, Landdreth's celebrated Garden, the Navy Yard, in Southwark, the airy location of Point Breeze, the large Praries, at Penrose's Ferry, and the many beautiful roads, which meander, from river to river, renders this situation, extremely pleasant, for a short and healthy ride.

On the West, Mantua Village, the improved and splendid Country Seats, on the West side of the Schuylkill River. Bartram's Botanical Garden, the Alms Houses, and the New Lunatic Hospital, &c. are objects that cannot fail, to gratify those, who ride out to take the fresh air, in the vicinity of this City.

On the East, the various neat Villages, immediately, on the River Delaware, in New Jersey, Camden, Kaighn's Point, Woodbury, deserve to be mentioned, as places of genteel and frequent resort, in the warm seasons of the year.

The delightful Villages, Towns, and Cities, of Trenton, Burlington, Bristol, Bordentown, &c. on the Northern section of this beautiful Country: And those of Wilmington, Chester, New Castle, Salem, &c. &c. &c. on the Southeast, afford great accommodations, by the Daily Lines of Steam Boats, and Rail Roads, as places for a temporary residence, of great convenience, to a City, like Philadelphia, daily increasing in wealth and population.

Number of Dwelling Houses and Stores, In the City

In 1683, the number of Dwelling Houses amounted to only 80.


In 1760, the dwellings, (and other buildings) numbered 3,060, and the inhabitants (at that time) exceeded 18,000.

In 1810, the buildings, stores, workshops, &c. of every kind, exceeded 32,000, of which, nearly 16,000, were occupied as dwelling houses.

In 1820, the 14 Wards of the City proper, contained 63,803 inhabitants; and in 1830, the same Wards, with the addition of Pine Ward, contained 80,513.

In 1839, (the present time) it is estimated, that the number of buildings, (of every description) exceeds 50,000.

History of Philadelphia


Source: A History of Philadelphia: With a Notice of Villages, in the Vicinity, Printed and published by Daniel Bowen, 1839
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