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Archives Records Department Awarded NEH Digital Humanities Grant for Augmented Reality Records Department Awarded NEH IMLS Grant for Free Library Digital Photos Project Major Department Initiatives FAQ Directions to City Archives Department Forms Philadelphia History PHILS Original City Charter Historic Photo Archives How Philly Works: Streets as Barometers of Urban Life How Philly Works Part II National History Day Philly Philly History Slide Show Online Exhibit Gallery Exhibit: Child Welfare in Philadelphia Recorders Index Archives Fees Previous Announcements by Ward J.Childs Philadelphia was almost a century old at the time of Independence.Many of its homes, in fact many of the same homes that are standing today, predate 1776.The method we use to date houses and buildings here in Philadelphia, the subject of this article, depends on the specifics of our local records and records keeping systems.However, similar information is probably available for most places and it is a matter of locating the particular sources in one's own locale.The initial approach to the dating of an historic house, or any other house for that matter, often depends on the searcher's knowledge at the start.The approximate age of a house generally is immediately evident.
It seems that the passion to be modern is endemic to every age.
For this reason it is necessary to go beyond appearances and know how to use historic tools in dating your house.
The gambrel roofs and dormer windows which form the skyline of many of the older sections of Philadelphia indicate pre-1840 construction just as leaded windows, turrets, and other gingerbread embellishments bespeak the Victorian period.
Cast iron architecture can only be post-1840; oversize brownstones, post-Civil War.
The colonial and federal periods are as much identified with Society Hill and Queen Village homes as post-World War II is with the ranch style of Levittown or the Gilded Age with homes in certain sections of North and West Philadelphia. Buildings can be, have been, and probably always will be, updated.