Johnson Street Sidewalk


Silhouette of Benjamin Chew

It might seem that Cliveden is only responsible for stewardship of the property inside the walls and fences but, like any property owner in Philadelphia, Cliveden also has to take care of the sidewalks surrounding the property.  Three of the four sidewalks surrounding the property are modern concrete, but the Johnson Street sidewalk is paved with brick laid in a herringbone pattern, likely laid when Johnson Street was built.  A century earlier, Benjamin Chew (1722-1810) was the recorder for the city and jointly published a notice in the Pennsylvania Gazette alerting property owners to their responsibilities for the “footways and gutters of their respective fronts.” (Click here to read the original document.)  The notice reads:

Philadelphia City, November 1, 1769

By the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermaen, and the Commissioners for paving the Streets, &c,

All Owners of Houses and Lots, fronting on those Streets, where the Cartway has been paved, who dwell in this City, and the Tenants of those landlords who reside elsewhere, are hereby ordered and enjoined to pave or repair, as the Case may require, with good well burnt Bricks, or good square flat Stones, the Footway and Gutters of their respective Fronts, according to Regulation; and the Gutter to be made 22 Inches wide, and not exceeding 4 Inches deep; the Pavement to rise 7 Inches in 10 Feet from the inner Edge of the Gutters towards the Houses; and to provide and set up one sound, dressed Red Cedar Post, of the Length of 7 Feet, and the Thickness of 6 Inches Heart at least, for every 10 to 12 Feet Front, and to compleat [sic] the same before the 15th Day of May next, if they would avoid the Penalties by Law directed to be levied on such as shall refuse or neglect to obey this Order.

S, Shoemaker, Mayor,               Henry Drinker,

Benjamin Chew, Recorder,        William Wishart,

Jacob Duché,                            John Mifflin,

Isaac Jones,                              Thomas Tilbury,

Samuel Mifflin,                          Samul Bryan,

John Chevalier,

 

In addition to following this historic mandate and which is still a city ordinance, Cliveden’s mission includes a a promise to participate and in the revitalization of the Germantown community. This is especially true for the adjacent streets and properties, where the neighborhood developed as a result of the subdivision of Cliveden property sold by the Chew family to settle the estate of Benjamin Chew Jr. (1758-1844) and the concurrent development boom that took place in Germantown.

Last winter, Cliveden staff noticed the Johnson Street sidewalk was badly deteriorated as freeze-thaw cycles and drainage heaved the brick paving. Additionally, cars frequently parked on the sidewalk and a car accident further disrupted the pavement, making it unsafe for pedestrian traffic.  

View of Johnson Street sidewalk from the corner.

Displaced bricks

Damaged portion of the sidewalk.

 

Cliveden is the grateful recipient of a Sustaining Our Sites grant from Historic Germantown in order to make repairs to the historic brick sidewalk.  The project started with student service projects to clean up of litter and vegetation overgrowth. Masons Constantine contracted with Hanson Fine Building leveled and laid new paving in the disrupted area. The masons use bricks salvaged from the sidewalk and sourced additional old bricks to supplement restoration to re-lay the existing herringbone pattern.

Bricks used to repair sidewalk.

Beginning to lay down the herringbone pattern.

Nearly finished

Finished sidewalk

Now that the project is complete the Johnson Street sidewalk is now safe for pedestrian use. Cliveden looks forward to working with our Johnson Street neighbors in being co-stewards of the Victorian-era sidewalk.