Jeweler’s Row: A Brief History

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Jeweler’s row – the oldest diamond district in America – is located in center city Philadelphia, PA, on Sansom street between 7th and 8th streets and on 8th street between Chestnut and Walnut streets. Originally, the layout for Sansom Street was developed by Thomas Carstairs, a Scottish architect and builder, at the request of London-born developer and author William Sansom in the early 1800’s. Sansom had purchased the land on modern-day Walnut street between 7th and 8th streets at a sheriff’s sale – the property had previously belonged to Robert Morris, Jr., a recently bankrupted financier whose unfinished mansion remained on the plot. Morris’ mansion was demolished and in its place, 22 uniform-design row homes were constructed south of a new East-West road bearing Sansom’s name. This was one of the very first instances of the row house design being used in the history of American urban development, and the row house was a very important design aspect for William Penn’s grid pattern that was laid down for the development of Philadelphia.

At the time, Sansom’s newly-developed area was situated on the outskirts of the city, so in an effort to make the area more appealing for tenants, Sansom paved his street at his own expense – a remarkable maneuver at a time when most roads were still unpaved. The uniformity of the row homes’ facades lent itself very well to business developers, and so the area adapted nicely into a bustling marketplace for jewelry. Today, it is the second largest diamond sales district in America after New York city.

Here in Philly, we adore our Jewelers Row during the holiday season. The decorated, lit-up row is one of Philly’s must see holiday attractions during December. Fun Fact: the final scene of the critically acclaimed film, Silver Linings Playbook, was filmed right here on Jewelers Row.

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