Bladen's Court 3
Two of the more infamous Bladen’s Court property owners during the 18th century were William Rush and Abraham Carlisle. Rush, a blacksmith, owned the property on which 1 Bladen’s Court is located and Carlisle, a Quaker house carpenter and Rush’s brother-in-law owned the 2 Bladen’s Court property. The two men may have been neighbors and family, but could not have differed more in their political beliefs. Rush was a prominent patriot during the Revolution, but Carlisle allied himself with the British. When the British army occupied the city in 1777 Carlisle became the keeper of the British controlled gate set up along Front Street above Vine. As a result of this allegiance, Carlisle was arrested when the Americans reclaimed the city and was hung as a Tory in 1778.
Beginning in the 18th century, a water pump stood in Bladen’s Court for and was the source of freshwater for Alley residents, who would fill buckets and carry them back to their house for cooking or cleaning. 18th-century Philadelphians lacked an understanding of sanitation, however, and there is evidence that privies (outhouses) were also located in Bladen’s Court. Crowded and unsanitary living conditions like these were a major cause of the yellow fever outbreak that proved devastating to the city, first in the 1760s and later in 1793 and 1794. May Alley residents, including Sarah Milton, the mantua maker who lived in the Museum House, were victims of yellow fever.
The houses in Bladen’s Court today date from the first half of the 19th century, and are only three of the five that once stood there. This historic area is of great interest to scholars, but has proven to be a rather complex place to figure out. Because the Bladen’s Court houses were all constructed on the back parts of existing lots and only later given their own addresses, it has yet to be determined exactly when each of the present buildings were constructed. This has also made it difficult to know exactly who was living there in the 19th and 20th centuries and how they used the buildings. Undoubtedly, the houses followed the same pattern as those on the Alley – Colonial artisans and later recent immigrants and factory workers. Through research conducted by Bernard Herman of the University of Delaware and funded by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, the Elfreth’s Alley Association hopes to soon have a better understanding of this fascinating part of the Alley.