1680 – 1830
The first wave of settlers to the area was a very diverse mix, but the majority was of German decent. Most of the earliest settlers in Germantown were a wide variety of artisans including weavers, paper makers, carpenters and farmers and millers.
The area served as an important outpost and battle ground for George Washington’s Army during the Revolutionary War. After the war Germantown became a popular summer residence for the colonist to escape the oppressive summer heat and congestion of the city. The area began to develop to include farmsteads, mansions and country dwellings. The idea of country life while in close proximity to the city was exemplified in Germantown and provided an early glimpse at Americas first suburbs. The area continued to grow separately from Philadelphia and became seen as an important place that illustrated the ideals of country living.
1830 – 1940
The introduction of the PG&N Rail Line into Germantown in 1830 changed the landscape considerably. It provided not only a new means of transportation but also new means of business and trade. The growth of the area did not follow traditional means development, rather growth was a result of individual interest and small scale speculative activity. This can be seen in the variety and diversity of the local architecture.
By the 1880s local residents had all the modern amenities including indoor plumbing, central heating and gas lighting. Residents were drawn to the modern amenities provided while still able to experience country-style living. A garden-like suburb was developing whose residents primarily consisted of lawyers, doctors, stockbrokers and real-estate entrepreneurs.
Germantown experienced a more dramatic shift as it became enveloped into a suburb of Philadelphia rather then a rural gateway. The number of mills, shops and workshops increased. Slaughter houses emerged and principal industries such as metal works, leather crafters and weaving became Germantown staples.
Architectural tastes also changes during this time, moving towards Colonial and Georgian Revival building styles.
1940 – 2000
As population and industrial growth continued, an increase in streetcars, poor housing conditions and overcrowding continued as well. The number of apartment buildings and small factories and larger mills expanded.
Around 1945 factories began to move out, seeking more open space. The wealthier populations also continued to move out and thus began the decline of Germantown. The decline continued in Germantown into the latter half of the century.
2000 – Present
The area is characterized by rich architectural styles and wide treelined streets. Most homes are set back from the street offering both front and back lawns and adorned with wrought iron and stone fences. A large number of the original houses remain intact with some of the largest ones converted into twins and apartments.