Girard Estate is a neighborhood in South Philadelphia bounded by Passyunk to Oregon Avenues, 17th to 25th Streets. The Girard Estate historic district — the only one in South Philly — is roughly bounded by 17th to 22nd Streets, Porter to Shunk Streets and 21st to 22nd Streets, Passyunk to Shunk.
The area was established by the deed of Stephen Girard, a French merchant who landed in Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War. In 1797, he purchased a farm he named “The Places” at the southern end of Philadelphia County, an area known as Passyunk Township. The original farmhouse, along with the two later additions built by Girard, still stand today at 21st and Shunk streets. When he died in 1831, most of his $6-million estate was left to the City of Philadelphia. Girard’s will stated; however, the city must establish a college for poor boys in his name, and his house must not be sold. In response to the second stipulation, the Board of Recreation Tours of City Trusts developed Girard Estate, which initially were all rental homes, between 1907 and 1916. The planning of these homes was loosely based on the “Garden City” concept by Ebenezer Howard and were designed by the father-and-son team of James and John Windrim. Envisioned as a low density, semi-suburban setting with modest lawns and cottage-like twin houses, the Girard Estate homes reflect the popular styles of the early 20th century. In 1950, the city received permission to sell all 481 homes to private owners. Within two years, all were sold.
Outside of the Girard Estate historical district, two-story brick rowhomes built in late 1910s and ’20s are most prevalent. Within the district, architect James H. Windrim, along with son John, built semi-detached homes from 1906-16 in many styles, including bungalow, prairie, mission, Jacobean revival and Colonial revival. Homeowners must follow guidelines set by the Philadelphia Historical Commission to preserve the aesthetics of the homes and Girard Estate stands today as the architectural jewel of South Philadelphia.