Jeweler’s Row, located in the Center City section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is composed of more than 300 retailers, wholesalers, and craftsmen on Sansom Street, between Seventh and Eighth streets, and on Eighth Street between Chestnut and Walnut streets. It is the oldest diamond district in America, and is second in size only to the one in New York City. Many of the area’s retail, jewelry making and appraisal businesses have been owned by the same families for five generations.
Jeweler’s Row (Carstairs Row) was designed by builder and architect Thomas Carstairs, circa 1799 through 1820, for developer William Sansom, as part of the first speculative housing developments in the United States, and introduction of the Row house in the United States. Carstairs Row was built on the southern part of the site occupied by “Morris’ Folly”, Robert Morris’ unfinished mansion designed by L’Enfant.
Sansom bought (at sheriff’s sale) the property and unfinished house of Robert Morris, on Walnut St. between 7th and 8th Sts. Sansom bisected the land with a new east-west eponymous street. Carstairs purchased the south side of Sansom St. and erected 22 look-alike dwellings. Prior to this time houses has been built not in rows, but individually. It can be contrasted with Elfreth’s Alley where all the house are of varying heights and widths, with different street lines, doorways and brickwork. The grid pattern laid down by WIlliam Penn, and continued by subsequent planners and surveyors heavily influenced the row house form of architecture. The block-long row house is an important example of Philadelphia’s architectural and developmental history. Sansom erected the buildings on what was then the outskirts of Philadelphia. To attract tenants he paved Sansom Street at his own expense. He then hired Benjamin Latrobe to design another row on the 700 block of Walnut Street. A prominent feature of the street is the repetitive flat expanse of the buildings, which made it ideal for commercial conversion.