In the late 1600s, modern Germany was a group of warring states. When William Penn traveled throughout this region several times, he found many residents sympathetic to the Quaker ideals of living at peace with your neighbors and religious freedom. Immigrants began coming, particularly members of persecuted religious sects such as the Mennonites, seeking a better and freer life for themselves. One of the earliest groups, led by Francis Daniel Pastorius, settled in an area along the Wissahickon creek, northwest of Philadelphia's central core.

Unlike Philadelphia's early settlement which was oriented to the Delaware River, the Germantown settlement was strung along the Wissahickon and the parallel Germantown pike, a major highway leading from central Philadelphia to beyond the northwest outskirts of the city. There it joined another major highway leading to a more remote German settlement in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The land along Germantown Avenue has a different character than the flat river basin of central Philadelphia. The avenue begins to rise near the junction with Wayne Avenue and Germantown has a significantly different microclimate compared to the area along the Delaware River. With fewer low lying areas, there was less humidity and fewer mosquitoes. Many people sought refuge in Germantown during the regular epidemics like the yellow fever epidemic of 1787. After early railroad was built to Germantown in the 1840s, it became a popular residential area for people wanting to escape the rapidly industrializing Philadelphia.

Architecturally, Germantown is an interesting mix of vernacular, Georgian, Federal, Greek revival and Victorian buildings. The early settlers of Germantown often built homes which stylistically owed more to central European precedent than the Georgian style that English immigrants were interested in. Another feature of Germantown architecture from the beginning is the widespread use of stone instead of brick. Stone was a more traditional building material for many residents and several good building stone deposits could be found locally, particularly of a highly prized local stone called Wissahickon Schist.
Along Germantown Pike
Pictures from Old-Germantown. The top two houses are that of the Pastorius family, the one on the left around 1683 on the right around 1715. The center structure is that of the house and printing business of the Caurs family, shown around 1735. The bottom structure is the market place shown around 1820. From Wikipedia