William and Letitia Still Underground Railroad Way Station
The steps at the Still house are contemporary to the period in which they inhabited the house. Image courtesy of Keeping Society of Philadelphia (reproduced under Fair Use)
William Still House by Emma Lee/WHYY (reproduced under Fair Use)
Backstory and Context
William Still (1821-1902) moved to Philadelphia in 1844 and worked with the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society. He chaired the group's Vigilance Committee and organized Underground Railroad efforts both within the city and across the country. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required Northern states to assist in the recapture of people who had escaped slavery; it was during this time that Still and his wife Letitia (1821-1906), whom he married in 1847, protected hundreds of those very individuals.
William and Letitia Still rented this row house as their home and used it to shelter hundreds of fugitives and guides, including Harriet Tubman, as a way station on the Underground Railroad. Still also kept extensive journals and a "passenger manifest," which he kept hidden until after the Civil War. He later wrote a lengthy account of his work freeing enslaved people, the 800-page The Underground Railroad (1872), one of the only accounts written by Black abolitionists. While some parts of the building are significantly different from their appearance in the 1850s, particularly due to a renovation in 1920, the stoop appears to be the same one where the Stills, Tubman, and those they helped to free stepped into the house. The Stills lived here from 1850 to 1855, an a historical marker commemorating William Still stands near a different house where they later lived in the city.
James Duffin of the Keeping Society of Philadelphia identified the house from an 1851 newspaper ad for dressmaking by Letitia Still and an 1854 entry in McElroy's Philadelphia City Directory for William Still which both listed the Stills' address as the Ronaldson Street address that is now S. Delhi Street. The Philadelphia Register of Historic Places recognized the house and Underground Railroad Way Station in 2018, protecting the property from demolition or significant alteration without permission from the Philadelphia Historical Commission.
Beisert, Oscar, et al. William & Letitia Still House, December 11th 2017. Accessed February 1st 2021. http://keepingphiladelphia.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/625-S-Delhi-St-nomination.pdf.
Blumgart, Jake. Found in South Philadelphia, an Underground Railroad Way Station, WHYY. March 10th 2018. Accessed February 5th 2021. https://whyy.org/segments/found-south-philadelphia-underground-railroad-station/.
Burtner, Laura. The William Still House Was Added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places This Year, Ecosult Solutions Inc. September 7th 2018. Accessed February 1st 2021. https://econsultsolutions.com/the-william-still-house-was-added-to-the-philadelphia-register-of-historic-places-this-year/.
Burtner, Laura. Steps to Designation on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, Econsult Solutions Inc. September 18th 2018. Accessed February 5th 2021. https://econsultsolutions.com/steps-to-designation-on-the-philadelphia-register-of-historic-places/.
Katz, Brigit. Underground Railroad Safe House Discovered in Philadelphia, Smithsonian Magazine. March 23rd 2018. Accessed February 1st 2021. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/underground-railroad-safe-house-discovered-philadelphia-180968572/.
Pickett, Russ. Letitia George Still, Find a Grave. June 21st 2005. Accessed February 5th 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/11212100/letitia-still.
Turner, Diane D. William Still's National Significance, Temple University Libraries. Accessed February 1st 2021. http://stillfamily.library.temple.edu/exhibits/show/william-still/historical-perspective/william-still---s-national-sig.