“TRINITIES,” IN PHILADELPHIA PARLANCE, are three-room, three-story houses — one room per floor — built between the 1790s and 1840s.  They’re cozy, charming, evocative, historic, and, some might add, un-livable.


Rear unit of my ‘double trinity’ in South Kensington, above. The property consists of two back-to-back trinities under one roof.

Trinities are not for everyone, especially those with bad knees or king-size beds. The smallest are only 100 square feet per floor. There’s a lot of going up and down stairs — narrow, twisty stairs at that.


They’re cherished archetypes in Philadelphia (I know there are some in Baltimore and probably other cities, but Philly abounds in them). I’ve never seen or heard of such a tiny house in New York — correct me if I’m wrong.


You can see very early trinities lined up on Elfreth’s Alley in Old City, but trinities are not just historic curiosities. They’re all over Craigslist, and real-estate websites, for 249K and up in the very best neighborhoods.


I’ve owned a trinity in South Kensington since 2007 (all pictures in this post). In fact, it’s two trinities, back-to-back under one roof. The rear unit was vacant; I fixed it up nicely, but it still took a while to find a tenant. One woman said the stairs gave her vertigo. Someone else used the word claustrophobic. But when an agile young man bounded up and down those stairs with a big smile on his face, I knew I had the right guy.


Trinities are found throughout the city, in Fishtown, Kensington, Queen Village, Graduate Hospital, Center City and elsewhere, often on narrow, cobbled alleys.



As of this writing, there was a trinity for sale for 299K in Center City, and one for 249K in Queen Village. This greedy old-house fanatic wants another Philadelphia trinity!