Plate 13: The House Intended for the President of the United States, in Ninth Street
View in 2000
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania started building this mansion on the west side of Ninth Street between Market and Chestnut in 1792, while Philadelphia was the national capital. It was intended to be a gift to President Washington. Long in construction, it was completed in 1797 and offered on lease to John Adams, then President. He declined it, indicating he had constitutional doubts, and rented instead the smaller house at 190 High Street (below Sixth) in which Washington had lived. In 1800, the mansion was purchased by the University of Pennsylvania. A smaller semi-detached building designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe was added to the south side in 1807 for the Medical School. Both structures were demolished in 1829 and replaced by twin marble-trimmed Georgian-style brick buildings. The University's student body of 535 at that time . included 410 medical students. (Today the student body is over 21,000 including 710 medical students.) Until its move to West Philadelphia in 1872 this was the home of the University. The Alms House and House of Employment, shown in detail in Plate 25, can be seen in the distance.
A federal building, housing a post office and other departments, has occupied this site since 1884. The present building was completed in 1940. Shown in the 2000 view (FG) is the southeast corner of Ninth and Market Streets where Gimbel Brothers' department store stood until it moved to the Gallery in 1977. After the move, most of the former Gimbel buildings were torn down and replaced by an open-air parking lot. There were a number of proposed plans for the development of the site. Only one showed promise, a Disney entertainment center, but after a false start in 1999 it ended with this abandoned excavation and scattered debris.