Anna Coxe Toogood
Cultural Resource Management
Independence National Historical Park
Corrections and comments by Ed Lawler shown in red
Summary of Significance
When studied in detail, Block One becomes a vehicle for interpreting many facets of Independence National Historical Park's theme, the founding and growth of the nation.... During the British occupation, General William Howe lived in Governor Richard Penn's House next door on Market Street, the very same house Benedict Arnold moved into when the American Army marched back to the blighted city in 1778. John Holker, French consul to the United States, followed Arnold, who departed for West Point and the treason that tarnished his name forever. Finally, Robert Morris and the first two American presidents left their historic presence on this house, then identified as 190 High Street, and later, following its demolition, 526-530 Market Street.
Chapter I: Early Land Divisions
Market Street Lots and Minor Street
Partitioning of the Kinsey Estate and Laying Out Minor Street
The Market Street lots began to find buyers a year later. On January 1, 1761, John Lawrence purchased the first one 60 feet east of Sixth Street, within 120-foot lot John Kinsey had earlier patented.40 Lawrence deeded the 48 feet front by 180 feet deep lot the same year to his sister, Mary Masters, widow of William Masters, (son of the Thomas Masters who had built the first house on the block). A wealthy heiress41 Mary Masters built a grand and elegant house on her lot soon after she acquired title and added another 24-foot lot on High Street to the east of her property line. 42
[Note: According to tax records, Mary Masters was living in the Lower Delaware Ward (her house was at Front & Market Streets) in December 1767, but she also paid taxes on a "New House and Lot in M. W. (Middle Ward)," which included the 500 block of Market. The relatively low valuation for the new house probably indicates that it was under construction. By 1769 Masters is living in the new house.]
Here she was living with her three [sic two] daughters, Rachel [died as a toddler], Mary and Sarah (the latter two were only four and two at their father's death in 1760), when Mary (or Polly) Masters married Richard Penn, William Penn's grandson, on May 22, 1772. At the time, Richard Penn was serving a two-year term as Pennsylvania's Lieutenant-Governor. 43
Mary Masters deeded the High Street property to her 16-year-old daughter and husband as a wedding present. The fire insurance policy of March 1 1779 [sic 1773] suggests how substantial the house and backbuildings were. This was a freestanding three-story brick house, 45 feet front by 52 deep, in a city dominated by rowhouses not half these dimensions. The first floor had three large rooms and an entryway with a mahogany staircase. The policy counted "2 fluted collums 4 pillasters 4 arches 4 pediments" adorning the entry and wainscotting with "fretts & dentals" in the front parlor. All the rooms on the first floor and the front bedchamber of the second floor were wainscotted pedestal high. The exceptionally large (16 by 12-inch) paned windows were framed with mahogany sah, and dowels fastened the floor on the ground level. The third floor retained chimney brest skirting and surbase, the plastered garret had dormer windows and four rooms, and the roof was covered in "short shingles." It was a lavish architectural statement, valued at £2000. The two one-story back buildings which measured 14 by 7 feet and 54 by 18 feet, Bedford, the surveyor, valued separately, at another £900, more than most properties in the city. The property had such a high valuation, in fact, that the Contributionship issued five policies, four of them on the house alone. Likely Widow Masters had also laid out the grounds in gardens, like Kinsey's property to the east, and walled in the lot for privacy. One can readily glimpse the comfort and style the Penns enjoyed. 44
Richard Penn and his bride lived in the High Street mansion during the tumultuous years leading up to the Revolution. Penn handled the difficult job as Proprietor with a certain charm and grace, unlike his brother, who had grown very unpopular during his term as governor from 1763 to 1771. Pennsylvania politics, always contentious, eased a degree under his leadership. As one young lady noted in her journal, Richard possessed "the heart of the people." 45 Penn entered into the life of the city, serving as a patron for the prestigious American Philosophical Society. When John Penn returned from England in 1773, however, he estranged Richard in the way he took back the Proprietorship. The siblings didn't speak, causing a community stir. As surviving letters tell, however, the brothers resumed their cordial relations within the year. Richard then accepted his brother's offer to serve as naval officer at Philadelphia. 46
In the summer of 1775 the Continental Congress asked the popular Richard Penn to carry the "Olive Branch" petition to King George. Richard and Polly Penn departed for England and shortly after a public sale at the High Street house offered "Part of the Household Furniture, consisting of Upholstery, Cabinetmaker's Work and kitchen furniture." The couple, who had started a family after their arrival in London, remained in England during the Revolution. They probably had intended to return, however, because Richard purchased a country home near Philadelphia that the British troops burnt to the ground. The couple's High Street house later suffered the same fate, so the Penns never returned, except for a visit in c.1806.
[Note: My research indicates that the January 2, 1780 fire at the High Street house was not catastrophic, and that it was rebuilt within its original brick walls.]
The High Street house thus became available for lease and played a prominent role during the American Revolution. 47
Chapter III: Philadelphia, Political Center for the Colonies and New Nation, 1774-1800
The American Revolution and the Birth of a Nation
The British Occupation of Philadelphia, 1777-1778
On September 26, 1777 British troops led by Maj.-Gen. Charles Lord Cornwallis took control of Philadelphia.... Cornwallis lived next door to Richard Penn's fine mansion until Sir William Howe arrived on September 28th, when he took up residence there.... General Howe settled into his comfortable quarters, seized a coach for his use from widow Pemberton, and spread his charms among the Tory elite. Rather than attack Washington's army, he partook in plays, music and the attentions of a local lady. Rebecca Franks, a renowned Tory belle, painted a telling picture of one of two great balls General Howe held at his residence: "I spent Tuesday evening at Sir Wm Howes where we had a concert and Dance ... The Dress is more ridiculous and pretty than anything that ever I saw – great quantity of different coloured feathers on the head at a time besides a thousand other things." 21 As Benjamin Franklin so aptly observed from France, "General Howe has not taken Philadelphia – Philadelphia has taken General Howe." 22
Benedict Arnold in Command of Philadelphia, 1778-9
Having been designated military commander of Philadelphia, Major General Benedict Arnold, 37, moved into Richard Penn's grand mansion next door to President [of Pennsylvania] Reed's on Market Street in June 1778, after General Howe vacated it....
Meanwhile, Commanding General Arnold set about to acquaint himself with Congress and Philadelphia society by entertaining frequently. Delegates Samuel Holten from Massachusetts, and Henry Laurens, of South Carolina, both recorded dining with him the first summer. 40 Riding in a coach-and-four with liveried servants, he soon became a conspicuous symbol of wealth in a recovering city. In July, at Congress' request, Arnold hosted the new French Minister Gerard, providing him temporary quarters and a dinner reception at the house. The local press recorded that Gerard arrived at Arnold's "elegant apartment" on Sunday morning, July 12th, escorted by Col. Thomas Proctor's artillery. 41 Resentment began to build over the fine house and extravagant luxuries, clearly not affordable on the salary of a Continental officer. 42 Local patriots, like President Reed and Esther, his wife, disapproved of his lavish spending, as well as the company he was keeping. Arnold showed a preference for wealthy Philadelphians, especially those who had collaborated with the enemy during the British occupation. His leadership, they concluded, was both offensive and suspect. 43
French Consul John Holker and Robert Morris
The elegant Richard Penn house had already changed tenants and burned before Arnold's treason. Evidently after Arnold and his wife moved, Jean (John) Holker, the French consul in Philadelphia, took the lease for the premises. 47 Soon after his arrival from France, Holker approached Robert Morris , the wealthiest man in the nation, to assist him as a commercial partner. Morris reluctantly assented and the two formed a partnership which no doubt brought them together at the Market Street house on more than one occasion before a fire consumed all but the ground floor in January 1780. The fire broke out on a Sunday morning at daybreak in stormy weather and despite every effort form "the inhabitants," that "elegant building" could not be saved. Holker moved to another confiscated estate on Arch Street and Robert Morris arranged with the Richard Penn family in England through their local agent and attorney, Tench Francis, to rebuild the house. Morris meanwhile continued at his residence on Front Street near the Dock, a distance from the political heart of the city. 48
Robert Morris Acquires and Moves to Richard Penn Estate on Market
Not long after taking office, 80 Robert Morris and his family moved to the former Richard Penn house on Market Street, which Morris had rebuilt with splendor following the fire of January 1780. The family thus probably witnessed the column of soldiers "two miles long" passing through en route to Yorktown in late summer 1781, when General Washington and his suite stayed with the Morrises. 81 Early in the spring of 1782, no doubt for his personal convenience, Morris began looking for office space closer to his new residence. He finally paid the high price asked by Jacob Barge for two houses at the corner of Fifth and Market Streets, ordered the needed renovations made, and moved the Office of Finance and Marine from the Front Street location on June 11-12, 1782. Certainly, the half-block walk across the street to this office gave him more time for work and private affairs during these over-booked and tense years. For his last year in office, he directed that his office be moved once again, "from the Office of Mr. Barge to the Office I now occupy next to my Garden Wall. 82
Morris, now 47 and a devoted family man, likely wanted to have his office as close to home as possible. He and his wife, Mary White, 83 sister of the Reverend Bishop White, pastor of Christ Church and St. Peters, had many social connections with Philadelphia's leading families and Morris' far-flung trading partners. The Morrises loved to entertain, and their elegant home and generous hospitality left a favorable impression. Prince de Broglie found their house "simple but well furnished and very neat," with eye-fetching details: "The doors and tables are of a superb mahogany, and beautifully polished." "The locks and hinges in brass curiously bright. The porcelain cups were arranged with great precision." Untutored in the expected customs, Broglie went on, "I partook of most excellent tea and I should be even now still drinking it, I believe, if the Ambassador had not charitably notified me at the twelfth cup that I must put my spoon across it when I wished to finish." 84
Robert and Mary Morris had seven children, five sons and two daughters, the last of whom, little Henry, was born the summer before Morris retired from office. 85 In 1781 Robert and Mary sent the two oldest, Robert and Thomas, aged 12 and 10, to Geneva for schooling. Morris' long letter to Matthew Ridley, who chaperoned the boys on their risky wartime voyage, expressed a parent's serious and tender concern for his children's upbringing and their future usefulness in the new republic. Morris directed Ridley to take the boys to Benjamin Franklin in Paris, whose sage presence and many French connections would be a protective support during their school days. Simultaneously, he wrote Franklin a personal letter asking his attention to his "two little helpless boys in a Strange Country." 86 William, Hetty, Charles and Maria, meanwhile, had the run of the very large walled yard, filled with the gardens and shade trees established more than a decade earlier by Mary Masters for her daughter Mary Penn.
[Note: This is doubtful conjecture. Mary Masters never owned the walled garden, 514-22 Market Street, to the east of the Wood Yard. Morris purchased it from the Kinsey estate beginning in 1781.]
It was a pleasant and secluded place in the midst of a wartime Philadelphia, when radical patriotism often led to violence, a rise in robbery and immorality disturbed the peace, and the sights and sounds in the neighborhood were not always civil. 87
Morris' garden was also the setting for a gathering of some of his friends in May 1784. Thomas Jefferson reported that he'd watched a paper balloon made by Dr. Foulk go up from the garden "to the great amusement of the spectators." Jefferson and his friend Francis Hopkinson both were fascinated with balloon ascensions after hearing that two French men had sent one up measuring 36 feet in diameter in June 1783. Jefferson heard from the French Minister Luzerne that he had seen a balloon carry a man 3000 feet into the air and a distance of six miles. The highest flyer Jefferson saw in Philadelphia, however, only went up 300 feet. A decade later Jefferson perhaps witnessed another French man, Jean Blanchard, who attracted an enthusiastic audience at a balloon ascension that took him over the streets of Philadelphia to New Jersey. At his return, he visited Robert Morris' house, then in possession of President Washington, as the first executive mansion. 88
Physical Changes and Demographic during the American Revolution
Market Street: The Robert Morris House and Governor's Mansion
After the fire of January 1780, Robert Morris, long a resident on fashionable Front Street, negotiated to buy the ruins of the notable Richard Penn house, with its large walled lot and convenient location near the political seat of the nation. In June 1781 he purchased the property for £3,750 from Richard Penn, Mary, his wife, and Sarah and Mary Masters, (mother and sister of Mary Penn) through Tench Francis, the family's agent and attorney. As the deed records, the house, "rendered uninhabitable" by the fire, now was "rebuilt and repaired" with "divers and very valuable improvements." Morris' attorney advised him to have a new deed drawn up to describe "the premises with more certainty." This instrument, finally completed in June 1785, provides evidence of the house's large footprint and a close narrative of the property history. Besides the original lot of 48 feet breadth on Market Street sixty [sic sixty-three] feet east of Sixth Street, Morris' property included the 24-foot lot to its east and a 9-foot [sic 3-foot] strip to the west. All these properties extended 180 feet in depth to Minor Street, and had been purchased in 1768 [sic] by Mary Masters from the Kinsey estate [sic]. 108
[As noted above, John Lawrence, brother of Mary Masters, bought the property from the Kinsey estate in 1761, and sold it to her that same year.]
Morris' house stood 45' 6" wide, according to a plot plan with the 1785 deed, and filled nearly the entire original lot; the adjoining 24-foot lot to its east had the wash house and other back buildings and a landscaped yard enclosed by a high wall. 109
[Note: The wash house was not located on the 24-foot lot to the east of the house. The 1785 Burnt House plan clearly shows the wash house on the original 48-foot lot, south of and attached to the kitchen. The landscaped yard was east of the 24-foot lot.]
Archeology in 1952 exposed the outline of two foundations, one with a 31-foot width, and the other, presumably Morris' enlargement, which measured 45' 8 ½".
[Note: Morris's enlargement of the house's Market Street frontage is a turn-of-the-twentieth-century fantasy, part of what I termed the "comprehensive theory." This reconciled the 32-foot frontage for the house listed in Griswold (1854) with the 45-foot frontage listed in historical documents by claiming that both were right, one before the 1780 fire, the other, as rebuilt, after. The theory was proved thoroughly groundless by Wainwright in 1964.
In 1832 Nathaniel Burt gutted the house and divided its 45-foot frontage into thirds, building three narrow stores within the same space. The 31-foot width from 1952 (and Griswold's 32-foot width from 1854) measured from the house's west wall to Burt's dividing wall between the stores at 526 and 528 Market two-thirds of the house's full frontage. The one-day "dig" in 1952 was not done by archeologists, but by the former head of the WPA project which had studied the house in the 1930s. Since all his work had been based on the specious comprehensive theory including his supposed scale model the former WPA official had good reason to emphasize only the theory's strengths.]
The insurance survey for "Governor Penns dwelling" dated March 1, 1779 [sic 1773], however, gives the house measurement as 45 feet by 52 feet, a survey taken before the fire and Morris' involvement with the property. Morris found the first floor of the house intact, and the record strongly indicates that he rebuilt on the same foundations. When Andrew Kennedy purchased the Morris' house in 1795, he took out insurance, which measured the building as 44 by 51 feet. The archeological evidence of a 31-foot foundation thus is not clear as there is no record yet found that suggests an earlier structure on the property. 110
The Morris house and back buildings stretched south 130' 4", leaving less than 20 feet between the rear back building and the stables. The front house measured 52 feet in depth, just as it had for Richard Penn. The enlargement Morris clearly made appears in the plan of the back buildings. The 1779 [sic 1773] policy described a one-story structure in two parts, 14 by 7 and 54 by 18 feet. Morris' backbuildings stood higher and larger.
[Note: Except for the addition of a second story, common sense would argue that there is a very strong likelihood that the 54- by 18-foot backbuilding listed in the 1773 insurance survey, the 55- by 20-foot Kitchen/Wash House listed in the following two sentences (add the 37 ½- and 17 ½-foot rooms), and the 52- by 18-foot kitchen listed in the 1798 insurance policy were all one and the same building.]
A piazza 14 feet long led to a two-story kitchen, which measured 37' 6" by 20 feet wide. The wash (or bath) house, also two-stories, measured 17 [sic 17-1/2] feet long and spanned the width of the kitchen.
[Note: One paragraph above, this report has the wash house located in the 24-foot yard. The wash house (south of the kitchen) and bath house (northeast of the kitchen) were separate buildings. In the 1930s the WPA had jumped to the erroneous conclusion that the two were the same building (and this report echoes that), but the Washington correspondence and other documentary evidence make it clear they were not.]
Finally, a small 9'4 by 10-foot wide structure, presumably the icehouse, 111 completed the house extension.
[Note: According to Morris's June 15, 1784 letter to Washington, his icehouse in Philadelphia was 16 feet square, and had been in operation for more than 2 years. The above backbuilding could not have been this icehouse. The remnants of Morris's icehouse were discovered by archaeologists at the southwest corner of the President's House property in November 2000, nine months before this report was published.
In 1790 Washington designated that the smokehouse be converted into a lodgingroom for his stableworkers, most of whom were enslaved. His secretary responded: "The Smoke-House will be extended to the end of the Stable, and two good rooms made in it for the accommodation of the Stable people." With no other backbuilding one-room's-distance from the stables, this 9'4 by 10-foot wide structure can only have been the smokehouse.]
In 1790 Washington designated that the smokehouse be converted into a lodgingroom for his stableworkers, most of whom were enslaved. His secretary responded: "The Smoke-House will be extended to the end of the Stable, and two good rooms made in it for the accommodation of the Stable people." With no other backbuilding one-room's-distance from the stables, this 9'4 by 10-foot wide structure can only have been the smokehouse.]
Stables and a coach house stood along Minor Street, on the house lot's 48-foot frontage.
[Note: The WPA, unaccountably, moved the Coach House/Stable 24 feet to the west for their 1939 model. Independence Park did the same thing in its 1985 maps of the properties on Independence Mall at the time of the Constitutional Convention, even though this went against the documentary evidence (the 1785 Burnt House plan). The discovery of the icehouse in November 2000 in the location where the WPA and the INHP map had placed the Stable proved these conjectures wrong. The Coach House began 24 feet east of the above house lot, and the stables stood on the lot.
Strangely, the uncorrected 1985 map is Appendix N of this report, and there is no mention of the President's House section of it being inaccurate.]
A large brick stable, 18 feet on Minor and 38 feet back, abutted a larger coach house and stable, 33 feet on Minor and 30 feet in depth. A five to six-foot alley leading south from Market Street ran between the Morris house and the "President's (Governor's) lot" to a paved yard west of the house's back buildings. 112
Recent archeology and research also confirmed that Morris added a large ice house to the back end of his property, in the southwest corner, along Minor Street. General Washington, who had been shown Morris' icehouse, inquired about its construction in 1784, because his had failed at Mount Vernon. Morris replied with a detailed description, which fits closely with the large octagonal-shaped pit uncovered in the archeology of 2001 [sic 2000] carried out in preparation for the construction of a new Liberty Bell Pavilion. Likely Morris had it built during the summer or fall of 1781, because Hiltzheimer notes in his journal for February 12, 1782, that he [lent his wagon to the man who] hauled ice from the Schuylkill River "to the ice-house of Robert Morris in the rear of his house on Market Street." Finally Andrew Kennedy's insurance policy for the property in 1798 includes mention of an ice-house among the outbuildings. 113
The appearance of the façade of Robert Morris' new "Capital messuage" has been the subject of some debate. After considerable analysis, a popular 19th century illustration of the house, drawn from recollections and frequently copied and republished by Zachariah Poulson, Jr. [sic Charles A. Poulson], has been proven inaccurate. Fortunately, William M. [sic G.] Mason made a sketch of the property before its demolition in 1832, which assured historians that it was a 4-bay house, rather than a 5-bay. This research found no contemporary commentary on the exterior of the house from the street to supplement Mason's view made half a century after Robert Morris first lived there. 114
Pages 67, 69, 71, 72:
Post-War Recovery, 1783-1789
Morris remained politically active and sought after in the city. His friendship with General Washington and Martha Washington brought great excitement to the neighborhood during their visits in town. 144 He invariably hosted the leading family for dinner, if not as overnight guests. In May 1784 Morris rode into town with Washington, who had arrived from Mount Vernon for a general meeting of the Society of Cincinnati. On that day they both joined the Sons of Tammany at a countryseat on the Schuylkill where the general received hardy toasts and cheers. Washington stayed at Morris' Market Street house for over two weeks while attending the Society of Cincinnati as acting president. He also found time to arrange purchases through his local agent and former aide, Clement Biddle, and respond to a host of correspondents looking for advice and recognition. Apparently, Philadelphia once again showered him with local hospitality. Washington could go no where without drawing attention. He was already the nation's foremost icon. 145
Morris' return to private business immediately increased his wealth. The lucrative China Trade that he and a business partner opened in 1783 rapidly inundated the city with popular exotic ware. Like many leading Americans, he invested heavily in real estate. Volumes of record survive to document the thousands of acres he purchased on the western frontier and New England. On a smaller scale, he acquired the former country estate of the Proprietors along the Schuylkill River, soon to be famed as "The Hills," for his family's summer retreat. Like his city property, the house had just burned to the ground, so he likely rebuilt it in the latest style, after which he hired an Irish landscaper to tend its greenhouse and improve its grounds. Besides the Governor's mansion to the west of his city dwelling, Morris added the vacant Kinsey lots to the east of his garden wall to enlarge his Market Street holdings. It is no wonder, then, that Morris successfully invited General Washington to be his guest, after he arrived in May 1787, to attend the Federal Convention, called by the states to settle disturbing national issues of government. 146
The Federal Convention of 1787
General Washington, a delegate from Virginia, was among the first to arrive in Philadelphia. Already a hero, he was escorted from Gray's Ferry to his lodgings by the "City light horse commanded by Colo. Miles" amid chiming bells, booming cannon and cheering crowds. At his arrival, he passed through the crowd to Mrs. House's, where Robert and Mary Morris awaited him. They "again warmly and kindly pressed" him to be their guest and the general moved his baggage and self the half-block up Market Street to accept the hospitality. This done, he went directly to visit the president of Pennsylvania and the nation's second most prestigious public figure, Benjamin Franklin. 151
Robert Morris, a Pennsylvania delegate at the Federal Convention, not only had the nation's leading hero as his guest, he opened his home to "a large company" of the delegates for lavish dinners. Morris' participation in the convention on the surface was negligible – Madison recorded almost no comments from him – but his influence was immense. He was a staunch supporter of a strong national government and everyone knew it from his many publications during his three years as Finance Superintendent. His private dinners no doubt gave him the opportunity to work behind the scenes, to soften resistance to the proposals that would heighten the credibility and influence of Congress and provide the nation's executive with power. 161
As the Morrises' guest, Washington was living in comfort in one of the city's finest homes, just block from the sessions.
While at home with the Morris', Washington, ever one who appreciated quality, ate meals prepared by a French butler and had his food passed by liveried servants. He observed Mary Morris as she managed the household and rated her "a notable lady in Family arrangements." She, in assessing Washington as a guest, found him quiet and self-effacing. 166 He often dined with the family and sometimes passed afternoons in his room reading reports from home and writing letters in return. As the summer dragged on and the sessions became testier, his diary more regularly found him at his lodgings for both dinner and tea, with no other socializing. The mutual admiration between Washington and his hosts, coupled with the family atmosphere heightened by young Morris children, must have offered a comforting refuge and a great source of renewal during his long absence from Mount Vernon and Martha. 167
The Federal Convention wound up its business on September 17th. All eleven states present voted unanimously for the Constitution , with only three delegates dissents (Randolph and Mason from Virginia and Gerry from Massachusetts). The delegates adjourned for the last time and dined together in celebration at the City Tavern. That evening Major William Jackson, secretary of the convention, delivered the papers to Washington at his lodgings. Afterwards he retired to his room to "meditate on the momentous wk. which had been executed." The very next day he wasted no time in departing for Mount Vernon, but not without saying good by to "those families" who had "been most intimate," and dining one last time with the Morris family and close friend, Gouverneur Morris. 168
Pages 74, 76-88
The U.S. Capitol, 1790-1800
One block away on Market Street the new President of the United States, George Washington, had already settled into his friend Robert Morris' house (190 High Street), considered the best home in the city for such an important officer of government. Morris, senator from Pennsylvania, and his family moved next door to their own house, which he had purchased when the state put it up for sale in 1786. The two senior leaders (both near 60) and fellow war veterans had seven years more to enjoy their maturing friendship as close neighbors. 174
190 High Street: The Executive Mansion for Presidents Washington and Adams
President Washington accepted the state's choice of his friend Robert Morris' house as the Executive Mansion, on the condition he could make additions and changes for the accommodation of his household. Once completed, the Washington family moved into the house and Robert Morris moved next door, to the former Governor's Mansion, which he now owned. President Washington made it his business to invite local and national leaders twice weekly (Tuesdays and Thursdays) for state dinners and levees. Such gatherings provided an opportunity for the nation's leaders to exchange personal or political views in a social but stately milieu. 179 Martha Washington hosted more informal levees on Friday nights. 180
Besides these regular gatherings, Washington made it his policy to entertain visiting Native American chiefs to promote peace on the frontier. He hosted these tribal entourages and presented them with gifts of clothing, silver medals and goblets. In 1791, with pressure on the frontier mounting, the great Seneca leader, Cornplanter, and several other chiefs came to town to discuss peaceful relations. The next year, the Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant came "quite alone" to the capital where during his weeklong visit, he dined at the President's, as well as at Governor Mifflin's summer home. The federal government put him up at the fashionable City Tavern and presented him with a pair of pistols, clothing, and a tomahawk. That same year Robert Morris watched as forty-nine Chiefs and Sachems of the Six Nations led by Red Jacket marched in review past his and Washington's door. The delegation, he learned, would stay a fortnight or longer. This visit, he assumed, would secure the neutrality of these nations. On another occasion in 1796, Little Turtle, chief of the Miami, and about fifty chiefs from several southern tribes came to town, when "The President dined four sets of Indians on four several days the last week." 181
Washington took his role as president with great seriousness. As the first American in the executive role, he set the precedent by fashioning the office with the respect and integrity he thought it was due. Among his many duties, he intended to encourage national progress. As Henry Wansey, and English visitor tot he capital in 1794, reported every person who felt he had an invention or bright idea for the national good came to the president's door to get his official support. When Wansey dropped in one morning with a letter of introduction, the president invited him to breakfast. He joined Martha and George and their two young grandchildren, Nelly and George Custis. Together they observed another guest demonstrate his model for an invention to improve canals a subject Washington long had been keenly interested in to advance transportation westward. Wansey, too, caught Washington's attention, with his expertise in wool production. Washington listened carefully to Wansey's observations on American sheep herds and appreciated the gift publication on wool manufacturing that Wansey had authored. 182
For his part, Wansey confessed he was "struck with awe and veneration" in the company of the "GREAT WASHINGTON, the noble and wise benefactor of the world!" 183 Wansey expressed respect for the president was not unusual. Jacob Hiltzheimer, a state legislator, confided to his diary after dining at the president's in 1791, "I cannot help remarking that President Washington is an unassuming, easy and sociable man, beloved by every person." Two years later, when he again dined at Washington's, he remarked, "I cannot resist recording the President's familiarity and sociability to all present." 184
Part of Wansey's favorable impression stemmed from his admiration of Washington's lifestyle. Martha dressed "very plain" and instead of servants, she prepared the tea and coffee. He remarked that only one servant, who didn't wear livery, stood by to assist. What Wansey did not realize was that behind the scenes the household included two [sic often three or four] secretaries (usually a nephew or close family relative) for the president and some twenty [sic 24+ servants at the beginning of Washington's residency] servants, both black and white, some of whom were very difficult to supervise. Generally he brought only five slaves from Mount Vernon because of the ease runaways had to find asylum in Philadelphia, with its sympathetic Quakers and the 1780 Gradual Abolition Act.
[Note: Washington brought eight enslaved Africans to Philadelphia in November 1790. Two of these Giles and Paris were returned to Mount Vernon the following summer, and two more Richmond and Christopher by January 1792. This left Moll, Hercules, Austin and Oney Judge. A ninth enslaved African, Joe Richardson, was brought to Philadelphia in October 1795. Oney and Hercules each successfully escaped from Philadelphia. Richmond and Christopher each attempted to escape from Mount Vernon, but were unsuccessful.]
During the first administration Mr. and Mrs. Hyde, the steward and his wife, lived in the house along with the President's secretary, Tobias Lear, and his wife Polly. The latter couple brought their infant boy, as well [sic Benjamin Lincoln Lear was born in the house on March 11, 1791], who captivated the Washingtons' hearts, but in 1793, Polly suddenly died and Lear sent the child home to New Hampshire, to his mother. 185
Simplicity in manner did not mean Washington went without appropriate finery befitting his office. The president rode a white steed with leopard skin housing and saddlecloth with gold binding or paraded in a fine cream colored carriage pulled by six of the dozen or more horses he kept in the Morris stables.
[Note: Washington ordered Morris's stables altered to create two additional stalls, totaling 12. Two additional horses were boarded at Jacob Hiltzheimer's livery stable.]
He took particular care to order for the first White House additional sets of silver. A 1797 inventory of his purchases as president listed more than twelve dozen silver spoons, urns for punch, tea and coffee and large plaited waiters for serving it, all of the "best workmanship," to supplement his own service. Plaited silver (a relatively new and economical process) appealed to Washington, so he specified in his order for stylish Argand lamps that they be coated. All the while, he insisted on the "less costly," or the "plain and neat" over the "follies of luxury and ostentation." He aimed for dignity without extravagance, "For extravagance," he explained to the dealer, "would not comport with my own inclination, nor with the example which ought to be set." 186
That year, 1793, the local politics heated to violence, embroiling the president in public controversy and apparent danger. News arrived of the escalating French Revolution. King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, had been arrested, then guillotined. France declared war on their ancient enemy England and soon most of Europe had taken sides. The French Republic sent it first French Minister to the United States, Edmond Charles Genet, to press the United States to honor their old alliance and join the war. 187 England at the same time wanted to secure our alliance.
Pressure mounted so that in July Washington was called to the capital from Mount Vernon, when he found the situation critical. He soon felt "very much perplexed with the disputes, memorials, and what not, with which the government were pestered by one or the other of the petulant representatives of the powers at war," leaving him more than ever overwhelmed. 188 Washington realized the danger to the nation and proclaimed the United States neutral. But France had won many passionate supporters in America who were ready to go to war. Genet arrived in Philadelphia in May with a hero's welcome. By summer tempers had been stirred by his outspoken politicking among local Republicans and his comments to the press. In August a mob gathered before President Washington's door to protest the neutrality policy. As John Adams later vividly reminisced with Thomas Jefferson, the president was at harms way:
You certainly never felt the Terrorism, excited by Genet, in 1793, when ten thousand People in the Streets of Philadelphia, day after day, threatened to drag Washington out of his House and effect a Revolution in the Government, or compell it to declare War in favour of the French Revolution, and against England. The coolest and the firmest Minds, even among the Quakers in Philadelphia, have given their Opinions to me, that nothing but the Yellow Fever ... could have saved the United States from a total Revolution of Government. 189
Yellow fever may have rescued Washington in this case, but for most people who came in contact with the virus, they found it deadly. "The condition of this town ... is truly alarming," wrote Tench Coxe's clerk on September 9th, explaining that "The prevalent disease" proved "fatal in almost every instance." Written nearly two weeks after the alarm and panic had set in, almost half the city had fled. President Washington characteristically remained at 190 High Street, reluctant to set a bad example and encourage hysterical behavior. He, like the city's doctors and general public, had no clear idea of the epidemic's cause, or whether it was contagious. Yellow fever had not been in the city for over 30 years, so the doctors misdiagnosed the symptoms, sometimes calling it flu or other illness typical of the summer season. Perhaps the president's location on the western end of town, which was typically thought to be airy and healthful, gave Washington a sense of greater protection from the epidemic. The lingering sadness over Polly Lear's sudden, unexplained death on July 28th, however, may have led the family to wonder whether she had contracted yellow fever. (Had she visited the waterfront Polly may have been bitten by the Aedis aegypti mosquito that carries the virus. Trading ships from the West Indies, where yellow fever had been rampant over the summer, brought the infected mosquitoes to town.) 190
Washington finally consented to leave town earlier than intended at Martha's imploring. She would not go without him, and he was anxious to see his family safe. They set out for Mount Vernon on September 10th, when nearly all the city and state offices had already closed. Only the Mayor, his committee of volunteers, including men and women from the Free African Society who took on the most dangerous jobs, burying the dead and nursing the sick, remained to struggle with the crisis. Those who remained lived in fear. The nasty public debate among the city's eminent doctors as to the cause and treatment for yellow fever left them anxious. People avoided walking the streets, and kept away from each other, even on occasion abandoning their sick. Opposite Congress Hall, Samuel Benge, (the upholsterer who had just that February completed some work for President Washington), 191 stayed to supervise the removal of the dead to the Stranger's burial ground (where the city's poor and church unaffiliated went) another block away, in today's Washington Square. During September and October the death toll sometimes reached 100 dead a day. When cold weather finally killed off the mosquitoes and ended the epidemic, 1,334 of more than 4000 yellow fever victims had been buried there, some in long trenches dug hurriedly to dispose of the contaminated corpses. 192
This was but the first of several outbreaks of yellow fever during the decade. Congress and the President returned that fall to Germantown until the city finally was declared safe in late November. 193 Although the outbreaks in 1797 and 1798 killed thousands more, the residents gradually learned techniques to protect their population. Even the first year, remedial steps seem to have been almost instinctively carried out. "The town looks beautifully clean," Tench Coxe reported in early November. As early as October 2 Mayor Clarkson had ordered the streets regularly cleaned. Jacob Hiltzheimer supervised a daily wetting down on his street, and concluded that it "must make it healthier." Soon planning got underway to build new sewers and water works to pipe clean water into the city and many of the old pits for brickmaking were filled in to reduce what some in the medical profession thought were toxic fumes emanating from rotting vegetable matter. Tent camps were set up on the banks of the Schuylkill River for the city's poor at the first signs of epidemic. Even as this campaign continued, the federal and state legislators began to anticipate another, more reliable place for their capital. 194
President Washington struggled with other immediate concerns, including the deepening disagreements and personal animosities within his cabinet who met regularly at 190 High Street. By 1793 Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton had polarized into the leaders of two intense political parties, the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists. Each grew convinced the other would subvert the new nation, either by denying individual rights and succumbing to the British example or by subjecting the fragile experiment to volatile and violent French influence. This bitter and suspicious environment within Washington's administration was mirrored publicly in the press. Jefferson and his party leader in Congress, James Madison, hired and subsidized the former Revolutionary War poet, Philip Freneau, "with his sharp wit and acid pen," to edit the Republican mouthpiece, the National Gazette, while Hamilton gave staunch support to John Fenno's the United States Gazette. 195
Washington had hoped that the new government would not divide into parties, but when it so readily did, he worked to find a balance and consensus. By 1793, however, the antagonisms led Jefferson to submit his resignation and Hamilton followed suit soon after. Washington's next dilemma was to find competent replacements, not an easy task, as several candidates turned him down. The president himself longed to retire to Mount Vernon, but the pressure from his advisors to continue for a second term finally made him consent, out of his strong sense of duty. 196 the second term in office perhaps caused him even greater stress, as the vituperations within the cabinet continued and the national and international politics fomented heated debates and public demonstrations. The complicated and often disputed issues of the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania, Jay's Treaty with the British, the treaty with Spain over the right to trade on the Mississippi River, the Army's mission to subdue the Indians on the frontier and the captivity of American seamen by the Barbary States, all weighed heavily on his mind. So did the capital named after him, which remained "little but a sea of mud and vacant lots," despite his concerted effort to instill progress in his appointed commissioners in charge of construction. 197 As his final years in office unfolded, the Republican press, which now included the Aurora, lambasted the president, who subscribed to all the major newspapers to keep himself informed. Washington's carefully controlled demeanor fell aside during at least one of the cabinet meetings at 190 High Street, when he exposed his rage over one of the insulting articles. 198
Washington, like Congress, usually went home during the recesses, giving him some relief from this stressful life. 199 Wherever the president went, however, troubles followed, as the voluminous correspondence he sent out from 190 High Street indicates. New dentures had to be ordered in 1797 when Washington told the manufacturer that the two sets he owned were "both uneasy in the mouth and bulge my lips out in such a manner as to make them appear considerably swelled." 200 His absence from Mount Vernon distressed him, as he watched his farms suffer under poor supervision. 201 Family problems plagued him as his brothers and sisters died, leaving many young dependents who needed his attention and financial support. Martha's three siblings provided seven more children, so that between them there were 24 nephews and nieces. Added to that were Martha's four grandchildren from her first marriage, two of whom, Eleanor (Nelly) Parke and George Washington (Wash) Parke Custis, the Washingtons adopted as infants. He grew resigned to the family deaths as well as the responsibility, and found solace in the new family circles. The Washington household usually included several children who absorbed Martha's attention and brightened both their worlds, when they weren't disappointing them in some inappropriate behavior. 202
In Philadelphia Washington saw to the education of Nelly and George and took his little family to concerts, to plays at the new Chestnut Street Theater, to Peale's museum on the State House Square, and to some of the gala affairs that the city's social elite so enthusiastically enjoyed. The family turned out on March 8, 1797 for the grand dinner in Washington's honor held at Rickett's Circus across Sixth Street from Congress Hall. Two hundred and forty guests paid their respects and a few days later the Washingtons were on the road for Mount Vernon. Washington had reluctantly accepted a second term in 1793, but in 1796 had firmly refused to serve a third. He knew it was "indispensably necessary" to be out of the "serious anxiety" the office created and was determined to enjoy his final years in private life. 203 his public career had finally come to a close and the aging couple soon were to "feel like children just released from school or a hard taskmaster," as Martha put it to her old friend Lucy Knox. Vouching for both of them, she continued, "nothing can tempt us to leave the sacred roof-tree again, except on private business or pleasure." 204
President Washington's successor, President John Adams, moved into 190 High Street with little furniture and no Abigail. She remained home in Braintree to complete the arrangements for their absence. President Adams felt acutely his aloneness. He had endured Washington's Farewell Address where tears flowed freely for the departing first president. For his own inauguration he experienced anxiety and worries over his reception. He agonized over the disparity between his and Washington's pocket book and the inflated prices in the national capital, knowing full well that on his salary he could not afford the luxuries, the servants, the finery that Washington had established as the image of the executive. 205
Such jitters and resentments soon were replaced by others, as President Adams felt the full impact of his official responsibilities. Just weeks after taking office, when agitated by troubles on the domestic and diplomatic front, he wrote Abigail to come, regardless of the situation at Braintree. "I care nothing about it," he told her, "But you I must and will have." He "wanted her advice and assistance" more than ever, for, he assured her, "I can do nothing without you." Abigail was needed to manage the executive mansion, which he found in a shambles, furnished only with a few items bought with public funds and in a deplorable condition. "There is not a chair fit to sit in," he told her, and the "beds and bedding are in a woeful pickle." Evidently the servants, in the absence of any supervision after the Washingtons vacated, had made merry in the house in the "most scandalous drunkenness and disorder ... ever heard of." Abigail, his life partner and soothing consultant, joined him in Philadelphia the ninth of May, and the two established their own pattern of official entertainments and social appearances, and he, his own system of meeting with the officers and Congressmen. 206
Abigail Adams had faced the move to Philadelphia in 1790 with despondency. "I feel low-spirited and heartless," she told her sister. She dreaded having to go "among a new set of company, to form new acquaintances, to make and receive a hundred ceremonious visits," the routine for high office. 207 The years in Philadelphia during Washington's presidency, however, had eased her anxiety, although family and domestic problems still plagued her and John. The Adamses had four adult children by the time of John's presidency, Abigail or Nabby, 32, John Quincy, 30, Charles, 27, and Thomas Boyton, 25. Much had been expected of the children by their parents. As Adams had told the oldest son, John Quincy, "You come into life with advantages which will not disgrace you if your success is mediocre. And if you do not rise to the head not only of your Profession, but of your country, it will be owing to your own Lasiness, Slovenliness, and Obstinacy." 208 The two younger sons struggled with this mantle, both turning to alcohol to relieve their stress. Thomas finally managed to escape to Europe as secretary to his brother, john Quincy, ambassador to Holland, and then to set up a law practice in Philadelphia. Charles, however, deteriorated emotionally, despite having married his sister-in-law, Sally Smith, who delivered their beautiful baby daughter, Susan. Adams offered little sympathy, seeing Charles as "possessed by the Devil," and Charles finally died of drink on December 1, 1800, at the close of Adams' presidency. His death caused great grief, but also relief and mortification for the proud Adams family. Though grieving was a private matter, Adams admitted to Jefferson that his loss posed "the deepest affliction of my life." 209
Daughter Nabby also worried her parents. She had married an unreliable man, William Stevens Smith, who frequently left her alone, and at times desperate, with their three small children. Johnny, her infant son, had gone with his grandparents to Philadelphia in 1790 during Adams' service as vice-president, where he had delighted and relaxed the typically uptight John Adams. Abigail stopped at Nabby's in Eastchester, near New York City, on her way to Philadelphia in April 1797. She found Nabby typically sad and distracted, but unwilling to discuss her husband's absence. Abigail fretted that Nabby lived in such a lonely, isolated spot and that her children were "prey to grief and misfortune." 210
After her arrival in Philadelphia in May 1797, the Adams family settled into a comfortable routine at 190 High Street. The household now included Louisa Smith, Abigail's niece, (daughter of her deceased brother), who proved to be a comfort and help during the trying presidential years. In November Abigail collected Nabby and her young daughter, Caroline, in New York and took them with her to Philadelphia to relieve their isolation (William Smith once more had disappeared). The Adams family also continued with their faithful housekeepers, John and Esther Briesler, and their young children. From her previous seven years in Philadelphia Abigail had formed close friendships with several other families, among them, the Washingtons. She grew close to Elizabeth Powel, (also one of George Washington's favorites), as well as Samuel Otis' wife, and Mrs. John Allen and her three daughters. 211 the regular Tuesday-Thursday levees established by Washington, the Adamses continued, often feeding from 30 to 40 politicians or statesmen at a sitting. Another Washington tradition – the Fourth of July open house – caused Abigail considerable anxiety. They had heard that these events customarily had cost Washington $500. Invitees included all of Congress, the leading families of the city, the governor, and the Philadelphia Light Horse militia officers and men, who sat at tables inside and out in the yard, to enjoy over 200 pounds of cake served with wine and rum. When she survived her first Fourth of July with "much more ease" than expected, Abigail felt fortified for future occasions. 212
John Adams took office during a political crisis that boded war with France. Washington at the close of histerm had recalled James Monroe from Paris because of his blatantly Francophile diplomacy, even counteracting his government's orders. Monroe, Adams scoffed, had created "a school for scandal against his country." It was Adams' job to replace him, one that troubled the new president. The Federalist ranks had been thinning through retirement and the country stood bitterly divided over foreign policy, whether to go with British or French influence. To Adams it was clear enough. The French Revolution, with its bloody news and revolving governments, all in the name of "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity," repelled him. The British posed far less a threat to the national security than the ferocious revolutionaries in France. Nonetheless, Adams, with some hesitation, offered the post of minister in France to James Madison, the recently retired leader of the Republican Party in the House. When Madison declined, he asked Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina, who accepted. Within weeks of his inauguration Adams received news that the Directory in France not only had not received Pinckney, he had been insulted and ordered out of the country. Moreover, French frigates had seized American ships in the West Indies. 213
Adams met the crisis by requesting his Cabinet's opinion on the best policy to follow and calling a special session of Congress for May 15 to ask their approval for negotiations with France. His Cabinet members all agreed that negotiations and military preparations for war were both in order. Locating appropriate commissioners to France, however, bogged down with refusals from vice-president, Thomas Jefferson and, again Madison. On May 15 President Adams delivered a bombshell on the reconvened Congress when he exhorted them "to convince France and the world that we are not a degraded people, humiliated under a colonial spirit of fear and a sense of inferiority, fitted to be the miserable instruments of foreign influence." He pressed the House to find the resources to strengthen the navy and militia for the "natural and safe defense of the country." 214
Congress responded with staunch patriotic support and voted to send Adams' delegation of John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry to join Pinckney for negotiations. In addition, the members passed bills to build twelve new frigates for the navy and to strengthen coastal fortifications. At the same time, Adams was dealing with a proposal to ratify a treaty with the Barbary pirates, while British ships impressed American seamen, and the Spanish refused to honor the 1795 Pinckney treaty which called for vacating their forts on the Southern frontier. President Adams also found himself besieged by petitions from needy citizens looking for government appointments, and in June by the public scandal created by Senator Blount of North Carolina, who got caught red-handed plotting with the British to invade Spanish territory in the southwest. The president's desk piled high and his eyes grew weary. At 190 High he held frequent meetings with his heads of state and burned the midnight oil writing letters and proposals to Congress. The Presidential family returned to Quincy for the summer months and remained into November. At their return to Philadelphia after the long absence, Adams continued to have the support of the public, although Bache's Aurora daily printed insults dubbing the president and his wife Darby and Joan after a country couple depicted in a popular Yorkshire ballad. 215
News arrived from France of Napoleon Bonaparte's military campaigns that brought Francis II of Austria to the peace table and threatened a massive invasion on England. Moreover the peace commissioners in France had not been received. Tempers ran high in Congress, too, where fisticuffs between two members, Mathew Lyon and Roger Griswold, derailed debate on several bills. Adams got worn down over his effort to move the members to pass needed legislation. Abigail admitted to a friend that the both of them were "sick, sick, sick of public life." Finally in March 1798 word came from France and it was not good. War loomed. French agents, anonymously named simply X, Y and Z, had demanded bribes before negotiations could begin. France also wanted President Adams' apology and a loan of $12 million. 216
The so-called X,Y,Z Affair aroused the nation and turned the strong tide that had been building in favor of the French. In May some 1200 young men delivered an address to the President at 190 High. Huge crowds gathered to witness this touching show of support. Abigail recorded that "in great order and decorum" the young men "marched through the multitude," each wearing a black cockade. Adams, dressed in his uniform, greeted them in the Levee Room and gave his reply, after which the young men departed to three cheers from the crowd. Later, at midnight, they returned "drunk with wine," and woke the Adams with a serenade at the president's window. Following this, another demonstration in the State House Yard turned violent when a small group of Republican youth sporting the tricolor cockade came to blows with the young black cockaders and were hauled off to the Walnut Street jail. As a precaution, the light horse was called out to patrol the streets and a guard was posted before the Executive Mansion. 217
Adams managed to avoid war by sending a special envoy to France. At the same time, he had to cope with a national fever to prepare for war. Adams appointed Washington Lieutenant General and Commander-in-Chief. Ever mindful to his nation's security, Washington returned to Philadelphia in November to plan the military buildup and Congress passed a federal direct tax to finance it. Resistance to the tax in Northampton County prompted Adams to call out troops. Fries Rebellion, so called, vaporized without any violence, but John Fries was convicted of treason in the courtroom at the State House Square and sentenced to be hanged. A petition to pardon him came to the President's desk, moving him to study the case with his legal expertise, trying to reason in favor. Partisan emotions and scheming continued. Only two of Adams' Cabinet, Charles Lee and Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert supported him in his plan for a peace mission. The press war escalated to the point that Congress, led by the Federalist majority, passed the Alien and Sedition Acts in June and July 1798, a measure that Abigail heartily supported, but the Republicans found alarming. British impressment of American seamen continued to worry the president. The controversial policy with France, the Federalist legislation and the dangerous movement towards a standing army traditionally loathed on American soil led Federalists and Republicans alike to launch a campaign against Adams' reelection. 218
The intensity and complexity of these national concern wore the president down. When Congress adjourned, usually in the spring, he wasted no time in packing to head for Quincy with Abigail, regardless of strong advise and complaints that he was needed in the volatile capital. Adams refused to give into these arguments. His four-month residence at Braintree in 1799 and 1800 restored his health and helped to calm him and give him the perspective needed for these trying times. Mindful of his duties, however, he kept up a stream of correspondence from his peaceful country home, surrounded by his family and longtime neighbors. Abigail, frequently plagued with rheumatism and with fragile health, didn't always join her husband in Philadelphia. Both felt this separation acutely, but Adams always was willing to endure it, rather than risk the life of his beloved. Daughter Louisa (Smith) filled in as hostess in her absence and Adams brought his nephew Billy (William) Shaw, son of Abigail's sister, Elizabeth, to Philadelphia in 1798-99 to serve as his secretary. Billy helped to keep Abigail informed, when the president sank too deeply into the morass of official duties. 219
Moody and prone to swings between despondency and euphoria, President Adams remained to carve his own path through the political jungle. He was well aware that Pickering, Wolcott and McHenry in his own Cabinet placed their loyalty with the retired Federalist leader, Alexander Hamilton. Finally disgusted by the backstage treacheries, he fired Timothy Pickering and James McHenry in May 1800, in his last year in Philadelphia. The public embarrassment and alarm over this rupture in government helped to fuel his enemies' argument to elect a new president. Hamilton gave the most telling blow to Adams' reelection with his publication of a pamphlet expressing a damning opinion about Adams' presidency and personality. John and Abigail departed Philadelphia in May 1800 deeply aware of the public mood. It left the president acutely irritable. They both journeyed to the new federal capital in Washington, D.C. the following fall where they awaited Adams' fate in the new and unfinished executive mansion. It was not long before they received the news of Thomas Jefferson's election. 220
Adams departed Philadelphia still the President, but his remaining time in office was short. Later Adams proudly recalled his turbulent one term with a hint of the arrogance that left him few friends in politics.
I left my country in peace and harmony with all the world, and after all my ‘extravagant expenses' and ‘wanton waste of public money,' I left navy yards, fortifications, frigates, timber, naval stores, manufactories of cannon and arms, and a treasury full of five millions of dollars. This was all done step by step, against perpetual opposition, clamors and reproaches, such as no other President had to encounter, and with a more feeble, divided, and incapable support than has ever fallen to the lot of any administration before or since. For this I was turned out of office, degraded and disgraced by my country; and I was glad of it. I felt no disgrace, because I felt no remorse. It has given me fourteen of the happiest years of my life; and I am certain I could have not lasted one more year in that station, shackles in the chains of that arbitrary faction. 221
The Executive Mansion vacated by the Adamses no longer belonged to Robert Morris. Having led the real estate speculation in the post-war era, Morris a decade later was land rich and cash poor. In March 1795 he sold the house and lots to Andrew Kennedy, a soapboiler, for $3,000, to pay creditors.
[Note: Morris's money troubles and eventual bankruptcy were years away in 1795. Morris sold the President's House and the surrounding properties at a handsome profit (reportedly some $60,000), and used this money to begin his even grander mansion at Eighth & Chestnut Streets. That mansion is Plate 14 in Birch's Views (1800).]
He stipulated that Washington had the right to stay in the house for two years, and reserved his two large looking glasses, the hall stove, the marble and wooden baths, with the copper boiler and bath apparatus (bathing equipment at this date was a rarity) for himself. Kennedy then promptly insured the property and continued to lease it to the state as the presidential mansion. 222
With the national capital removed to Washington, D.C., the lease for 190 High Street again became available and John Adams's old landlord at the Indian Queen Tavern, John Francis, took it. In short order he opened the "Union Hotel," where Abigail Adams stayed on her way south to Washington, D.C. in the fall of 1800. She received several visitors there and enjoyed herself while in Philadelphia, reminded of the many pleasures this grand city offered over the near wilderness of the new capital where she was headed. Two years later a banquet for Governor Thomas McKean, presided over by William Jones and Alexander James Dallas, brightened the hotel, before Francis gave up the lease in 1803. The old mansion remained a hotel until 1803, but then received alterations to ready it for stores. Finally, in 1832, Nathaniel Burt, a merchant, purchased the property and tore down the old house (not taking interest in its history), to rebuild on the foundations three stores, later numbered 526, 528 and 530 Market Street. 223
[Note: The house may have been thoroughly gutted by Burt in 1832, but sections of its original walls and foundations survived into the 1950s. See below.]
Epilogue, Destruction and New Construction
In 1832 Nathaniel Burt tore down the old executive mansion, 190 High Street, the home of Presidents Washington and Adams, and replaced it with three adjoining commercial buildings, renumbered after the city incorporation, 526, 528, and 530 Market Street.
The house's east wall became the party wall shared by the store at 524 Market (built in 1804) and Burt's 1832 store at 526 (each was deeded part of it, one-third and two-thirds). This four-story wall survived until 1951. The house's west wall likely became the party wall shared by Burt's store at 530 and the store at 532 Market, built by 1838 (each was deeded one half of it). In 1871 Wanamaker's Oak Hall expanded into the stores at 532-34 Market, and the four-story wall probably was incorporated into the six-story wall of the new department store. Burt's stores at 526 and 528 were demolished and the top 3 stories of 530 removed by 1936. The top 5 stories of Oak Hall were removed by 1941, leaving a single-story wall shared by 530 and 532 Market. This wall also survived until 1951.]
An insurance policy on 190 High Street [524 Market Street] dated June 9, 1856 (for Nancy K. Risk) located the property 112 feet east of Sixth Street, or on the wood lot of the former Morris property. The four-story brick store measured 25 feet by 50 feet with a piazza and back building, in outline much like the old Georgian row house style, but a transition architecturally towards the new department stores rising on Market. The policy on this granite front building likely was written to reflect repair or rebuilding on the property after the devastating fire of April 1856 that began on Commerce Street north of Market and blew south, destroying large sections of real estate.
[Note: A photograph of the ruins shows the buildings at 526-36 Market (the opposite side of the street from the fire) in the background. They all appear to be untouched. The store at 524 Market is obscured by smoke in the foreground, but appears intact. See Kenneth Finkel, Nineteenth-Century Photography in Philadelphia (New York, 1980), fig. 13.]
The city's fire department reported that the flames crossed over from the north side of Market near Sixth and caused "considerable damage to the buildings in that vicinity." The fire may also have cleared the corner lot at Sixth Street, making room for a six-story building, said to be the first of that height in the city. Baxter's Panoramic Business Directory of Philadelphia for 1859 shows a 6-story clothier store on the corner under the banner, Levick & Bassett. Originally called "McNeill's Folly," after its builder, this building was renamed "Oak Hall" by John Wanamaker and his partner Brown, when they opened their clothing business in 1865 [sic 1861]. 7
[Note: The upper 5 stories of McNeill's Folly appear undamaged in the 1856 photograph. Its ground floor is obscured by rubble in the foreground.]
[Conclusion: The remnants of the President's House were not destroyed in the 1856 fire. Its walls survived almost a century beyond, until their demolition in 1951 during the creation of Independence Mall. And, if the demolition specifications for the project were followed, sections of the house's foundations survive beneath the mall to this day.]