Footnotes to The President's House in Philadelphia

I am indebted to the Ad Hoc Historians, Doug Heller, Sharon Ann Holt, the Independence Hall Association, Edward Lawler, Sr., Joann Lawler, Angela Ashby Lerarif, Jed Levin, Barbara A. McMillan, Tammy Miller, Gary B. Nash, the late Charles E. Peterson, Dwight Pitcaithley, William Seale, George and Jacqui Shambaugh, Karen Stevens, Mary V. Thompson, Anna Coxe Toogood, Henry Wiencek, Garry Wills, and the research staff of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) for their assistance with this article.

1 Judge Edwin O. Lewis to Sydney E. Martin, Jan. 23, 1945, as quoted in Anna Coxe Toogood et al., Cultural Landscape Report: Independence Mall (Philadelphia [National Park Service], 1994), 58.

2 Minutes of the Oct. 6, 1947 Meeting of Philadelphia National Shrines Park Commission, INHP Archives, Edwin O. Lewis Papers, Acc. #96-05, Box 6, FF 20.

3 [Charles E. Peterson,] Final Report to the United States Congress by the Philadelphia National Shrines Park Commission (8 vols., Philadelphia, 1947), 1:269.  M.J. McCosker was the author of the chapter on the President's House, which is posted at

4 Charles E. Peterson to Edward Lawler, Jr., Mar. 22, 2002, letter in possession of the author.  Although the tie is tenuous, it is possible that Smith's unidentified John Lawrence Project (1767) is related to the house.  The only record of the project is a one sentence note: "Sir Please to pay William Warner on order the sum of nine shillings for Boering the Collumns of the frontispiece to the front Door."  Robert Smith to John Lawrence, Esq., Mar. 21, 1767, as quoted in Charles E. Peterson with Constance M. Greiff and Maria M. Thompson, Robert Smith: Architect, Builder, Patriot, 1722-1777 (Philadelphia, 2000), 105-06.  This document does not correspond with any known building project by John Lawrence, who was the only brother of the widow Mary Lawrence Masters. Masters's Market Street mansion was under construction in 1767, and later became the President's House.  See Edward Lawler, Jr., "The President's House in Philadelphia: The Rediscovery of a Lost Landmark," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 126 (2002):10.

5 Pennsylvania Packet, Sept. 4, 1790.

6 George Washington to Tobias Lear, Sept. 5, 1790, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., (39 vols., Washington, D.C., 1931-44), 31:111.

7 The published sources for these erroneous locations are posted at

8 Lawler, "President's House in Philadelphia," 21fig.3.  The undated Burnt House Plan is owned by the Pennsylvania State Archives, and is posted at

9 Nathaniel Burt, Address of Nathaniel Burt, February 12, 1875: On the Washington Mansion in Philadelphia (Philadelphia, 1875), op. 13.

10 Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser, Mar. 8, 1797.  This advertisement is illustrated in Susan Gray Detweiler, George Washington's Chinaware (New York, 1982), 160.

11 MGySgt. D. Michael Ressler, Historical Perspective on "The President's Own," U.S. Marine Band (Washington, D.C., 1998), 1-3.  Thanks to William Seale of the White House Historical Association for suggesting this contact.

12 Catharine Livingston to John Jay, Aug. 12, 1782, John Jay Papers, ID #13076, Columbia University.

13 Barbara Vaughn to Catharine Livingston, Oct. 23, 1784, transcript at INHP.  Thanks to Anna Coxe Toogood for sharing Nuxoll's discoveries.

14 Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, March 15, 1800, in New Letters of Abigail Adams, 1788-1801, Stewart Mitchell, ed.,(Westport, Conn., 1947), 238-39.

15 David H. Morgan, 190 High Street, Philadelphia, Research Data 1937-38, Works Progress Administration Project #13341, sheet 66, Manuscript Dept., American Philosophical Society; Harold Donaldson Eberlein, "190 High Street (Market Street below Sixth) — The Home of Washington and Adams," in "Historic Philadelphia: From the Founding until the Early Nineteenth Century," special issue Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n.s., 43, part I (1953): 163.

16 Frank L. Hutchins, "The 'Washington House' in Philadelphia," in Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine 61 (Feb. 1927), 2:125. 

17 Burt, Address on the Washington Mansion, 32.  Italics in original.

18 A detail of the 1796 John Hills map showing the house is posted at

19 See Lawler, "President's House in Philadelphia," 44n.103.

20 The 1798 insurance policy does not list the summer room, but the omission is, in and of itself, not particularly significant.  The policy also does not list the smokehouse, the piazza, and several other buildings either mentioned in the Washington-Lear correspondence or known to have been part of the PH.  These buildings may have been considered of insufficient value to insure.  Mutual Assurance Company, policy nos. 894-95, June 19, 1798, copy in the 500 Market Street/Washington Mansion file, Philadelphia Historical Commission.

21 See Lawler, "President's House in Philadelphia," 25.

22 George Washington to Tobias Lear, Nov. 14, 1790, Writings Fitzpatrick, ed., 31:154.

23 Manuscript letter (recipient and date unidentified) in William R. Perkins Library, Duke University, as quoted in Ray Brighton, The Checkered Career of Tobias Lear (Portsmouth, NH, 1985), 62.

24 The circumstantial case for the piazza's being widened westward is strong. Without expansion, its 5½-foot-wide interior (as shown on the 1785 ground plan) probably would have been too narrow to accommodate the back stairs without their blocking the first-floor doorway to the main house.  Also, presuming that the rear-façade windows had been arranged in a similar manner to those of the front facade, an unexpanded piazza's west wall would have intersected the main house in the middle of the second- and third-story windows.

25 Lawler, "President's House in Philadelphia," 45, 80.

26 The late Charles E. Peterson estimated that the PH would have had several privies for the whites and a separate one for the blacks.

27 Burt, Address on the Washington Mansion, 13.  George Washington to Tobias Lear, Oct. 27, 1790, Writings Fitzpatrick, ed., 31:136.  See Lawler, "President's House in Philadelphia," 26n.62, 44n.104.

28 Thomas Twinings's 1796 description fits either stair configuration.  See Lawler, "President's House in Philadelphia," 31n73, 84n212.

29 Tobias Lear to George Washington, Oct. 17, 1790, ser. 4, General Correspondence, 1741-1799, The George Washington Papers, Library of Congress, (Washington, DC, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, 1964), 957; George Washington to Tobias Lear, Nov. 7, 1790, Writings Fitzpatrick, ed., 31:149.

30 Tobias Lear to George Washington, Oct. 31, 1790, ser. 4, General Correspondence, George Washington Papers, 991-92.

31 Mutual Assurance Company, policy no. 894, June 19, 1798.

32 The conjectural elevation on the cover of the January 2002 PMHB shows the PH icehouse with a low, hipped roof.  This was based on measured drawings of the icehouse at The Octagon in Washington, D.C. (ca. 1801).  Historic American Buildings Survey, no. DC-808, Library of Congress.  Washington sought Morris's advice on building an icehouse at Mount Vernon, and he replied that "Thatch is the best covering for an Ice House." Robert Morris to GW, June 15, 1784, ser. 4, General Correspondence, GW Papers, 593.  This letter strongly suggests that the PH icehouse had a thatched roof.  Since a steep slope is necessary for thatch to shed water, the icehouse's roof has been changed to a steep gable. For the fanlight, see Lawler, "President's House in Philadelphia," 59n146.

33 "Complete Inventory, by Counties, of the Estate [of Daniel Parke Custis]," in "Worthy Partner:" The Papers of Martha Washington, Joseph E. Fields, ed. (Westport, CT, 1994), 61-76.  The enslaved Africans represented about forty percent of the value of the estate, exclusive of 17,438 acres of land.  Douglas S. Freeman, George Washington: A Biography, Planter and Patriot (3 vols., New York, 1951), 3:20-22.

34 Edna Greene Medford, "Beyond Mount Vernon: George Washington's Emancipated Laborers and Their Descendants, " in Slavery at the Home of George Washington, Philip J. Schwarz, ed. (Mount Vernon, VA, 2001), 142.

35 A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process, the Colonial Period (New York, 1978), 43-44.

36 "It can be assumed that the 'disagreeable consequences' Washington spoke of in his will actually came to pass: the Mount Vernon slave families probably were to a large extent broken up by the forced separation of the dower slaves from Washington's freed slaves."  Fritz Hirschfeld, George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal (Columbia, MO, 1997), 222.

37 The full text of the 1780 Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery is posted at Subsequent amendments to the law are discussed in Higginbotham, 303-05.

38 Edward Needles, An Historical Memoir of the Pennsylvania Society, for promoting the Abolition of Slavery; the Relief of free Negroes unlawfully held in Bondage, and for improving the Conditions of the African Race (Philadelphia, 1848), 38-39.

39 That Philadelphia was perceived as hostile to slaveholders and, therefore, considered by many an unacceptable choice for permanent national capital is discussed in Garry Wills, Negro President, Jefferson and the Slave Power (Boston and New York, 2003), 209-11.

40 Excerpts from Washington's correspondence regarding the Gradual Abolition Law are posted at Attorney General Randolph's own personal slaves obtained their freedom because of his misunderstanding of the Pennsylvania law.


George Washington to Tobias Lear, Apr. 12, 1791. Writings Fitzpatrick, ed., 37:573-74.]

42 "I have another motive which makes me earnestly wish for the accomplishment of these things, it is indeed more powerful than all the rest. namely to liberate a certain species of property which I possess, very repugnantly to my own feelings."  George Washington to Tobias Lear, May 6, 1794, Writings Fitzpatrick, ed., 33:385.

43 Paul Leland Haworth, George Washington, Farmer (Indianapolis, IN, 1915), 204.  Haworth states that Waggoner Jack was sold in 1791, but does not give a source for this.  Two years later, Washington encouraged his estate manager at Mount Vernon to use the example of Waggoner Jack as a threat to keep insubordinate slaves in line.  George Washington to William Pearce, Mar. 3, 1793, Writings Fitzpatrick, ed., 32:366.

44 Henry Wiencek has pieced together the likely details of Washington's plan to free the dowers: his western lands would be sold and the farms surrounding Mount Vernon divided and rented out, with the money going to the Custis estate.  This would partially purchase the dowers, who would become indentured servants working either for the Custis heirs or hired out to others as laborers for a period of time.  Thus, the dowers would work themselves out of slavery.  Families might be separated temporarily, but no one would be sold, and all would eventually be free.  Washington was unsuccessful in finding buyers for his western lands, but Wiencek suspects that the plan also may have been undermined by uncooperative Custis heirs.  Henry Wiencek, An Imperfect God: George Washington, his Slaves, and the Creation of America  (New York, 2003), 339-42.

45 The full text of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 is posted at

46 Hirschfeld, George Washington and Slavery, 191.

47 Thanks to historian Garry Wills for his insights on this point.

48 The 1759 Custis estate inventory is cited above, note 32.  The 1786 Mount Vernon slave census is published in Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds., The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 4, 1784-June 1786 (Charlottesville, VA, 1978), 277-83, and is posted at  The 1799 Mount Vernon slave census is published in W.W. Abbott, ed., The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series, vol. 4, April-December 1799 (Charlottesville, VA, 1999), 528-40, and is posted at

49 Stephen Decatur, Jr., Private Affairs of George Washington (Boston, 1933), 32, 225.

50 Diary of Tobias Lear, Dec. 14, 1799, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

51 Elizabeth Custis Law to David Baillie Warden, April 20, 1808, as quoted in William D. Hoyt, Jr., "Self- Portrait: Eliza Custis, 1808," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 53 (April 1945), 2:97.

52 Moll, who past historians presumed was his wife was about eighteen years his senior.  Mary V. Thompson makes the case for Charlotte having been Austin's wife in "Different People, Different Stories: The Life Stories of Individual Slaves from Mount Vernon and Their Relationships with George and Martha Washington," (unpublished manuscript presented at symposium "George Washington and Slavery," Mount Vernon, VA, Nov. 3, 2001), 30-32.

53 The presence of the enslaved Africans at the Deshler-Morris House in 1794 is presumed based on entries in the household account book.  Shoes were bought for Moll the day before the July 30 move to Germantown, and for Hercules (Aug. 15), Oney Judge (Aug. 23), and Austin (Sept. 8) during the Washingtons' vacation.  "Washington's Household Account Book, 1793-1797," PMHB 30 (July 1906) 3:312, 315, 316, 318.

54 Mary V. Thompson has discovered four enslaved Africans named Austin working at Arlington House in the 1850s.  Some, if not all, of these are presumed to have been grandsons and great-grandsons of this Austin.  Thompson, "Different People," 37.

55 Tobias Lear to George Washington, June 5, 1791, ser. 4, General Correspondence, George Washington Papers, 848.

56 Decatur, Private Affairs of George Washington, 296-97.

57 Diary entry for Apr. 5, 1797, Louis Philippe, King of France, Diary of My Travels in America, trans. Stephen Becker (New York, 1977), 32.

58 George Washington Parke Custis, Recollections and Private Memoirs of the Life and Character of Washington, Benson J. Lossing, ed. (New York, 1860), 422-24.

59 An entry in Joseph Hiltzheimer's diary confirms Giles's presence in Philadelphia: "July 3. [1787] — On returning we met his Excellency General Washington taking a ride on horseback, only his coachman Giles with him."  Jacob Cox Parsons, ed., Extracts from the Diary of Jacob Hiltzheimer (Philadelphia, 1893), 128.

60 George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, Apr. 1, 1791, George Washington to Tobias Lear, June 19, 1791, Writings Fitzpatrick, ed., 31:261, 302.

61 The estate manager's letter is unlocated, but the President responds in George Washington to William Pearce, Nov. 2, 1794, ser. 4, General Correspondence, George Washington Papers, LC, 594.

62 George Washington to George Washington Motier Lafayette, Dec. 5, 1797, Writings Fitzpatrick, ed., 36:97.

63 The two interviews are posted at The interviewer, Rev. Benjamin Chase, spelled Oney's name "Ona," which may have been how she pronounced it.  Similarly, G. W. Parke Custis pronounced Hercules's name "Harkless."

64 As Henry Wiencek observes, had the plot to kidnap Oney been carried out, it would have violated the due process required by the very 1793 Fugitive Slave Act that Washington had signed into law.  Wiencek, An Imperfect God, 324.

65 Joseph Whipple to Oliver Wollcott, Oct. 4, 1796, ser. 4, General Correspondence, George Washington Papers, 1063.

66 George Washington to Joseph Whipple, Nov. 28, 1796, Writings Fitzpatrick, ed., 35:296-98.

67 Legally, Oney's child was a dower slave, and therefore property of the Custis estate, even though the father, Jack Staines, was a free man.

68 Wiencek, An Imperfect God, 290.  Delphy was manumitted after five years.

69 Edward Lawler, Jr., "9th Enslaved African Discovered in Washington's 'White House' — at Liberty Bell's New Home," July 1, 2004 press release, Independence Hall Association.  The complete press release is posted at

70 George Washington to William Pearce, Oct. 19, 1795, Writings Fitzpatrick, ed., 34:338.

71 Preserving a marriage/family after one partner was freed seems to have been fraught with difficulties.  Abigail Adams visited Mount Vernon a year after Washington's death and observed: "Many of these who are liberated [Washington's former slaves] have married with what are called the dower Negroes, so that they quit all their connections."  Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, Dec. 21, 1800, Massachusetts Historical Society, as quoted in James Thomas Flexner, George Washington, Anguish and Farewell (1793-1799) (4 vols., Boston and Toronto, 1972), 4:446.

72 Alexandria Gazette, Nov. 16, 1835.  Thanks to Mary V. Thompson for sharing this reference. See Edna Greene Medford, "Beyond Mount Vernon: George Washington's Emancipated Laborers and Their Descendants" in Slavery at the Home of George Washington (Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, 2001), 144.

73 "Washington's Household Account Book," 316, 318.

74 Decatur, Private Affairs of George Washington, 254.

75 Vagrancy Docket, Philadelphia County, Philadelphia City Archives, as quoted in Life in Early Philadelphia: Documents from the Revolutionary and Early National Periods, ed. Billy G. Smith (University Park, PA, 1985), 84.  Thanks to Billy G. Smith for sharing this reference.

76 "Washington's Household Account Book," 472.

77 "Washington's Household Account Book," 334.

78 "Washington's Household Account Book," 320.

79 George Washington to James McAlpin, July 3, 1797, as quoted in James Thomas Flexner, George Washington: Anguish and Farewell (1793-1797) (Boston, [1972]), 432.

80 James Thomas Flexner, George Washington and the New Nation (1783-1793) (Boston, [1969]), 270.

81 George Washington  to Tobias Lear, Sept. 9, 1790, Writings Fitzpatrick, ed., 37:571.

82 Leila Herbert, The First American, His Homes and Households (New York, 1900), 88.

83 Tobias Lear to George Washington, Oct. 31, 1790, ser. 4, General Correspondence, George Washington Papers, 992-93.

84 See Lawler, "President's House in Philadelphia," 72-79, 88-89.

85 Anna Coxe Toogood, Historic Resource Study Independence Mall The 18th Century Development Block One Chestnut to Market, Fifth to Sixth Streets  (Philadelphia [National Park Service], August 2001), 56-58.  Pertinent excerpts posted at

86 A detail from the 1985 INHP map is posted at

87 INHP conceded this at the November 18, 2003 Roundtable (see below).

88 The June 15, 1784 Morris-Washington letter describing the icehouse is quoted in Lawler, "President's House in Philadelphia," 89-90n.227.

89 Toogood, Historic Resource Study ... Block One, 75.

90 Stephan Salisbury, "Proposed Wording on Slave Quarters Draws Fire," The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 31, 2002.  The complete article is posted at

91 "The Committee is aware of recent developments relating to the identification of the site of the first official residence of the President of the United States at the current location of Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  It has been discovered that George Washington and his household, including eight African American slaves, were quartered at the first Executive Mansion for six and one half years.  Therefore, given the historical significance of this issue, the Committee urges the National Park Service to appropriately commemorate the concerns raised regarding the recognition of the existence of the Mansion and the slaves who worked in it during the first years of our democracy.  Furthermore the Committee directs the Director of the National Park Service to submit a report to the Committee no later than March 31, 2003, detailing the actions taken at Independence National Historic Park to properly address and resolve this issue."  107th Congress, 2nd Session, House of Representatives Report 107-564, Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2003  (Washington, DC, July 11, 2002), 46-47.  The complete bill is posted at

92 The preliminary designs are posted at

93 Mary A. Bomar to Edward Lawler, Jr., May 23, 2003.  INHP's letter and my response are posted at

94 The Independence Hall Association's April 2, 2003 letter to the House Appropriations Committee is posted at

95 The speeches of Governor Rendell, Congressman Hoeffel, and Mayor Street are posted at

96 The "Questions for Discussion" are posted at

97 A "Consensus Document" resulting from the Roundtable is posted at A "Minority Report" is posted at

98 INHP's report on the public forum is posted at

99 The Report to Congress was incorporated into the enabling legislation under which Independence National Historical Park was created in 1948. Thanks to former NPS chief historian Dwight Pitcaithley for his insights on this point.