text: seven walking tours through historic Philadelphia

Shippen-Wistar House

One of the most historically important buildings in Philadelphia is the Shippen-Wistar House, 238 S. 4th St., built about 1750 by Dr. William Shippen (1712-1801), a prominent physician who served in the Continental Congress in 1778 and 1779. It was then occupied by Dr. William Shippen, Jr. (1736-1808), one of the first to use bodies for dissection and who had to defend himself in the press against the accusations of "body snatching." Richard Henry Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee, and John Adams were among the guests known to have visited. And, of course, Washington slept here.

In 1798 the house was sold to Dr. Caspar Wistar (1761-1818). Another of Philadelphia's famed physicians, he was one of the early exponents of vaccination. Wistar's open houses for fellow members of the American Philosophical Society and their guests, transient dignitaries of the learned, scientific and artistic world, started the long tradition of "Wistar Parties" which continued after the doctor's death. The wisteria (also spelled wistaria) vine was named for this Wistar, too.

Society Hill