Historic Germantown: Philadelphia, PA

Deshler-Morris House

5442 Germantown Avenue
Deshler-Morris House
George Washington stayed in the Deshler-Morris House in 1793 to escape the Yellow Fever epidemic, then again in the summer of 1794.

The house was built in 1772 by merchant David Deshler, and a mere five years later it was in the middle of the raging Battle of Germantown. British General Sir William Howe occupied the house after the Battle.

In 1793 the Yellow Fever epidemic swept through the capital of Philadelphia, and people from all over the city sought refuge in the country. President George Washington and his cabinet escaped the Fever in Germantown. Washington lived and conducted business from the Deshler-Morris house. At the time it was the Franks House, as it had passed to its second owner, Colonel Isaac Franks. During November, 1793, Washington lived in the house and met with his cabinet: Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Edmund Randolph and Henry Knox. Much official and important business went on in the so-called "Germantown White House."

Deshler-Morris Parlor
The ornate parlor with a portrait of Colonel Franks over the mantel.

Colonel Franks and the President had some disagreements about the rent and costs along the way. Franks charged Washington $131.56, which included Franks' traveling costs to and from Bethlehem, the cost of furniture and bedding for his own famiily, the loss of a flatiron, one fork, four plates, three ducks, four fowl, a bushel of potatoes, and one hundred bushels of hay. Despite these extra costs, Washington returned to the house the next summer with his family.

Later the house was sold to Elliston and John Perot, and in 1834 to Elliston's son-in-law, Samuel B. Morris. Inside the house there is a portrait of the earlier Samuel Morris, signed by Washington. The Morris family lived in the house for over one hundred years before donating it to the National Park Service in 1948.

Letter from President Washington to Edmund Randolph

Mount Vernon, 30 September, 1793

Deshler-Morris Gardens
Gardens Surrounding the Deshler-Morris House. Photograph from Jenkins, Washington in Germantown, taken 1904.

The continuation and spreading of the malignant fever, with which the city of Philadelphia is visited, together with the absence of the heads of departments thereform, will prolong my abode at this place until about the 25th of October; at or about which time, I shall myself, if the then (sic) state of things should render it improper for me to take my family, set out for that city, or the vicinity, say Germantown.

I shall be obliged to you, therefore if you remain at your post, which I shall by no means wish you to do at the hazard of taking the fever, to keep me advised of the existing state of things in that quarter, and, moreover, that you would be so obliging, if it should be thought unsafe for me to go into my own house in the city at the time above mentioned, as to inquire of a tolerabley convenient lodging for myself, one gentleman of my family, with three servants, and as many horses, could be had in or near Germantown. To prevent any misunderstanding of my meaning, I declare explicitly, that it is hired lodgings only I will go into; for unless such can be had, I would repari to one of the most decnet inns. I have given notice to the heads of departments of these my intentions, requesting their attendance accordingly, at the time and place mentioned.

Source: Jenkins, Washington in Germantown.

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