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The President's House in Philadelphia

Archaeology at the President's House

What Has Been Found?


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Archaeology was completed on July 31, 2007.

The archaeologists found foundations of the kitchen. No documentary evidence indicated that the kitchen, originally built as a one-story building, had a basement, so it was an unexpected find. It was here that Hercules, an enslaved African and renowned chef, worked and prepared the food for the President's household and for dignitaries. Hercules escaped into the darkness from this house, and there is no historic record of what became of him.

Bow Window
Archaeologists uncovered curved foundation fragments of the Bow Window that Washington added to the State Dining Room to create a ceremonial space in which the public would meet the President. The shape of this bow is echoed in the oval rooms at the center of the White House, and in the Oval Office itself. There was no expectation of finding a 10-foot deep foundation for this addition by Washington, so the find came as a surprise.

Underground Passage
Additionally, they found the foundation for the underground passage that connected the kitchen and the main house. This is thought to have been used as a service area, mostly by the enslaved and indentured workers at the house. Much like the back passages at hotels, it kept the help "hidden," or out of sight. It shares a 14-foot wall with the President's private office.

A couple thousand artifacts were excavated from the site, although at first glance there does not seem to be anything identifiably from the presidential period. The archaeology lab will closely examine the artifacts over the coming months. It is run with trained professional and some volunteers.

In a joint press release, the Park Service and the Mayor of Philadelphia noted, "More than a quarter million visitors have stood at the public viewing platform to witness this extraordinary place, to learn from the archaeologists, and to interact with each other on important topics such as race relations in the United States. The reaction to the site has served as a signal that the President's House site has the potential to become a major national icon in the heart of the City."


Click pictures for enlargements
Site Plan
Excavation Area
Site Plan overlay
Baxter's Panoramic Business Directory of Philadelphia, for 1859

Also see: Hexamer and Locher Map 1858-62

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Copyright ©1999- by the Independence Hall Association, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1942. Publishing electronically as On the Internet since July 4, 1995.