While the White House is known as being the permanent residence of the President of the United States, the President’s House in Philadelphia was home to the first two Commander-In-Chiefs. Located at 6th and Market Streets, the first two Presidents stayed at the estate while the permanent estate in Washington was under construction.
Following a 16-month stay in New York City, George Washington occupied the President’s House in Philadelphia from March 1797 to June 1800 and then went on to become the first U.S. President to live in the White House.
What many Americans might not know is that the Philadelphia mansion actually served as the seat of the executive branch of the government for almost a decade (in addition to being the location of the President’s public and private offices).
The Philadelphia mansion was built in the late 1760s by Mary Lawrence Masters, who at the time was one of the richest people in the colony. In 1772, Masters’ oldest daughter Polly married Richard Penn, the governor of the colony and the grandson of Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn. Mrs. Masters gave the bride the house as a wedding gift.
The Penn family lived in the house for only three years. In 1777, Philadelphia was under siege and the Penns and Mrs. Masters spent the Revolutionary War in England. Major-General Benedict Arnold made the Masters-Penn House his residence and headquarters within about a week of his arrival. His reckless spending eventually forced his resignation.
French Consul John Holker rented the house in 1779 and on January 2 1780, it suffered a major fire. Robert Morris bought the damaged house and had it rebuilt with major additions included adding an icehouse, a second story to the kitchen and a two-story bath house. The expanded house had at least six bedrooms and four servant rooms.
Washington was intimately acquainted with the house and stayed with the Morrises regularly. In 1790, Philadelphia was named the national capital for a 10-year period while the Federal City (now Washington, D.C.) was under construction. Morris offered the house up to Washington to serve as his residence during this time. Even with Morris’ adjustments, Washington felt that the house wasn’t big enough to suit his needs. He planned a two-story bow to be added to the south side of the of the main house, and a long one-story servants’ hall to be built on the east side of the ktchen.
John Adams succeeded Washington as President and moved into the Market Street House in March 1797.
Today, the President’s house sits across from the entrance to the Independence Visitor Center. It serves as a landmark monument in U.S. history and definitely a must-stop when in the city of Brotherly Love.