244 S. 3rd St., 215/627-0364
HOURS: Thurs.–Sat. noon–5 p.m., Sun. 1–5 p.m., tours on the hour, last one at 4 p.m.
COST: $5 adult, $4 student and senior, $3 pp for group of 10 or more, $12 families, free child 6 and under
Built in 1765, this stately Georgian mansion was the home of Samuel and Elizabeth Powel, a prominent 18th-century couple. It is the finest surviving example of an upper-class colonial townhouse.
Samuel Powel was a third-generation Philadelphian who spent years traveling in Europe, like many wealthy young men of his time. He married Elizabeth Willing upon his return and became mayor of Philadelphia during the critical time of the Revolution.
The Powels were friendly with all the VIPs of the period, including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, the Marquis de Lafayette, and George and Martha Washington. Political discussions and grand parties often took place in the Powel home in the evenings. Martha and George Washington celebrated a wedding anniversary here, and a thank-you note written by George after a lovely night is on display.
The British briefly took over the home during their occupation of Philadelphia during the war, during which time the Powels were allowed to stay in their servants’ quarters. By the early 20th century, the home was in terrible disrepair and was almost converted into a parking lot.
Miss Frances Wister, founder of the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks, raised money to buy it in 1931, and over the next decade it was restored to its appearance during the Powels’ time.
Among the trademarks of upper-class colonial America seen here are a decorative arts collection (including a china set given as a gift by Martha Washington), portraits of the Powels, and a formal walled garden.
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition