|Location||244 S. Third St.
Powel House is a historic mansion/museum located at 244 South 3rd Street between Willings Alley and Spruce Street in the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Built in 1756, it has been called "the finest Georgian row house in the city."
Powel House, an elegant brick mansion, was built for Charles Stedman, a merchant and shipmaster. Before he had the chance to live in it, Stedman fell into financial trouble – eventually winding up in debtors' prison – and the house was purchased for £3,150 on August 2, 1769 by Samuel Powel, who would become the last mayor of Philadelphia under British rule, and the city's first mayor after the Revolution; he was later dubbed the "Patriot Mayor." Powel was a Quaker who turned Anglican, and he and his wife Elizabeth (née Willing) were well known for their hospitality. They frequently entertained such notable guests as George and Martha Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Noted architect Robert Smith worked on the interior, employing some of the city's best artisans.
During the early 20th century, the house served as a warehouse and office for a business that imported and exported Russian and Siberian horse hair and bristles. The owners sold much of the interior architectural detail to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Little more than a shell, the building was slated for demolition, with the site planned to be used for a parking lot. After learning of the imminent demolition, Frances Wister formed the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks and in 1931 raised the funds necessary to purchase the property. Over the next decade, architect H. Louis Duhring, Jr., Wister, and the Society restored the house to its appearance during Powel's residency, interpreting the daily lives of wealthy Philadelphians at the time of the American Revolution.
Today, the rich history of the Powel House may be seen in its decorative arts collection, its portraits of Powels and Willings, and its formal, walled garden so typical of Colonial Philadelphia. Its beautiful entryway, ballroom with bas-relief plasterwork, and mahogany wainscoting give the house its reputation as perhaps America's finest existing Georgian Colonial townhouse.
In popular culture
- The 1986 CBS miniseries George Washington II: The Making of a Nation used the Powel House garden as a stand-in for the garden of the President's House in Philadelphia.
- In Harry Turtledove's alternate history Southern Victory Series novels, much of the United States government moves to Philadelphia following the Second Mexican War (1881-1882) against the Confederate States of America. Although the White House remains the de jure presidential residence, the Powel House is the de facto executive mansion, especially in contentious times.
- Eberlein, H.D. and Lippincott, H.M., The Colonial Homes of Philadelphia and Its Neighborhoods, J.B. Lippincott Co., Phila. and London, 1912.
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