President George Washington called the elegant three-story brick mansion that once stood on this spot "the best single house in the city." Both Presidents Washington (1790-1797) and John Adams (1797-1800) lived and worked in this house, which was rented from financier Robert Morris. Washington's large household included enslaved African descendants, contrasted with Adams' small household. Adams never owned slaves.
The President's house in the 1790s was a mirror of the young republic, reflecting both the ideals and contradictions of the new nation. The house stood in the shadow of Independence Hall, where the words "All men are created equal" and We the People were adopted, but they did not apply to all who lived in the new United States of America.
Independence National Historical Park is working with the community to interpret the President's House Site and to commemorate the enslaved African descendants who lived and toiled there. A permanent exhibit will be created on this open site near the entrance to the Liberty Bell Center.
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Records show that Washington and his family slept over the kitchen. His servants including the enslaved African descendants, slept in the former smokehouse and throughout the property. Adams left on record of how he used the house.
Hercules, Washington's enslaved cook, presided in the kitchen and was considered one of the best chefs in America. In 1797 Hercules successfully seized his freedom. With the help of Philadelphia's large free African community, Oney Judge, Martha Washington's enslaved servant, escaped to freedom from here.
Bottom PortraitsGeorge Washington Attributed to Ellen Sharples, after James Sharples
John Adams by Charles Willson Peale, from life.
Hercules Attributed to Gilbert Stuart. Presumed to be George Washington's cook.