Franklin's House
Historic Stuctures Report
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As the excitement of his return home subsided in November 1762, Franklin resumed life as a provincial of consequence, a life busy with petty concerns and domestic rewards. Having answered congratulatory correspondence, checked on the progress of such Philadelphia institutions of personal interest as the college and hospital and caught up on his correspondence on philosophical subjects, he resumed public service. Every October in his absence he had been elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly from Philadelphia. Now, on January 10, 1763, he appeared and took his seat, serving subsequently on eleven committees. [33] While thus engaged he had the pleasure of receiving settlement of his accounts as agent for the colony. During February he accompanied his son William through central New Jersey to Perth Amboy, where the younger Franklin assumed office as governor. Along the way they were greeted by corporations of towns, the faculty of the college at Princeton, and the clergy with congratulatory addresses. On April 17 or 18 he left Philadelphia for Virginia on post office business, the first leg of a journey through his entire department that would take him away intermittently until October. With him went invitations from a score of old friends and families to visit as he passed through their communities. Apparently, he had eased into the pattern of life he would pursue in the years ahead.

It was during this period of Franklin's life that he decided to build his mansion house in the courtyard. While deciding to do so, he committed to paper nothing explanatory that has survived. Much of his conversation must have centered on this topic, but no one reported it except William Franklin in his cryptic admission to Strahan ("my father . . . is now building a house to live in himself"). Yet plans had to be drawn, features of design considered, and the bargain struck. How he chose the builder, Robert Smith, is equally obscure, although as may be supposed—for Smith was an outstanding designer—Franklin found him qualified to undertake the sort of structure he had in mind. Related circumstances, in point of time as well as materially, were the report of the Assembly's Committee of Accounts of March 4 1763, awarding Franklin £2214 10s. 7d. over his advance, and bills of exchange in that amount issued on March 16, 1763, thus providing the wherewithal for building. [34] From these sums he would have had no trouble making the first payment of record to Smith for the work, in the amount of £96 three weeks later.

The payment to Smith was recorded in two places in Franklin's account books. The first, in the Memorandum Book for 1757-1776, reads:

Advanc'd to Mr Smith, the Carpenter £96 towards House. [35]

This establishes what was afoot and for the first time the identity of the man who would play so important a role in giving the house its grace and character. The second, in the Receipt Book for 1742-1764 reads:

Rec.d April 6, 1763 of Benja Franklin, Ninety Six Pounds, towards Purchasing Materials for his House, p[er] me . . . Robt Smith. [36]

This not only tells what he did with the money but as well indicates the nature of the contractual relationship between Franklin and Smith. Nowhere from the extant Franklin papers has their building contract surfaced; at this late date it must be assumed lost. Yet a contract there almost certainly was. Essential business requirements necessitated the drawing of articles of agreement, when a great deal of money and effort were about to be expended on a building. Of course, oral agreements then as now were not unknown. These articles contained specifications of the work to be done in sufficient detail to provide a basis for legal procedure, should they become necessary, terms of payment, and whatever guarantees of performance might be wanted. At virtually the same time Smith arranged to build for Franklin, he contracted with a Philadelphia widow of means, to build tenant houses on Third Street. Their articles of agreement are in a collection of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and this document is reproduced below in full as Appendix A. [37] Smith "covenanted, promised, and agreed" to "erect build and finish" for Mary Maddox two three-story brick houses (dimensions specified) with piazzas and kitchen wing, eight-foot cellars, "good" staircases, "proper Entrys," closets, "well finished rooms," "a genteel Marble Slab in each Front Parlour with a good Brass Lock to both parlour Doors," and "good suitable Hinges and Locks for all the other Rooms and Closets." He also was to provide shutters; give all the wood work three coats of paint; see the "whole to be well plaistered painted and compleatly finished"; wall, fence, and grade the yards and make watercourses for them; pave the front walk and put up posts on the street; erect "good" stone steps; and in the yards build "two double Brick Little Houses" with "all the Workmanship as well as all the Materials . . . to be good of every kind and to be sound and provided by the said Robert Smith . . . out of the Monies to be paid him." She was to "well and truly pay" him £700 in three payments, and then add £200 as each successive stage of construction: placing of joists, raising each floor, erecting the roof, shingling and glazing, plastering, and a final payment at completion. Of course, Smith could not do all this work himself, but he was responsible to see that it was done and had to arrange for the services of other tradesmen and pay them too.

This manuscript is a guide to the procedures followed in Franklin's house as reflected in the payments made. Smith provided the usual supervision over the work, but it was Franklin's plan he followed. So fixed became Franklin's conception of the part he played that many years later he used identical phraseology on two separate occasions to describe it: that the house was built (contrived) "to my Mind." [38] In his masterful way Franklin retained central direction of the project, he or his agents paying tradesmen engaged in their specialties as was customary for landholders of that day to do. [39] And though his contract unquestionably contained the clause that Smith would "erect build and finish" the house, full power of approval through control of the purse rested with Franklin. [40] Smith, the carptenter, was as well its mechanic (or engineer), designer, and architect. For his efforts Smith received around £700, paid at various times, the intervals between those payments that remain in the record, not in themselves reflecting any particular relationship to the progress of the work. [41]

The ink had scarcely dried on the plans and contracts before Franklin travelled to Virginia on the first leg of a tour of inspection covering the post office in his district. On April 16, 1763, a day or two before departing, Franklin made this entry in his Domestic Accounts:

Left in Mr Syng's Hands to be drawn for by Mr Rhoads as Ocassion requires to carry on my Building Cash Six hundred & forty two Pounds ten shillings      642.10.0 [42]

Philip Syng, prominent silversmith and one of Franklin's oldest friends by way of the Junto, The Library Company, and the Union Fire Company, may have been chosen primarily to provide in his vaults a safe place of deposit for the coin received. Nevertheless, he made out and delivered to Franklin an account of disbursements on January 11, 1764, and returned the unexpended balance. Unfortunately, the account has vanished and the amount returned is not known. [43]

By now work had been underway for a time, and by Franklin's return from Virginia on May 17, it had progressed to the point where the joiner was at work. Ten days later, on May 27, Joseph Pratt's bill was disposed of:

Paid Joseph Pratt, joiner in full of his Bill & all Acct.s 12.14.3 [44]

By June 7, 1763, Franklin had departed again on post office business. From New York City he wrote a short time later "My Love to Mr. Rhoads when you see him, and desire he would send me an Invoice of such Locks, Hinges & the like as cannot be had at Philadelphia, and will be necessary for my House, that I may send for them." To which he added "Let me know from time to time how it goes on." [45] One of the items of the Franklin Collection at the University of Pennsylvania library is an undated broadside with the following heading:

sold by
Ironmongers, Cutlers, and Iron-Founders,
At their WAREHOUSE, No. 25,

The listing, running to several hundred items, is included in this report as Appendix B. Over fifty types of locks, hinges, latches, and bolts are listed. The British Consulate-General in Philadelphia is currently aiding in the search for records of this company, perhaps still in operation, or for such surviving illustrated catalogues of their products as were put out at that time to stimulate business overseas. The Franklin Institute has an ironware catalogue with a notation on the cover to the effect that it once was in Franklin's possession. Apropos to Swayne and Clifford's list, John Cadwalader in remodelling and fitting out his opulent mansion on Second Street a few years later, purchased firebacks from a firm trading as Thomas Clifford & Son. [47]

Franklin did not return this time until November 5, 1763, after an eventful trip, marked by two falls from horseback, visiting friends, family reunions, and the opportunity to show off daughter Sally along the way. During these five months no disbursements other than the ones to Smith were recorded in Franklin's books, as payments on account were being made from the funds in Syng's hands. But work proceeded apace as bills submitted early in December for iron work and hauling sand indicate. [48] By the time he reached home, the foundations, brick walls, masonry and framed partitions, floors, roof, and other elements required to weatherproof the structure against approaching winter and enable trim and interior finish work to be done in some degree of comfort would have been completed or nearly so. Another year passed before bills were submitted for the type of work going on at this time, and these covered for the most part final settlement of accounts. Thus, in December 1764 the following payments were made:

Jacob Graff his Accot. for Bricks now Deld. per order of John Palmer[£] 12:7:6
John & Joseph Ledru after the Accot. had been Examined & settled by John Palmer [December 12]£ 39:12:9
Salter Brittain & Comp their Accot. for Boards &c. Pd: Receipt to S R Junr by Thos Forster£ 5:17 [49]

The senior Jacob Graff, a well-established brickmaker, did business with some of the better families.50 Apparently, Palmer, the principal bricklayer on the job, hired the Ledrus to help with the work. [51] Saltar, Britton & Company, lumber merchants, also attracted their share of the carriage trade. [52]

The carpentering itself, although under the general supervision of Robert Smith appears in fact to have been done by Robert Allison, judging from the sums drawn by Smith in his favor:

Oct. 26 [1764]

Paid Mr Robert Smith, Carpenter on Acct. p[er] order by R. Alison[£] 80.0.0 [53]
Oct. 26 [1764]

Paid Mr Robert Smith Carpenter on Acct p[er] order by R. Alison[£] 40.0.0 [54]

Allison it would have been, then, who did the framing, flooring, partitions, and roof of the Franklin House. A member of the Carpenters' Company, he undertook a number of larger projects over a period of thirty years, including work at Ft. Mifflin, Province Island, and Independence Hall as a member of the firm of Allison and Worrell, House Carpenters. [55]

This first phase of the construction, begun in Franklin's absence, continued during the year he spent at home before going again to England. He was present at one stage or another as the trim and finish woodwork, lathing, and like elements of the interior were emplaced; for on August 14, 1764, he made the first payment on account for plastering, a job customarily begun only after door and window casings, moldings, panelling, and the like had been applied:

Rec'd Aug. 16, 1764 of Benja Franklin Twenty-five Pounds on Acc.t of Plaistering his House p[er] me

William Anderson [56]

This was the last payment made by Franklin himself, and from then until completion, supervision rested in other hands.

The "quiet" year spent at home was in fact a year of heavy politicking. After the excitement caused by the Paxton rioters lessened, he found time to turn for a moment to intellectual pursuits:

after so long an Absence from my Family and Affairs, I found, as you will easily conceive, so much Occupation, that philosophical Matters could not be attended to; and my last Summer was almost wholly taken up in long Journeys. I am now a little better settled, and take the Liberty of Beginning that Commerce of Letters with you, in which I am sure to be the Gainer. [57]

But as the proprietary and anti-proprietary parties joined issue in the Assembly and furious pamphleteering broke out, Franklin became fully engaged. At one point he even found himself Speaker of the Assembly for a few days. Writing to Strahan on September 1 he confessed "At present I am here as much the Butt of Party Rage and Malice, express'd in Pamphlets and Prints, and have as many pelted at my Head in proportion, as if I had the Misfortune of being your Prime Minister." [58] He had long since concluded that a change in Pennsylvania's government was imperative: "Our petty publick Affairs here are in the greatest Confusion, and will never . . . be compos'd, while the Proprietary Government subsists. I have wrote a little Piece . . . [Cool Thoughts, a pamphlet] to persuade a Change. People talk of sending me to England to negociate it." [59]

Already a straw was in the wind, and although Franklin joked about it on occasion, he had as early as June 1764 begun to give serious consideration to one more short stay abroad on behalf of his countrymen: "if it should appear . . . that my going over would be any way useful and necessary, I would not then refuse, but go and spend the next Winter in London in their Service." [60]

On October 26, 1764, the Pennsylvania Assembly appointed Franklin their co-agent (with Richard Jackson), and he prepared in haste to depart for London. Six days before boarding ship he made the following entry in his accounts, receipted by friend Samuel Rhoads:

Nov. 1 [1764]

Left with Mr. Rhoads Cash[£] 350.0.0

and Mr. Smith's Bonds200.0.0

Rec'd the above to be apply'd towards the Building of B. Franklin's House, if wanted p[er] me
Samuel Rhoads [61]

As explained by Franklin at a later date, this arrangement made possible continuation of the work in his absence, an absence then calculated at little more than half a year:

when I went to England in 1764, I left Money with Mr. Rhoads for subsequent Advances as they might become necessary, he having kindly undertaken to inspect for me the Execution of my Plan and to ease Mrs Franklin of any Trouble that might arise in carrying on the Building. When the money left with him was expended your Father [Robert Smith] apply'd to Mrs Franklin, who was my Attorney, & had always Command of the Money . . . She continued acting as my Attorney receiving and paying Money for me by Virtue of a Power I left with her, until the End of 1774 when she deceased, I remaining still in England. [62]

The money left with Rhoads was paid out between November 13, 1764, and April 10, 1767, by which time the house at last, following many delays for which the dilatory Smith may be charged, stood complete and finished. Rhoads himself lost little time in making his son and namesake agent for disbursing a considerable part of it:

Receivd Novr. 13 1764 of my Father Samuel Rhoads two hundred pounds Money belonging to Benj. Franklin Esqr which sum I promise to Repay by Discharging Such Bills or payments of such Sums of Money from time to time as my said Father shall direct and order. Witness my Hand Samuel Rhoads Junr [63]

The balance of £150 retained by the senior Rhoads stands unaccounted, but the payments made by his son, entered in seven pages of an account book headed "Account Benj: Franklin Esq. 1764" is still extant and identified through payments made the principal tradesmen engaged in building the house.

Several of the Rhoads' entries have been cited above in illustration of work completed before Franklin departed but paid afterwards. This process may be considered to have extended as well to certain other payments made in the first six months or so after the younger Rhoads became paymaster:

June 19th: pd. Michael Coon 27s. per note from John Ledru for Digging foundation 6 Days at 4s. 6d. per [64]
December the 4th 1764
pd: Robert Erwin his Accot. in full for Carting £7: 9 [65]
pd. Balti Clymer Do. [ditto] 1: 18
£9: 7
pd. Adam Achart £5 in part of his accot. Examd, to be pd. when ratifyd.
Receiv'd June the 1st: 1765 of Samuel Rhoads four Pounds and one Shilling in full for eighteen perches of Stone Deld: Robert Erwin for use of Benj: Franklin Esqr. Sent from
John Parishes Quarry
£4: 1: 0 recd. per Georg Kaffart
Note the English name is George Caphart

Sundrys pd. per Sa Rhoads Junr. Vizt.
To David Rose£9: 2
Mich Weaver13: 10
David Rose Tyler [Tiler]3: 12
Conrad Bangon12
William Rush68: 4: 11-

Of those not identified in the entries, David Rose was a brickmaker and William Rush, a smith and an ironware retailer. [66] Rush, whose account was an important one, judging from the amount, did £140. 1. 10 worth of "smithwork" at Cliveden, the Chew family homestead, still standing in Germantown. [67] The trades of the others have not yet been identified.

In the meantime William Anderson had finished the house's plasterwork, to the amount of £57. [68] Balusters, newel posts, and pendants were being installed in the stairs:

Pd: John Elmsly [Elmslie] 41s. 9d. for Turning Sundry
Pd. Do[ditto]: 3s. 3d. for Drops
Pd: Do[ditto]. £3: pd £1:14s:7d. in full of his Accot. now brote in June 2lst. [69]

At the point where William Anderson's plastering reached John Elmslie's staircase embellishments, Deborah Franklin began to supply information about the building of the house and particulars about its features ("the plasterer is a finishing the lathing of the Stair Cases," February 10, 1765). Left in immediate charge of the work when Franklin departed for England, she took her responsibilities seriously. Not only did she pay bills, she deliberated with Rhoads when problems mounted, sought clearance from Franklin on weighty matters, and reported to him faithfully just about everything that happened. From her series of detailed communications during 1765 comes invaluable information about the final stages of building.

On his side Franklin followed expectantly the "Execution of [his] Plan." With occupancy apparently only a month or two away when he left, he became now impatient and reproachful. The family had overstayed their lease. But Eckart had allowed them to stay: "I am obliged to our Landlord for his Civility, and shall always remember it. I hope by this Time your Trouble of Moving is over, & that you are completely settled." [70] Such was far from the case. The marble mantlepieces ordered from London arrived in January, but a harsh winter interfered with the painting:

The marbel fireplaces is come safe . . . I sente for our Cusin Wilkison [Anthony Wilkinson, stonecutter] to take the marbel ought . . . the Mantel is quite Curis [curious, then meaning highly embellished with carving] indeed, but I donte remember wather you sed in what room the beste [one fancier than the other] shold be put. Yisterday I Spook to Nabor Haedock [Eden Haydock who painted the house and doubtless glazed it, plumbed its rain-catchers and downspouts, installed gutters, strung sash weights, put up flashing, and soldered metalwork] but he ses thair is no such Thing as painting till next March with ought the wather shold olter verey much so I muste indever to make my slef as esey as I Can. [71]

A month later things were moving again:

this day the man is a puting up the fier plases that Came from London the darke one is in the parler I am in hopes the harthes will be laid the wather will begin to be wormer and the Sun Stronger. The plasterer is a finishing the lathing of the stair Cases and I am a geting the lore parte of the house clened ought readey for the laying the kitching flore [72]

At this point Deborah Franklin shunned every other form of activity: "I partake of none of the divershons I stay at home and flatter myselef that the next packit will bring me a latter from your." [73] A week later she had good news for her eager husband:

For severel day Gorge [their Negro household servant] and my selef have bin att the New house a geting the roomes readey for the painter as Mr. Hadock ses he hopes he shall get to worke in march. I shall get the harthes Laid and if verey Cold wather is then we Can make a fier to prevent the painte reseving aney dommaig. [74]

At almost the same time from London, Franklin in referring to fittings he had sent to hang curtain materials bought for the "Blue Chamber" wrote: "I almost Wish I had left Directions not to paint the House till my Return. But I suppose tis done before this time." [75]

Two months later Haydock was still at work, however, with the end now in sight, as the painting apparently was finished, glazing of windows had been started and some furniture placed:

Mr. Foxcrofte [the other Deputy Postmaster for the colonies with whom Franklin had spent much time in 1763] Came to town this day weeke and is to returne agen in a bought a week and as I had got sume of our things in the new house and beads in the uper roomes he lodges in the room fasing the market street and has his writeing thair all so yisterday sume of the Sashes was hung and if I wold alow my selef I Cold find falte but I donte and so we go on [and on]. [76]

It was at this juncture that the family decided to move in after two exasperating years of waiting, although the house was far from finished. Inside and out things had to be done. Unfinished pents, the kitchen not yet in working order, piles of debris lying about, all conspiring to take the edge off the experience. From London Franklin expressed his hope that "by this time you are nearly settled in your new House; tho' when I consider the Slowness of the Workmen, I rather question whether you will be so before I return. [77] But he failed to take into account the effect of a determined woman on such a situation. Even as he wrote the move was in progress. His old friend Hugh Roberts wrote to inform him on May 20: "I frequently Visit thy little Family, thy Wife and daughter Sally are well, but not quite settled in the new House. [78]

By June Franklin had learned a great deal about the vicissitudes of moving in under the circumstances. Letters bearing dates of April 13, 15, 17, 23, and May 14, 18, and 20 had reached London to reveal the family's unsettled state. [79] Responding to her descriptions of life in Philadelphia in chagrin, he wrote:

I cannot but complain in my Mind of Mr. Smith, that the House is so long unfit for you to get into, the Fences not put up, nor the other necessary Articles got ready. The Well I expected would have been dug in the Winter, or early in the Spring; but I hear nothing of it. You should have garden'd long before the Date of your last, but it seems the Rubbish was not removed. [80]

Obviously, the pride and joy of Franklin's "Plan" was the kitchen, in which he appears to have installed the latest in ranges with ducting and other paraphernalia that followed the line of his research in the physical properties of air. Apparently, it refused to work for Deborah Franklin:

I could have wished to be present at the Finishing of the Kitchen, as it is a mere machine, and being new to you, I think you will scarce know how to work it. The several Contrivances to carry off Steam and Smell and Smoke not being fully explain'd to you. The Oven I suppose was put up by the written Directions in my former letter. You mention of the Furnace. If that Iron One is not set, let it alone till my Return, when I shall bring a more convenient copper one. [81]

Deborah had reported her first visitors; they had held a house warming of sorts: "I am much oblig'd to my good old Friends that did me the Honour to remember me in the unfinish'd Kitchin. I hope soon to drink with them in the Parlour." [82]

One letter later, his vanity pricked that his friends failed to exclaim at the stylishness of the new house or marvel at its mechanical wonders, Franklin expressed himself in un-philosophical disappointment. Perhaps he imagined their mirth directed at him:

it gives me Pleasure that so many of my Friends honour'd our new Dining Room with their Company. You tell me only of a Fault they found with the House, that it was too little; and not a Word of any thing they lik'd in it: Nor how the Kitchin Chimneys perform; so I suppose you spare me some Mortification, which is kind. [83]

And he closed with a mild rebuke: "I wonder you put up the Oven with out Mr. Roberts's Advice, as I think you told me he had my old Letter of Directions." [84] Poor Richard in 1737 had instructed his readers: "There is much money given to be laught at, though the purchasers don't know it, witness A's fine horse, and B's fine house." Now his turn had come.

Franklin had already taken up the vexatious situation with Rhoads:

As to the House, I am sencible I give you a great Deal of Trouble, and I doubt not your Care to get it finish'd, but it seems to me that the Workmen have been unkind to keep Mrs. Franklin so Long unsettled . . .

ps. I should be glad to receive from you a particular Description of the Disposition of Fences, Pump, etc. . . Mrs. Franklin's Account of [remainder missing—probably to effect not detailed enough] [85]

His deep concern over what after all had become the most extravagant undertaking in his life, up to this time, is not difficult to understand. Building the house had absorbed and stimulated him; now that it neared readiness he was tortured by uncertainties and a sense of anticlimax. From three thousand miles away, powerless to alter circumstances in Philadelphia, he could only fret and offer late advice. But even as his concern mounted, the situation by degrees righted itself. Deborah Franklin had put their household servant George to work picking up the debris left by the sawyers, masons, bricklayers, and limeburners, and grading the lot around the house. [86] She had disposed of the leftovers in a providential way, certain to please her husband: "I have had all the rubbish of the lime conveyed to the [farm] and sent Gorge to spread it over the pasture with what ashes we have made." [87]

Sometime during the spring of 1765 Deborah Franklin bought the lot on the east side of the courtyard, for £900 from one Anthony Syddon, thus widening the courtyard to 99 feet and giving the house a more spacious setting. [88] This purchase had greatly pleased Franklin, who wrote:

I think you have done very well to buy the Lot you mention, tho' you have indeed given a great Price for it; but, as you observe, it is more convenient for us than for any other. [89]

To David Hall, Franklin's partner, who had assisted her in making this purchase, he explained that he was pleased because "it lies so convenient to my other Ground." [90]

The property now complete, Deborah Franklin viewed her achievement with satisfaction:

I am very glad that you doe approve of my purchous and when it shall pleas God to restore you to your one [own] house I think you will be verey much plesd at the look of it as it dos make a fine Squair and an equil spaise on each sid your house. [91]

While Deborah Franklin waited for final ratification of the lot purchase, the house's wall and necessary were under construction:

Septr: 9th: pd: David Rose Brickmaker £10 in part of his Accot. for Bricks used in the Wall.

£3 pd Self+£8:5s.3d.& Sammy in full of his Accot: in all £21.5s.3d. the 27th day [92]

No. 12 Receivd Feby: the 6th. 1766 of Benjamin Franklin Esqr. by the Hands of Samuel Rhoads twenty Pounds toward our Accots of Work done at his Well Little Hous &c.

John Ledru


Joseph Ledru [93]

The "Little Hous" referred to in this bill corresponds to the ones required in Mary Maddox's contract with Smith: "There is also to be two double Brick Little Houses one in each yard." [94] Doubtless this was the Franklin Court necessary, surprisingly long in being started, considering the inconvenience involved, all available chamber pots notwithstanding. By the fall the oncoming cold weather doubtless made its construction mandatory.

Though begun sometime during the summer, the building of the wall around the courtyard languished, owing to the unsettled state of property lines. Until after purchasing the Syddon lot, nothing could be done on the east side of the courtyard. On the west side litigation was under way to which the Franklins were not a party over the next lot adjoining. Her missing letters of April and May apparently had reported this situation, for Franklin in June declared himself "never . . . in the least uneasy about it, desiring only that Justice be done." [95] And though he stood ready to forfeit the few feet that the outcome might cost the courtyard, a wall built out to the limits of the lot might have to come down. So she refrained from ordering the wall carried around that side:

[September 22, 1765] I am in hopes to tell you by Friend [Capt. J. Friend] that the Lott is setteld and the wale finished but it layes open on that sid indead I was afraid to have it dun as we had been a Jeckted of[f] wold it not a bin a trespase indead I am afraid of giveing aney ofens and Contente my selef with thinking what ever is, is beste. [96]

Evidently, the wall was finished or about to be on the other three sides of the courtyard by this date. A month later it still lay unfinished to the west: "as the dispute is not ended the wale is open nexte the liverey Stabel [of the Indian Queen Tavern at Market and Fourth] and everey bodey maikes a free pasaig threw it and will tel the wale is maid up." [97]

Litigation over this lot also was delaying the digging of the well, apparently planned for that side of the courtyard. As Deborah Franklin reported, dutifully, "I shold be glad if we cold get the well duge but I am a fraid it will not be dun this season." [98] Not until later in the fall was an award determined, and then it was not made public: "I am told the a warde is finished but it is seled up tell the Corte." [99] Eventually, the matter was settled and in July 1766 the well and wall completed. [100]

In the middle of all this confusion over boundaries, Franklin decided to order a drawing of the new property: "Send me a little draft of the Lot you have bought that I may see the Dimensions, and who it joins upon." [101] In reply Deborah Franklin wrote on September 22, 1765: "My brother [John Read] bring this letter yisterday and I get him to make a drafte of the house and lott for you." [102] The drawing has survived (Illustration No. 1). Intended to clear up the size and relationship to properties of neighboring the new lot, it provides the first graphic representation of Franklin's house, a box in no detail, but with a cube-like reproduction of one of the facade's features—the hood, the pent, the stairs, or some other element at the front entrance. Of equal interest is the representation of the wall across the north side of the courtyard. Shown with it are the gate piers behind the lot at present-day 322 Market Street, then in use as a driveway into the courtyard.

As the summer weeks went by without enough information being volunteered to satisfy him, Franklin turned busybody. In the course of a letter written in August, he made comments and raised explicit questions about a number of points relating to the house not to be found in the scattering of accounts:

You should never be without Tubs sufficient in the Area to catch the Rain Water; for if it overflows there often, if may occasion the Foundation to settle and hurt the Wall.

I am sending you . . . a Copper to be set in your Kitchen, with some other Things

Let me have the Breadth of the Pier that I may get a handsome Glass for the Parlour. I want also the Dimensions of the Sash Panes in the Buffets of the little North Room: and the Number of them.

I think you cannot have Cellar Room enough, are the Vaults made?

I knew [several lines missing] all shut close while the Work is new; but I would have you do nothing to them, as I can cure them all when I return.

I forget the exact Dimensions of the Kitchen Chimneys, or I should send Sliders for them.

Have you mov'd everything, and put all Papers and Books in my Room, and do you keep it lock't?

Is the passage out to the Top of the House fixed with Iron Rails from Chimney to Chimney?

As to oiling the Floors, it may be omitted till I return: which will not be till next Spring

Have you bak'd in your Iron Oven, and how does it do? [103]

Her reply was as explicit and to the point; though somewhat garbled its order:

This is an anser to your qustons

When you wente from home Billey [William Franklin, the governor] desired to take sume more of your Books than what you laid ought so I got him a trunke to take them up in and as the shelveses looks prettey emtey I took down the reste and dusted them and had the shelves taken down and put up in the South Garrotes in the new house and Mis Elmer [a Miss Elmore, the friend who helped move her] and my selef put them up. I took all the dead letters and papers that was in the Garrot and put them into boxes barrels and bages as I did not know in what manner you wold have shelves in your room.

in the Northroome . . . the dores air not up . . . [W]hen I say dores it is the bofet [buffet] dores They air Glaized but it was on know[n] to me They air in your room I shall Counte the paines and send to you [T]he Crain was put up this week and not before the railes not dun as yit but promised soon to be dun.

I have Counted the paines in the dores thair is 8 in each dore be sides the spases att tipe the Largest sise I will get mr Rhodes to take mashuer of the fier-plases and the pier for a Glase all the Chimneys I have yoused is verey good I have baked in the overn and it is good . . . [a "Duchman" is] to make a watter tube for the arrey [area] the pente houses is not dun nor the stepes as the loot [lot] is not setteld mr. Rhodes thought it beste not to dig a volte.

[on a separate page] . . . the Carpe[n]ter Came up on frey day and put up Sume Car[ved] Worke [in] the Parler And is to put up the Stepes att the north dore as mr Rhodes thinkes it may be beste not to have voltes at all but to [have] place fenesed of[f] for wood he and mr Smith thinke it will all ways be a harbor for Ratts and such Creepin things, that is a moungest wood and I have Consented to have it dun . . .I hope the Smith will put railes on the house to morrow. [104]

By now Deborah Franklin had become careworn and weary. She had willingly shouldered many responsibilities in return for which there were few rewards. There was the house itself, of course. But it was in her relationship with Franklin that she took what satisfaction there was to be taken from the lengthy and complicated process of building. She responded to his moods. His obvious anxiety brought hers to the fore: "O my Child there is graite odes [odds] between a mans being at home and a broad as every bodey is a fraid they shall doe wrong so everey thing is lefte undun." [105] When he wrote gaily, she brightened perceptively: "I have bin so happey to reseve several of your dear letters . . . H[ough] am I plesed to read over and over a gen I Cole it a husbands Love Letter." [106]

The several features of the house revealed in the above exchange of letters for the first time independent of the accounts include a so-called "Area"; "Buffets" in one of the rooms; "Sliders" in the kitchen chimneys; a lock in the door of one of the bedrooms; bookshelves in various places; "Iron Rails from Chimney to Chimney"; the finish of the floors; the iron oven; the fireplace crane in the kitchen; and "Car[ved] Worke in the Parler."

The "Area" where tubs were to be put to catch the rain, was an areaway or light well, the length of the house's south wall. Its retaining wall was found during 1960 in the archeological excavation. [107] On the downslope side of the house, it would have provided light through full-length cellar windows and probably exterior access through a doorway and stone stairs.

The "Buffets" were built-ins with glass panes, one on each side of the fireplace of the house's "office" room. Such features were common in the Philadelphia of that time, repeatedly referred to in insurance surveys, and there are many survivals. Arched doors are indicated by the number of eight panes of equal size and two larger at the top. On August 14, 1771, Franklin wrote to her, "I send you by Capt. Falconer a Box of Looking Glasses for the Closet Doors in the little [missing, presumed to have read "room" or "north room"]." [108]

Although measurements were to be taken, there is nothing to show whether or not the "sliders" were ever installed. The position considered for them in the kitchen chimneys links them with the furnaces mentioned earlier by Franklin. [109]

The bookshelves that found their way into the "South Garrotes" apparently were demountable. There also is indication here that there were two chambers on the south side of the attic. They would have required two dormers or two gable end windows for lighting. As these rooms were plastered, the bookshelves and their contents should not be thought of as having been in some state of dust-covered storage. [110] They had, however, ceased to ornament a lower chamber of some architectural pretensions.

The "Iron Rails from Chimney to Chimney" facilitated fire-fighting and The Board of the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire never signed a policy until the rails were in place. A wrought rail of the type can be seen in the detail of a photograph of the old Philadelphia house in Illustration No. 3.

The Carpenter who "put up Sume Car[ved] Worke" was the joiner, "Mr. Clifton," to whom Deborah Franklin paid £45 from household accounts for "Joyners worke" sometime between July 1 and October 1, 1765. [111] In the August 13, 1770, issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle appears this notice: "HENRY CLIFTON, joiner, Cabinet and Chair Maker, Is removed into Arch Street, opposite the gate of Friends burying-ground, where he continues to carry on the above business in all its branches, in the neatest manner." [112] As £45 bought a great deal of joiner's and carved work in that day, the sum may have covered the pedimented doorways of the dining parlor and the pent eave's bracket (discussed below) as well.

These final touches signify an approaching end to the work on Franklin's House, and, in fact, little still remained to be done. That fall with the payment of ten pounds for shingling "and sum other things" the "pente houses" were finished. [113] Around the end of the year the promised "boyler" arrived. [114] On December 8, 1767, Richard Bache paid David Chambers £20.8.4 for "4 Marble Hearths," doubtless a delayed account. [115] Rhoads had run out of money and was drawing on Deborah Franklin to pay the bricklayers; "Smith the Carpenter had asked him for so much and his son lay sick att the time and cold not due aney busines. [116] In conclusion, she wrote to Franklin, "so you see that when a house is dun thair is much to be dun after." [117]

The house was not the only problem Deborah Franklin had to face in the fall of 1765. The colonists were in an ugly mood over passage of the Stamp Act. Franklin had had a hand in the appointment of Pennsylvania's stamp distributor, John Hughes, an old friend and political ally. This was interpreted by Pennsylvanians as accession to the measure, and feeling for a time ran high against Franklin. At its worst Deborah Franklin found herself in a virtual state of seige in the new House in the courtyard:

You will se by the papers what . . . has hapened in other plases [other colonies] and sumthing has bin sed relaiteing to raising a mob in this plase. I was for 9 day keepin one Continued hurrey by pepel to removef and Salley was porswaided to go to burlington for saiftey but on munday laste we had verey graite rejoysing on a Count of the Change of the ministrey and a preyparaition for binfiers [bonfires] att night and several houses thretened to be puled down. Cusin Davenporte Come and told me that more than twenty pepel had told him it was his Duty to be with me. I sed I was plesed to reseve Civility from aney bodey so he staid with me sume time to words night I sed he shold fetch a gun or two as we had none. I sente to aske my Brother to Cume and bring his gun all so we maid one room into a Magazin. I ordored sum sorte of defens up Stairs such as I Cold manaig my selef. I sed when I was advised to remove that I was verey shure you had dun nothing to hurte aney bodey nor I had not given any ofense to aney person att all nor wold I be maid unesey by aney bodey nor wold I stir or show the leste uneseynis but if aney one Came to disturbe me I wold show a proper resentment and I shold be very much afrunted with aney bodey . . . On freyday Mr. Parker brough Mrs. and Miss Parker down to spend a week with us . . . this day Billey Come agan to aske us up to Burlinton I consented to Salley going but I will not stir as I rely donte think it wold be right in me to stir or show the leste uneseyness att all. [118]

For over a month longer disturbances continued. Finally on November 3 she could write: "The Dredfull firste of November (date the Stamp Act was to take effect) is over; and not so much disorder as was dreded." [119] Franklin's vindication would come in time. Grateful for the support of his friends and neighbors, his first word on receiving the news was in praise of Deborah Franklin:

I honour much the Spirit and Courage you show'd, and the prudent Preparations you made in the [Time] of Danger. The [Woman] deserves a good [House] that [is] determined to defend it. [120]

For all her troubles, Deborah Franklin found herself, now with the house done, in possession of a small work of art. The unenthusiastic reception of friends aside, this was a house of the first rank and would have been if not one of Franklin's ingenious devices had been installed. As has been demonstrated above, its design features were the product of one of the foremost colonial architect-builders under scrutiny of a dean of the builder's trade. The tradesmen were the best offered by Philadelphia, occasionally employing materials and installations straight from the London market proper. The style was plain on the outside with elements of the Palladian mode on the interior. Facing the north approximately in the center of the courtyard, it was a tall free-standing brick structure.

Predictably, the house was insured by the insurance company Franklin had helped father fifteen years before. Having reached the stage where it met all requirements, on February 20, 1767, deposit was accepted and Policy No. 1148 issued. The survey of the premises, made some six months before, reads as follows:

Survey'd Aug't 5th 1766      N. 1148

A house house Belonging to Benjamin Franklin, Situate on the South Side of high Street Between third & fourth Streets where his family dwells

34 feet Square —3 Storys high—14 & 9 inch walls—3 Rooms on a floor—pertitions in the Eastermost part of the house 9 inch Brick wall to the Garet floor in the westermost part Studed & plaster.d—East Room below wainscuted with frett Cornish all Round,—four pedements with frett Bedmolds A Rich Chimney peice,—fluted Cullums & half pilasters with intabliture—the other other Rooms and pasage below wainscuted pedistal high, with frett and dintal Cornish throughout one of s.d Rooms has a Chimney peice with tabernacle frame pediment &c.—All the Second Story wainscuted pedistal high, frett dintal and plain duble Cornish through the whole,—a Chimney piece in one of the Rooms with tabernacle frame pediment &.c—Chimney Brest Surbase Scerting and Single Cornish through out the third Story—Garet plasterd a way out on Roof—two Storys of Stairs Rampd Brackited and Wainscuted—One—do—Brackited —painted inside and out—Modilion Eaves—2 Large painhouses with trusses at each end—all New—kitchen in Celler—

Gunning Bedford

£500 @ 30/per Ct. or if
any higher Sum to be at 32/6

Read without an understanding of builder's terminology for that period, this survey may appear too succinct to have value in studying the house. In fact, though economical of words, it contains none superfluous to the purpose; that of providing a guide for replacement of parts of the structure lost or depleted by fire. All such parts as would be costly to replace, the "curious" and interesting ones are sure to be included. A number of the terms have special meaning, not apparent at a glance. Some can be understood only when considered in the context of usage employed by Gunning Bedford. Comparative study of other insurance surveys involving houses still standing or drawn and photographed before being demolished, often yields details that would otherwise be beyond recall. Together with the house plans discussed below, this survey has the most valuable data on the house yet discovered. It tells the informed researcher about not only such salient characteristics as the dimensions, number of stories, number of rooms and their relative locations, structural properties, location of the kitchen, and the like, but also that there was a room on the first floor elaborate and rich beyond all others in the house, that a second room on that floor had architectural features well above the average, that panelling of the lower walls was carried up two flights of stairs and throughout the rooms of the second floor (one of which was also elaborate), that the third floor had only surbase and simple cornice, and that the pents were on opposite sides of the building (although "end" could mean front and back or left and right).

Getting more specific yet, the survey shows what the joiners and carvers were doing for their pay. They had panelled the room east of the passageway on the first story from floor to ceiling, with a rich cornice featuring a fret molding (design of straight lines, symmetrically patterned). Four of the door openings (two closet, two hallway) had pediments with the same type of moldings as the cornice. The over-mantel of this same room, in addition to displaying one of the orders of architecture complete to fluted columns, pilasters, and entablature, by the word "rich" can be judged to have had carving— perhaps a coat of arms, or swags, brackets, ornaments on the pilasters, or all of them as in the Powel House drawing room, also done at the direction of Robert Smith. [121] The accompanying drawing (Illustration No. 4) shows how such features might have looked, borrowing some of the best contemporary examples from Philadelphia houses of comparable distinction to Franklin's House. The rest of the rooms on the first and second floors and the passageways uniformly were panelled below the level of the window sills with fret moldings in the surbase and baseboard as in the Powel House drawing room, and a cornice molding of dentils as in the drawing room of Mt. Pleasant, John MacPherson's mansion still standing in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. [122] Two of these rooms also received special treatment at the joiners' hands. Above the "darke" marble mantel of the first floor room (the "parler" of Deborah Franklin's February 10 letter) was the tabernacle frame and pediment. of the survey, in all probability highly embellished for consistency's sake. The second floor room receiving a pedimented tabernacle frame would have been the one directly over the richly finished first floor room, the principal bedroom, and as shown below the room then reserved for Benjamin Franklin.

The joiners had also left their imprimatur on the staircase and exterior cornice. The former with a ramped handrail (curving upward at a landing) and carved brackets (ornaments under the ends of each stair) are well known from survivals as are the plain Roman type modillions still to be found in the cornices of scores of eighteenth century Philadelphia houses that have remained intact to the present. [123]

The "Large painhouses with trusses at each end" received more than usual attention in the correspondence between Deborah Franklin and Franklin, as almost the last thing to be done. From a casual reading it is possible to conclude that the "painhouses" were structures on the ends of the house, or attached to the gable walls, assuming the house to have had a pitched, not hipped roof. Another interpretation holds that the "painhouses" were really pent eaves such as had been popular on Philadelphia buildings in the past, although less in vogue in the Philadelphia of 1763. A pent eave shown in William Birch's view entitled "Bank on Second Street," appears to be a likely fellowpent. It stretched across the front of James Logan's house next door to the bank. Profiled in the shadows at the end of the pent is a bracket-like support of some description (Illustration No. 5). The house's insurance survey reveals that this was described by surveyor Gunning Bedford as one of two "painthouse[s] front and back." [124] Practically identical in choice of words to Franklin's survey, and by the same surveyor that of Logan makes no reference to "trusses." This term as used here is defined: "an ornamental bracket or console or modillion." [125] However, the Logan survey was made after alterations in 1800 and the feature seen in the Birch view may have been removed in decaying state or as anachronistic and in bad taste. The term is, however, readily connected with work elsewhere, and seems to have been employed interchangeably to denote either a bracket employed with its, long axis horizontal, or with the console's or ancone's slight projection and vertical axis. [126] The most conspicuous examples of "trusses," for which pictorial evidence as well as documentary exists, were those supporting the clock cases on the eastern and western gables of Independence Hall. The ones on the west show in clear detail in the Krimmel view, "Election Day—1815" (Illustration No. 6). These were described in Samuel Harding's bill for "Carved Work Done for the State house," as "trusses," meaning the very heavy pieces shown vertical: "6 truses that Suports ye pedement." Those horizontal, under the clock case, smaller and lighter in appearance, were referred to as "6 Cuttuses for ye bottom." [127] In the light of this evidence, the "Large painhouses with trusses at each end" may be interpreted to mean that there were trusses at each end of the pent rather than "painhouses" at each end of the building.

While the insurance survey provides a description of sorcs, it might reasonably be expected that the new house of so prominent a man as Franklin would have attracted more contemporary interest and invited more comment than it did. Of course, it was erected in a flourishing building period when the city was growing to first place among this hemisphere's cities. And accompanying this boom was the construction of many fine houses. Franklin's simply drew less attention than the larger, more opulent homes of others. There is some reason to believe that it became the subject of one drawing (reputedly by James Thackara) in its waning years. Efforts are currently being made to acquire a copy of this drawing. The only account of the house in narrative form was penned many years later by a Colonel Robert Carr, who began his career in Franklin Court, at the printing shop of Franklin's grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache, before Franklin's death. Even after the passage of many years Carr's mind remained clear, for several points of his description stand verified by documentation. Those paragraphs of Carr's recollections pertaining to the section of the house complete in 1766 are as follows:

The Doctor's mansion-house was in the centre of a lot of ground, . . . [and] was built with the front to wards Chestnut-street, . . .

The mansion-house was a plain brick building, three stories high, about forty feet front and thirty feet deep, with an entry through the centre. There was a larger parlor on the East side of the Entry, and two rooms on the West side, with a door between them. The kitchen was in the basement, with an icehouse under it. The Doctor's office or study was in the Northwest room on the first floor; and there was a coal grate, in which he burned Virginia or English coal. Below this grate, on the hearth, there was a small iron plate or trap-door, about five or six inches square, with a hinge and a small ring to raise it by. When this door or valve was raised, a current of air from the cellar rushed up thru the grate to rekindle the fire.

The Doctor's bed-chamber was the Southwest room on the second floor. There were two cords, like bell pulls, at the head of his bed; one was a bell-pull and the other, when pulled, raised an iron bolt, almost an inch square and nine or ten inches long, which dropped through staples at the top of the door, when shut; and until this bolt was raised the door could not be opened. . .

The doors of the chambers, and nearly all the doors about the house, were lined or edged with green baize, to prevent noise when shutting; and several of them had springs behind them to close them.

On the South side of the house there was a grass lot, about one hundred feet square, containing a few fine plane trees, and surrounded on three sides by a brick wall ". . . On the North side of the House there was an open lot of the same size." [128]

The ice house here referred to as being "under" the kitchen has until now been assumed to date to Franklin's lifetime. This source and one other, a rental advertisement for the house of 1801, both originating after Franklin's death, provided the only documentation. Recently, a third ice house reference has made an appearance, this for the building of one by Bache:

[December 31, 1791]
Expences D.r To Cash paid sundry Expences in this Month paid sundry Bills & Expences building an Ice House 48..8— [129]

A case can be made for Bache's having built this facility at his country estate, Settle, then being readied for occupancy. At any rate the ice house was practically an unknown feature when archeology in 1960 uncovered the remains of it, a circular stone-lined pit ten feet in diameter, ten feet below the cellar floor level in the southwest corner of the building site. [130] Unfortunately, more than two-thirds of it had been destroyed by a massive concrete foundation of much later date. Ice pits were well-known to better Philadelphia homes. Robert Morris not only had one, but wrote very fully about it to George Washington in 1784. [131] Richard Peters also had one under the cellar of his Walnut Street house. It was discovered when later buildings were demolished in Independence National Historical Park's Area A, and was covered up whole for further reference. There was even an article on ice houses, complete to diagrams, in Dobson's Encyclopaedia, pages 86-87 (Illustration No. 7).

Such other elements of the house described by Carr as the fireplace trap-door, the bedroom paraphernalia, and the door springs and linings can be accepted as accurate.

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Last Updated: 30-Jun-2008