4. LATER HISTORY OF THE HOUSE
For the next twenty years little had to be done to the house; a prettying touch here and there, routine maintenance from time to time. The Blue Room, the wallpaper of which Deborah Franklin had complained about in her long accounting as having "loste much of the blume," apparently continued to be a source of annoyance. Franklin counselled redecorating it:
Taking him at his word, as always, she ordered in the man best-equipped to handle this specialized job, one Timothy Berrett. Little more than seven weeks after Franklin wrote his letter in London, Berrett gave Deborah Franklin the following receipt:
Berrett in 1769 did like work for Samuel Powel, "painting and bordering a room."  He also did painting in 1770 for John Cadwalader's sumptuous mansion, where gilding and papier-mâché were the rule rather than the exception.  Musical figures of the sort Franklin had in mind were installed in the Peters country mansion in what is now Fairmount Park (Illustration No. 15). In 1773 Sally reported to her father "the dinning room wants new Paper, the Border which is a gold one never was put up, . . . it would make a neet room if it was ne[atly] done up."  There is no record what resulted.
On the eve of Brandywine and the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777 a lead downspout and "neat head" weighing 313 pounds were taken down from Franklin's House by order of the Council of Safety and turned over to munitions authorities.  From the listing made at the time, it appears that Franklin's was among those of the largest houses in the city, which from their ornamentation were heavy. The word "neat" as contrasted with the other descriptive terms on the list ("plain" and "common") suggests one having at least the date the house was built, the initials "B F" and perhaps other ornamentation as well (Illustrations Nos. 16, 17).  The house did without this downspout for more than four years, until November 1781, when Richard Bache wrote that he was having necessary repairs done, to include "new spouts, one a copper one in the room of the leaden one taken away by the public in the year 1777, for which I could get no payment."  While about it, he took care of "new shingling part of the pent houses on both sides of the house." 
In the meantime Deborah Franklin had died, Franklin had come and gone. The only changes it is certain that he made after seeing the house for the first time on May 4, 1775, consisted of adding bookshelves in his bedroom and "branches for the Drawing Room."  As purchase of these sconces followed hard on the heels of a payment to Martin Jugiez, the notable "Carver and Gilder," of £2.16.2 there is a strong presumption that he had finally followed through on Salley's suggestions to dress up the dining parlor. 
Franklin had not been home for two weeks in 1775 when, war or no war, he had Richard Bache go out and buy two lightning rods:
Perhaps he had found the house without such equipment and immediately corrected the oversight. At any rate a lightning rod was up in 1785 when he returned from France.  At about the same time he paid, through Richard Bache, £13.18.9 to a carpenter named Hale in full for some work performed.  Interestingly enough, Hale (arrived from London in 1767) had been advertising in years past under the sign of a bell: "In Walnut-street, facing the State-house Gate. Continues to hang BELLS through all the apartments of houses, in the most neat and lasting manner."  The specialty that had been making Hale his reputation was the door bell and house bell trade, growing in popularity among Philadelphians. A few years before John Cadwalader had paid Alexander Smith, another specialist in this line, £11.15.0 for the complex assortment of pulls and pullies, fastenings, frames, crampets, jack lines, bells, bell bolts, bell pins, springs, staples, astregals, brads, rods, and wire and installation of them in a system covering six rooms on two floors.  Franklin's payment of 18 shillings for "Wire work," though several months after his payment to Hale, looks suspiciously as though the same sort of thing was afoot here. 
In the fall of that year Franklin's accounts show a flurry of payments to stonecutters, ironmongers, coppersmiths, bricklayers, carpenters, brickmakers, and pumpmakers. Construction of his brick, two-story coach house and stable was underway just north of the courtyard wall. But this is a story to be related elsewhere.
By December 21 of the next year Franklin had arrived in Paris, beginning another long exile. While he augmented his reputation through a series of brilliant diplomatic exploits the house and its contents were in the hands of son-in-law, Richard Bache, who with his family occupied it. Bache, now postmaster-general, and busy in the war effort, had his hands more than full when the British took and occupied Philadelphia in the fall of 1777. As the Baches fled they managed to barrel and evacuate books, papers, and valuable furniture, mahogany excepted.  The house fell to the mercies of General Sir Charles Grey and the officers of his regiment, his aide, then captain, André among them. They behaved themselves so far as their living habits were concerned, but André helped himself liberally upon departure. The house itself fared well enough, as Bache assured an anxious Franklin after the British abandoned the city:
Attesting to the house's general condition following the British occupation is the absence of entries for repairs in the accounts kept at the time. During Bache's stewardship, every farthing expended on the house he entered in his day book, debited to Franklin's account. The first such item to be found is dated August 30, 1780, more than two years after troop withdrawals:
Much depends on whether or not the term "Water Closet" is to be taken literally. Then a new term, having appeared in print for the first time only in 1755, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it may or may not yet have come to be applied to any kind of privy.  A London watchmaker, Alexander Cummings, took out the first patent for a flushing facility in 1775, but such devices had been known since Sir John Harington invented the first one at the time his book on the subject appeared in 1596 (Illustration No. 18).  Owing to the discovery during 1960's archeological work of the privy pit for the second of two Franklin House necessaries, this one unmistakably having had a flushing system, the term "Water Closet " as employed by Bache must be given very serious consideration.  Among the possible interpretations is that Bache had just built this second facility. The first privy pit, having yielded no evidence of structure to suggest a flushing system, would seem to be out of the question.  That is, unless Bache's reference was a casual one, pertaining, in fact, to the flushless necessary. By 1780 the roof of 1766's "Little House" (see pages 53 and 54) may have required repairs, and this would account for Bache's day book entry.
Bache's next charge against Franklin's account, drains and shingling excluded, was not made until June 30, 1783:
This was followed on September 30, 1784, by this entry:
On October 5, 1784, Bache entered en masse a number of items showing extensive work to have been in progress:
And at the beginning of 1785:
Other expenses in this line not charged to Franklin but apparently for work on the house involved whitewashing and glazing.  The house had been solidly built and was wearing well. Nothing else, other than the little maintenance covered above, befell the house before Franklin's triumphant return to Philadelphia on September 14, 1785.
In contemplating his return to this country Franklin had written daughter Salley Bache:
Try he did, and he not only had a relatively easy voyage, but managed to see old friends briefly at the shores of England while transferring from ship to ship.
Once in Philadelphia his love of family was fully tested. As he wrote to sister Jane Mecom after a year, the house had become "too small for our growing family."  Apparently, Franklin did not take long in finding the situation unbearable, but according to a later admission, other factors really initiated his provision for a remedy. The markets along High Street outside the courtyard were being extended to his block, making his frontage valuable along the street where the old Read family residences were located. He was enjoying a stretch of good health such as he had not known in thirty years.  His financial situation had never been better, for as he reported to his French banker: "My own Estate I find more than tripled in Value since the Revolution."  He began, he told Jane Mecom, "to build two good Houses next the Street instead of three old Ones, which I pulled down."  This was, apparently, in November or early December 1785, for on December 3 he paid a smith named David Henderson £6.19.6 "for jobs," and two days later one Abram Robinson £9.10 "for Bricklayers Work," noting in his account book after both entries, "very dear."  By the end of the month he had called a halt: "I shall draw no more at present, as the high Price of Labour discourages my Project of Building, till it shall be more moderate."  Then litigation interrupted the work: "But my Neighbors disputing my Bounds, I have been obliged to postpone till that Dispute is settled by Law."  This postponement led directly to his putting the remedy for crowded conditions in his house into operation: "In the meantime, the Workmen & Materials being ready, I have ordered an Addition to the House I live in."  That event actually can be dated July 11:
From this point on the details of building are almost completely immersed and undistinguishable in a welter of unspecific bills. What represented payment for the mansion house and what for the "two good" houses on Market Street escape the writerwith two exceptions. Payment of £1.13.9 on September 30 and 15 shillings on October 23 for "Water Table" bricks and hauling, while possibly in use in the Market Street houses, almost certainly applied to Franklin's House.  Water table bricks are molded in form. A course of them to throw off water was a very common feature of Philadelphia houses until after the American Revolution. The payments for the 1786-1787 work are included in Appendix C.
As with the earlier construction, no architect's plans for the addition, no drawings, no articles of agreement, have come down to the present. Even the customary insurance survey is missing. Yet in a way not unlike that experienced earlier, Franklin's correspondence is a ready source of knowledge. Reporting on the situation in September, he wrote:
Observed by Benjamin Rush, perhaps while acting as his own architect and building contractor, he offered an inspiring sight: "His faculties are still in their full vigor. He amuses himself daily in superintending two or three houses which he is building in the neighborhood of his dwelling house." 
Late in November he reported the addition as "nearly finished."  But the work was not moving fast, and a visitor on February 2 of the next year found in the "large room which was intended for the Doctor's museum and library he had gotten a fire in it to keep the plaistering from freezing."  By April 15 he reported himself moved in: "I have placed my library [in it] . . . where I can write without being disturbed by the noise of the children."  On April 22 he ordered a mirror "59 1/2 French Inches long, and 43 Inches wide."  Describing the house to sister Jane Mecom on May 30, he wrote:
Franklin's project of building did not stop here. No sooner had the Constitutional Convention broken up in 1787 before he had begun two other buildings, one a tenant house on Market Street on the remaining vacant front lot of his property, the other a printing shop for his grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache. It is probable that this last phase of building was productive of the house's last addition, the "adjoining brick building, completely furnished as a Bathing Room." (Illustration No. 19)  With that he was finished. On April 23, 1788, he announced himself "done Building."  A year later he still had not recovered financially: "I am now in real & great Want of Money (ready cash; he still had large assets)." 
So far as is known the house as remodelled met his every expectation. Visitors came away with an appealing picture of infirm sage and attentive daughter. Manasseh Cutler, visiting in 1787 remembered:
Franklin had borne out sister Jane Mecom's prediction that the house would "not only be an Amusement but . . . a sample of many Ingenious contrivances for others to Profit by in Future." 
But Franklin's strong and happy days were now growing few in number. Afflicted by stone, he sought relief in the bath house and finally laudanum.
Following his death the house went to the Baches. They did not use it much. After years of being poor relatives they spread their wings, travelling in England and spending their time in this country at Settle, the country home below Bristol, Pennsylvania, on the Delaware River. Perhaps after their years of "living in" with relatives the house had come to symbolize their dependence.
There followed a succession of tenants. From 1794 until 1799 it was the home of Chevalier de Friere, Portuguese minister to the United States. While in his tenancy it was scene of that decade's most talked about marriage of the daughter of Thomas McKean, later governor of Pennsylvania to the Marquis de Yrujo, Spanish minister to the United States.  By November 22, 1799, a Mrs. Hand had opened a boarding and lodging house there.  In 1801 the Philadelphia Academy announced that it had removed to the "Mansion House in Franklin Court."  By 1803 it had become the Franklin Coffee House and Hotel.  Sally Franklin Bache returned there to die in 1808.  Bache moved back in, sharing it after 1808 with the African Free School.  That institution was still in occupancy in 1812, up to the day when demolition began. The house, now a hopeless anachronism, not nearly worth the land beneath it, could offer no defense when the time came to divide Richard Bache's estate.
Last Updated: 30-Jun-2008