Brief timeline of the President's House Site
1767–1772: Mary Lawrence Masters Residence
In 1767, Mary Lawrence Masters initiates construction on the property that would come to be known as the President's House. In 1772, Mrs. Master's eldest daughter Polly marries Richard Penn, grandson of William Penn and lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. The house is given to the young couple as a wedding present.
1772–1775: Richard and Polly Penn Residence
The Penns live in the house for only about three years. In 1775, shortly before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Richard Penn is asked to present the First Continental Congress's grievances to King George III personally in the form of the "Olive Branch Petition." The Penns spend the duration of the war in England.
1777–1778: General Sir William Howe Headquarters
In September 1777, British forces under General Sir William Howe occupy Philadelphia after the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. General Howe makes the Masters-Penn house his winter residence and headquarters while Washington and his troops retreat to Valley Forge. In June 1778, the British evacuate Philadelphia and consolidate their forces in New York.
1778–1779: Benedict Arnold Residence
Colonial forces enter Philadelphia under the command of Major-General Benedict Arnold. Arnold promptly makes the Masters-Penn House his residence and headquarters. In March 1779, Arnold resigns his post and two months later, while still living in the house, he begins his treasonous correspondence with the British.
1779–1790: Robert Morris Residence
In January 1780, the house is severely damaged by fire, and is subsequently purchased and rebuilt by Robert Morris, the famed "Financier of the Revolution." Morris rebuilds the house to its original plan, enlarges the property, and adds an icehouse and several back buildings.
1790–1800: Washington and Adams Executive Mansion
In 1790, Robert Morris volunteers his house to serve as President Washington's residence while Philadelphia temporarily serves as the nation's capital. Washington occupies the property from November 1790 to March 1797, during which time his household includes nine enslaved Africans brought up from Mount Vernon. He also makes several enlargements and modifications to the house and back buildings, including the addition of a slave quarters between the kitchen and stables.
John Adams succeeds Washington as President and moves into the President's House in March 1797. Adams leaves Philadelphia in 1800 and moves into the newly completed White House in Washington D.C. on November 1.
1800–1832: Francis's Union Hotel
After Adam's departure, the President's House is converted into the Francis's Union Hotel, and subsequently into a boardinghouse and a series of commercial storefronts.
1832–1935: Commercial Transformation
In 1832, the building is demolished and rebuilt as a series of three narrow stores. Only the east and west walls of the original house are left standing, and are incorporated into the later commercial buildings.
In 1935, the later commercial properties are themselves demolished, although remnants of the original east and west walls of the President's House survive until the early 1950s. In 1951, the entire block is razed for the construction of Independence Mall, and the last surviving above ground components of the house are finally destroyed. In 1954, as part of the Mall plan, a public toilet is built within the footprint of the house—likely damaging any subsurface remnants of the foundations—and remains in place until 2003.