Germantown White House

Windsor chairs surround a round table near a fireplace.
The Germantown White House, home to President Washington during the yellow fever epidemic, 1793

NPS photo

 

Twice this house sheltered George Washington. In 1793, he took refuge here from the deadly yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia. The following summer, it was a welcome retreat from the heat of the capital city. Ironically, Washington's nemesis, British General William Howe, occupied this home during the Revolutionary War in October 1777. Also known as the Deshler-Morris House, the home gets it name from its first and last owners. David Deshler built the home beginning in 1752. Elliston P. Morris donated it to the National Park Service in 1948.

Today, the home has been restored to its 18th century appearance. Interactive exhibits in the nearby Bringhurst House provide a glimpse into the life of Washington and his household, including his enslaved servants. Planning a visit? The site has limited hours; please consult this visiting information.

 

Construction and Ownership
David Deshler constructed a four room summer cottage on this lot in 1752. Twenty years later, he added a three story, nine room addition to the front. Colonel Isaac Franks purchased this elegant home from the Deshler heirs in 1792. Colonel Franks rented this home to President Washington in the fall of 1793 and the summer of 1794. The house was later sold to Elliston and John Perot. In 1834, Elliston's son-in-law, Samuel Morris, purchased the home. In 1948, the Morris family donated the house to the National Park Service.

 
Executive Mansion
From November 16 - 30, 1793, President George Washington lived in this rented home while Philadelphia remained under quarantine for yellow fever. Washington met with his cabinet here, and together, they conducted the nation's business and addressed issues of foreign policy. The following summer, President Washington returned with his family to enjoy the expansive gardens and orchards in this "fine airy place".
 
Washington's Household
During the summer of 1794 Washington returned to the home, this time with servants and his family, including wife Martha and step grandchildren, in order to escape the summer heat of the city. The enslaved servants included Oney Judge, Austin, Moll, and Hercules. Moll attended to the grandchildren, Nelly and Young Wash. Oney Judge served as seamstress and personal servant to Martha Washington. Hercules prepared meals for the family. Martha raised flowers, the President posed for painter Gilbert Stuart, and the family attended the German Reformed Church across the square from their house.
 
A Divided Cabinet
Differences of opinion defined the four cabinet meetings here between November 16 and November 30, 1793. Attending were Thomas Jefferson (State), Alexander Hamilton (Treasury), Henry Knox (War) and Edmund Randolph (Attorney General). Much of the discussion centered on issues raised by the war between France and Britain. Hamilton maintained that the Constitution gave the President and the Senate the right to make treaties, including a treaty of neutrality, referring to Washington's "Neutrality Proclamation". Jefferson viewed the proclamation as an infringement on the Congress' power to declare war.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

143 S. 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Phone:

(215) 965-2305
Use this number to talk to a park ranger at the visitor center desk for park information. Park rangers are available for calls daily from 8:30am to 7pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During heavy visitation, park rangers are assisting other visitors and may not be able to answer the phone right away. For information about lodging and restaurants, contact the city concierge staff at 800-537-7676.

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