Philadelphia is a city that is positively overflowing with history -- the Liberty Bell and her famous crack, Independence Hall, the signing of our country’s most precious documents and the birth of a new, independent nation. And that’s just the beginning. There is a story waiting in every cobblestone, every painted shutter, and the house museums listed here help to relay those stories to this day.
Historic House Museums
Betsy Ross House
There’s some debate over Ms. Ross and that fateful flag, but believers maintain if she did indeed sew the first stars and stripes, this is the house where the historic moment would have taken place.
Built between 1763 and 1767, this Georgian country house is a National Trust property. The home covers two centuries of Chew family history and is decorated with 18th and 19th century furnishings.
Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion
The two floors of this home represent two different time periods -- the 1860 period when the Maxwell’s resided there and the 1880 time period after the Philadelphia centennial celebration.
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site
Edgar Allen Poe’s years in Philadelphia were some his most productive as a writer. His humble home is a fine example of how absolute genius can come from any environment.
Fairmount Park Historic Houses
Some of the most wealthy Philadelphians once made their homes on the banks of the Schuykill River but that all changed following the 1822 completion of the Fairmount Dam. The swampy conditions the dam created were a breeding ground for typhoid carrying mosquitos and the grand homes were left abandoned.
The mansions here include Cedar Grove, an 18th century Quaker farmhouse; Laurel Hill, a Federal style house with an octagonal drawing room; Lemon Hill, which is widely considered a masterpiece of 19th century architecture; Mount Pleasant, a home outfitted with Chippendale style furnishings; and Woodford Mansion, which houses a collection of Colonial housewares.
Historic Bartram’s Garden
Home to Colonial botanist John Bartram, the man who Thomas Jefferson turned to for guidance in his own garden. The house has been renovated to mimic its appearance in the 1700s.
Bishop White House
Rumored to be haunted, this 18th century house was the home of Pennsylvania’s first Episcopal bishop. The restored house contains many articles that are original to the property.
George Washington didn’t just sleep here once, he did so twice -- in the autumn of 1793 and again in the summer of 1794. The house, which is the oldest official presidential residence, was built in 1772 and is outfitted with period furnishings.
Before the marriage that made her a First Lady, Dolley Madison lived here when she was still Dolley Payne Todd. She would go on to marry James Madison and move to the Madison family estate in Virginia. Todd House is reflective of Philadelphia’s middle class in the 18th century.
This Revolutionary War era mansion is stocked with period furnishings and includes a garden as well. It was the townhouse of “Patriot Mayor” Samuel Powel.
Best known as the location of George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War, the mansion was built in 1830 to be the country home of James Logan, colonial Mayor of Philadelphia and Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Wyck Garden & Farm
Here lies a story not often told so completely within the walls of one home. Wyck was home to nine generations of one Philadelphia Quaker family. The Wistars and Haines owned it from 1689 to 1973 and the original furnishings throughout tell their 300-year story.
Woodmere Art Museum
This 19th century Victorian mansion-turned-art museum is located in Philadelphia’s historic Chestnut Hill section. It places special focus on local art and artists.
Protecting Philly’s Past
Now that Philadelphia’s built history is on your mind, the following organizations will offer ways for you to tour historic properties and to get involved and become a part of the city’s historic future as well.
Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia: a non-profit, membership organization whose mission is “to promote the appreciation, protection and revitalization of the Philadelphia region’s historic buildings, communities and landscapes.”
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission: among the duties of the State Commission is to review nominations to the National Register of Historic Places.
National Trust for Historic Preservation - Northeast Field Office: serving Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, the private, non-profit organization encourages public participation in preservation and provides limited financial assistance through grants and loans.
The Athenaeum of Philadelphia: here you’ll find an extensive collection of architectural plans and drawings by noted Philadelphia architects.