Built in 1765, the house on Philadelphia’s 3rd Street, called Powel House, is reputedly haunted. The three-story structure is a Georgian mansion replete with ballroom and built on what was once known as “Society Hill.” The home is historically significant as it was used as a gathering place and visited by many important figures throughout the American Revolutionary War.
The house was named after Samuel Powel, one of the mayors of Philadelphia. His time in office straddled the line at the edge of British rule of the colonies.
Powel bought the house in 1769 from Charles Stedman, who sold the house to Powel in an attempt to rectify financial problems that eventually led him to debtors’ prison.
Powel took ownership and moved in with his bride, Elizabeth Willing Powel. It was their home until Samuel’s death in 1793 and the two were said to be inseparable, acting more like friends than man and wife. The couple lost three children during their marriage and left this world childless.
Friends of the Patriots
The Powel’s were high-society folk whose circle of friends included politicians and dignitaries. They held parties and social events at their home which is how historical figures like George Washington and John Adams come into the picture.
The couple was considered a confidant by many of their friends, including President Washington. Since the American Revolution was at hand, many important conversations undoubtedly took place there.
Besides John Adams, and George and Martha Washington, some of the other guests included Marquis de LaSalle and Benedict Arnold. These last two have been named as spirits encountered in the house. There has also been a young woman seen there, but it is uncertain who she could be.
Marquis de LaSalle
As you can probably tell by the title, Marquis de LaSalle was French. He owned property in France but also befriended the Patriots for the American Revolution, which he did mainly out of protest to his own government. He was good friends with the Powel’s and dined and danced with them, most likely in the ballroom at Powel House. He died years after the war in France, due to pneumonia or complications thereof.
Benedict Arnold’s name is synonymous with betrayal. He began his role in the Revolution as an American officer in the military, but defected and became part of the British Army. He actually attacked the troops he once led in battle. This made him an enemy in America. Prior to his disgrace, he was a trusted officer under George Washington and visited the Powel House in that guise. It was later that he committed treason. When he died in London at the age of 60, he was nowhere near Powel House.
Samuel Powel died as a result of Yellow Fever, contracted during an epidemic in Philadelphia. It is speculated that the young woman whose apparition has been seen in the house, may have been a victim of the yellow fever epidemic that struck Philadelphia at the time the house was in its heyday.
Strangely, though, despite having been reported as haunting Powel House, the Marquis and Benedict Arnold did not die there. Perhaps they were feeling war stress while visiting Powell House and their mood left a psychic mark on the space.
Currently, Powel House is a museum and is open during specific times of the year for public tours. It is also available for rent for special occasions such as weddings. You can check it out at:
244 South 3rd Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106