Duche's House

South Third Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Built in 1767, for Rev. Jacob Duché (1737-1798) and his wife Elizabeth Hopkinson (1738-1797) as a present from Jacob's father, the Mayor of Philadelphia. It was said to have been modelled after one of the wings at Lambeth Palace (the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury). Located on the south side of Third and Pine, it was diagonally opposite from Duché's church, St. Peter's, although it was insinuated that the eccentric - and somewhat vain - pastor spent more time having his hair "curled and powdered" than tending to his flock! Mrs Duché was the sister of Francis Hopkinson - signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and designer of the flag of the United States - but she and her husband were Loyalists and fled to England at the end of 1777....

This house is best associated with...

Jacob Duché

Rev. Dr Jacob Duché, D.D., of Christ Church & St. Peter's Philadelphia


Elizabeth (Hopkinson) Duché

Mrs Elizabeth (Hopkinson) Duché


Thomas McKean

U.S. Founding Father, Chief Justice & 2nd Governor of Pennsylvania


Sarah (Armitage) McKean

Mrs Sarah (Armitage) McKean


Joseph Borden McKean

Judge Joseph B. McKean, Attorney-General of Pennsylvania


Hannah Miles

Mrs Hannah (Miles) McKean


During the British occupation of Philadelphia between 1777 and 1778, Duché's house was used as a military hospital. Once the City had been relieved, Duché's property was duly confiscated and in 1780 the Executive Council sold the, "large and splendid house in the Elizabethan style" for £7,750 (plus a ground rent of 232.5 bushels of wheat) to Chief Justice Thomas McKean, 2nd Governor of Pennsylvania, whose first wife (Mary Borden) was the sister of Mrs Francis Hopkinson. But, despite their familial connection, McKean and Hopkinson detested one another and their ill-will boiled over into a very public feud in 1779 - and only exacerbated when McKean was given residency of the Duché house.

The property included a coach house and stables and its gardens stretched north to south from Union to Pine Street. Architecturally, the house was described as, "three stories high with a roof addition... decorated with urns and a railing; it had a centre building and two small wings with gables in front. A central dormer-window, decorated with scrolls, assimilated with the gables on either side." The house had a depth of 30-feet and at either end of the long hall hung the portraits by Peale of McKean with his son, and his wife Sarah with their daughter, Maria. The house was noted for the number of bedrooms on the third floor and its, "large, ornate living room, well suited to entertaining". McKean was quick to take on his new role of "lord of the manor," filling the house with furniture made by the city's leading artisans and china displaying his family crest.

After the Revolution, Duché apologized profusely to Washington for trying to convince him while he was Chaplain to the Continental Congress that the Declaration of Independence had been a mistake, and he pleaded with the President not to interfere with his return. Washington - after a meeting with him - allowed Duché back to Philadelphia in 1792. However, he was given no employment and his home was not returned to him.

Thomas McKean lived here until his death in 1817 when he willed the property to his eldest son, Judge Joseph Borden McKean, although its reputation as "the Governor's House" stuck with it until the end. Judge McKean lived here with his family until he died in 1826 and the house was demolished by 1830, replaced by a row of brick houses.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 06/04/2021 and last updated on 18/04/2021.


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