The Declaration House (Graff House)
In June of 1776, Thomas Jefferson was part of a Virginia delegation
that planned to ask the Second Continental Congress to sever its ties
from Great Britain. While that historic body was meeting, Jefferson was
assigned to a committee that was asked to write a declaration which
enumerated the causes that led to that severance.
Finding his lodging in the heart of the city uncomfortable, he removed
to the rooms of Jacob Graff. Graff was a well-known bricklayer who had
built his house on the outskirts of town but a year before Jefferson
arrived. It's probable that Jefferson had to pay a little extra for the
rooms as they came furnished. The Graffs lived in the house while
Jefferson undertook his task. Situated on the outskirts of town,
surrounded by fields and a stable across the street, the house provided
Jefferson with the space and distance from the city he needed for his
Working from the Virginia Constitution as well as an extensive
knowledge of political theory Jefferson wrote the document in under
three weeks. An author at heart, Jefferson squirmed in resentment as
the document was redacted during the final week of June 1776 by his
fellow delegates to the Second Continental Congress.
The Declaration house exhibit includes a recreation of the two rooms
Jefferson rented on the second floor. In it, one sees Jefferson's
bedchamber including a tiny bed that makes it hard to imagine how the
gangly Jefferson slept at night. One of the only original items in the
exhibition is a key to a desk in the bedroom. Jefferson entertained
other members of the Congress in the sitting room.
The original structure was torn down in 1883. Photographs of the site
enabled the National Park Service to build a rather faithful recreation
of the original building.
house was once owned by Hyman and Simon Gratz. Their sister, Rebecca,
is said to be the inspiration for Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe" and
Jefferson complained about the houseflies from the stable across the street while writing the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson had an account at the City Tavern while writing the Declaration.
The site became among other things a print shop and a Tom Thumb diner.
Independence Hall Association (owners of ushistory.org) led the efforts
to have the Declaration House rebuilt in 1975 for the Bicentennial.
7th and Market Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1975 from old photos
Jacob Graff, bricklayer
Books and site-appropriate items for sale, bathrooms, benches.
No products have been assigned to this category.