GW: In the News

Slide 2 — GW Underground: New Archaeological Finds in Philadelphia

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Rebecca Yamin (left) and Jed Levin of the archaeology firm John Milner Associates stand near the foundation of an 18th-century icehouse. Photo by Michael S. Wirtz, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff.

Washington took office as the first president under the Constitution in New York City in 1789, but he was to remain in that city little more than a year. After much debate, Congress finally agreed that a new capitol would be located in the southern section of the country. Another part of the compromise was that while the "federal city" along the Potomac River was under construction, the government would operate from Philadelphia, earlier scene of two Continental Congresses and the Constitutional Convention.

President Washington arrived in Philadelphia at the end of November 1790 and remained until the end of his second term in 1797. The federal government operated there until 1800, disrupted only in the late summer of 1793, when an epidemic of yellow fever swept through the city and killed thousands.

Recently, in their excavations of the Independence Mall area in Philadelphia, archaeologists unearthed a link to George Washington. While the mansion that GW rented during his presidency no longer exists, the "ice house" on the site has been found. Not only did the first family store large blocks of ice in this underground "freezer," but we have evidence that Washington had already admired it enough to ask for more information. Six years before he moved into the house in Philadelphia, GW had written owner Robert Morris for details on the construction of the ice house. Apparently, the one at Mount Vernon wasn't working so well.

Additional Resources

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