Morris House Hotel

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Discover Morris House Hotel, which was once the home to the prominent Morris family in the years following the American Revolution.

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Morris House Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2022, dates back to 1787.


Morris House Hotel, built in 1787 and a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2022, was designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark in 1967. The history of this renowned institution is fascinating, as it harkens back to the very founding of America. In the years following the Treaty of Paris, architect John Reynolds decided to build a new home in what was then the outskirts of Philadelphia. Reynolds subsequently enlisted the help of his brother, William, and two set about constructing a gorgeous, three-and-a-half-story townhouse on a small plot of land along 8th Street. The two brothers used the finest brick and woodwork to create the home’s stunning façade. Sash windows appeared throughout the exterior, which was centered on a beautiful front entrance that the Reynolds had framed with pilasters and a half-round transom. An ornately designed gabled roof also topped the structure, as well as numerous pedimented dormers. Inside, John and William created each room using Flemish bonding and a series of projecting stringcourses. As such, the entire building was hailed as an architectural masterpiece when construction concluded in 1787. The Reynolds family quickly moved into the building and lived inside it for years. From their new home, they watched the nascent United States grow all around them. Philadelphia itself functioned as the nation’s first capital and many of the young federal government’s offices were only a few minutes down the road. Some of the Founding Fathers had temporary dwellings nearby, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, Washington—now serving as the country’s first president—would often pass by on trips from the President’s House, his official residence in town.

Unfortunately, the Reynolds family encountered significant financial trouble toward the end of the 1790s. The crisis had specifically materialized after several of John Reynolds’ real estate investments had gone bankrupt. Now ruined, John was forced to sell the home to a widow named Ann Dunkin in 1796. But in 1817, a new tenant came to own the building—Luke Wistar Morris. He was the progeny of the prominent Morris family, which had been influential in Pennsylvania politics since the late 17th century. Morris himself was the son of Samuel Morris, a renowned local Patriot who had led the First Troop of Philadelphia City Cavalry during the American Revolutionary War. Formed from the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club (which Samuel Morris had also created), the outfit served with distinction at the battles of Trenton and Princeton. George Washington himself had even praised the elder Morris’ leadership, as well as his unit’s overall effectiveness in combat. Luke Wistar Morris and his descendants went on to live inside the mansion for generations, gradually restoring the structure over the decades that followed. Nevertheless, the Morris family eventually sold the structure in 1967. (Their descendants still visit the building today, though!) It then passed among various proprietors, until it finally fell into the ownership of the Lefevre and DiPaolo families during the early 21st century. They then initiated a massive renovation that thoroughly restored the structure’s historical architecture, while also turning it into a brilliant boutique hotel. Debuting as the “Morris House Hotel” in 2004, the site has since emerged as one of Philadelphia’s most luxurious holiday destinations. Cultural heritage travelers in particular have adored its historic character, spectacular services, and proximity to countless attractions.

  • About the Location +

    Also called the “City of Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia has always been one of the America’s leading communities. (Its name is actually a Greek translation of that very phrase.) The city possesses a captivating history that is deeply connected to the very founding of the nation. Philadelphia was originally developed following William Penn’s establishment of Pennsylvania Colony toward the end of the 17th century. Penn himself created the settlement through a land grant that King Charles II of England had given him as payment for a debt owed to his family. He specifically hoped that Philadelphia would serve as a refuge for Quakers and other religious minorities in Great Britain, who were regularly persecuted. Landing in the area in 1681, Penn subsequently purchased the future site of Philadelphia from a local tribe of Lenape Native Americans. He then quickly set about designing Philadelphia’s first street grids, which were crafted to allow for space between every residence and commercial structure. Penn yearned for Philadelphia to resemble a quaint country village, rather than a sprawling urban centers commonly seen back in England at the time. Unfortunately for Penn though, Philadelphia rapidly transformed into a major city! Indeed, Penn’s messaging about Philadelphia (and Pennsylvania) being a bastion of religious tolerance galvanized many throughout western and northern Europe to settle inside the town. Buildings soon towered over one another as its population swelled to 10,000 people in just a matter of decades. Now a metropolis, the presence of so many different demographics within Philadelphia gave it a unique distinctiveness that was rarely encountered elsewhere in British America. This unprecedented diversity also spawned an incredibly vibrant local economy that turned Philadelphia into a major hub for trade and manufacturing. Soon enough, Philadelphia’s docks were shipping hundreds of goods to the English (and later British) settlements in the Caribbean.

    Philadelphia evolved into one of the most important ports in the entire British Empire, second only to London and Liverpool. Its prosperity eventually elevated it to the status of British America’s cultural capital for most of the 18th century, too. Thanks to residents like Benjamin Rush, David Rittenhouse, and Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia soon became the location for numerous educational institutions. Franklin himself directly founded two of the most renowned organizations—the American Philosophical Society and the Academy and College of Philadelphia (known today as the “University of Pennsylvania.”) The city also boasted two dozen newspapers, as well as public facilities like a library, a hospital, and even a few museums. But Philadelphia continued to function as Pennsylvania’s colonial capital as well, with its representatives—picked from the local populace—serving inside the Pennsylvania State House. The structure would later become better known as “Independence Hall,” after a number of its attending dignitaries—including Benjamin Franklin—began to organize the American Revolution. Working alongside a number of other Patriots from across the Thirteen Colonies, these revolutionaries eventually met at Independence Hall to help host both the First and Second Continental Congresses. (The First Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, while the Second ran the nascent United States during the revolution.) Several battles were even fought in the vicinity of Philadelphia during the subsequent American Revolutionary War, with the British occupying the city for a while following the Battle of Brandywine in 1777. Many of those same patriots gathered at Independence Hall for a final time to join the Constitutional Convention, which occurred a few years after the conflict had ended. The event was a monumental moment in American history, as it eventually created the U.S. Constitution!

    After serving as the nation’s first capital during the late 1700s, Philadelphia began to gradually lose its status as the nation’s preeminent city. Philadelphia nonetheless remained incredibly influential throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. It became a hotbed for the northern antislavery politics before the American Civil War, as well as the national suffragette movement in the Gilded Age. Philadelphia was also one of the main areas that experienced rapid industrialization amid the Second Industrial Revolution, with countless financiers and entrepreneurs opening their own factories in many neighborhoods. This economic vitality would last for generations and would aid the nation through some of its most harrowing experiences. (For instance, Philadelphia’s shipbuilding industry provided integral munitions to the United States Navy in both World Wars I and II.) Today, Philadelphia has since maintained its prestigious status as a prominent American community. In fact, it hosts five Fortune 1000 businesses and an economy that creates almost $500 billion in gross domestic product annually. Philadelphia subsequently continues to attract people from all around the world, which has made it the sixth most populous city in the whole United States. Even more individuals travel to Philadelphia every year to discover its rich cultural identity. Indeed, its history can be experienced at such renowned sites like the Museum of the American Revolution, the National Constitution Center, and the Betsy Ross House. One of the greatest locations is Independence National Historic Park, which is a massive complex that includes Independence Hall and the iconic Liberty Bell. (Additional destinations that allure many visitors include the Eastern State Penitentiary, the Philadelphia Art Museum, and Elfreth’s Alley.) Even more famous historical sites reside just beyond the city’s borders, such as Valley Forge National Historical Park. Truly few other cities in the world can rival the great history that defines Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

  • About the Architecture +

    The façade of the Morris House Hotel features some of the finest Georgian-style architecture in all of Philadelphia. Georgian architecture itself is among the most predominant forms in both the British Isles and North America. Its name is a reference to its origins, having first appeared during the reign of King George I in the early 1700s. The style would remain popular in Great Britain for the next several decades, before petering out around the death of his distant relative, George IV. But while the form’s moniker refers to Hanoverian monarchs, they actually had little to do with its spread. Instead, the work of great English architects Inigo Jones, James Gibbs, and Christopher Wren significantly established what would become known as the “Georgian” style. Inspired by the Roman architectural elements of antiquity, professionals like Jones, Gibbs, and Wren began to integrate it into their own blueprints. Most of those early architects specifically embraced the great Andrea Palladio’s earlier interpretations of Classical architecture, which first manifested at the height of the Italian Renaissance. As such, the first iteration of Georgian-style architecture was known as “Palladianism,” which encouraged proportion and symmetry based on exact mathematical ratios. Palladianism also embraced Palladio’s strict use of Roman-era stylistic themes. But architects across the United Kingdom began to loosen their observance of Palladio’s treatises as the 18th century progressed. Those artisans began to look more directly at the ancient buildings they sought to emulate, giving rise to the more ubiquitous Classic Revival (or “Neoclassical”) architecture. Nevertheless, the style remained immensely popular, even spreading across the Atlantic to greatly influence the British Empire’s American and Canadian colonies. In fact, the Americans created their own unique spinoff of Georgian architecture in the wake of the American Revolutionary War, which they called “Federal” or “Adams” style.

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