John Cadwalader House
2nd and Spruce Streets
Prior to the American Revolution, tension between colonial merchants and the English Parliament heightened after the British crown suggested tightening control over colonial trade. Parliament began passing a series of taxation laws, including the Stamp Act, which threatened the livelihood of colonial importers, including Philadelphia’s John Cadwalader. Ironically, Cadwalader’s house on Second Street would be used as a British general’s headquarters during the ensuring war.
John Cadwalader became one of the most prominent revolutionaries during the War of Independence. Prior to the colonial rebellion, Cadwalader established a small business in Philadelphia with his brother Lambert, importing dry goods. After Cadwalader’s business flourished, he married Elizabeth “Betsy” Lloyd. As a wedding gift to the newlyweds, Betsy’s father, Colonel Edward Lloyd bought the couple a house on the west side of Second Street and Spruce Street.
After the couple settled in their new home, they began to furnish their home with extravagate tapestry and artwork. In 1772, the Betsy and John asked Charles Willson Peale to paint a series of family portraits to be hung throughout Cadwalader’s luxurious mansion. As the patriotic uprising intensified, Cadwalader closed his business and became highly involved in politics. Later that year, Betsy’s father, Colonel Lloyd invited John Cadwalader to visit George Washington in Virginia. During the trip, Cadwalader and Washington developed a friendship as they discussed their opinions of the Acts of Parliament. At the height of the colonial rebellion, Cadwalader became a member of the Philadelphia Committee of Superintendence and Correspondence and enlisted in the Continental Army.
In October 1774, he rallied up eighty-four men and assembled the “Silk Stocking Company.” Cadwalader transformed his home into a military training camp to prepare the volunteers for battle. Following the Battle of Lexington, he served under General Washington, as well as colonel of the Third Battalion of the Philadelphia Association of Volunteers. The following year, Cadwalader was elected a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly and attended the Pennsylvania State constitutional convention. He was ready to fight for the patriotic cause, assembled his battalion, and awaited orders from General Washington.
Once Congress heard the British defeated George Washington’s army at the Battle of Brandywine and the Battle of the Clouds, many local residents and members of Congress abandoned their homes and fled the city. After the Redcoats’ victory, General Howe seized Philadelphia and took control of the city. Howe then spent the rest of the winter living in Cadwalader’s family mansion on Second Street. Though the Americans were victorious and secured their independence, much of Philadelphia’s rural-landscape was in shambles from the war, many homes in Society Hill, including Cadwalader’s mansion, were still standing. However, today, the house that once sheltered John Cadwalader and General Howe is no longer. Yet, it is worthwhile to note that the plot on Second Street has great historical significance to the birth of America.