Gentleman-bricklayer John Morris used Flemish bond brickwork for the 18th century family home.
The Morris House Hotel has a modestly elegant presence, but a grand history.
“Look Up!” is a PlanPhilly feature that encourages appreciation of our architectural and historical environment. The photo essays focus on different Philadelphia areas and their distinctive building styles and details, all of which make up the physical fabric of the city and region.
If you didn’t know it was there, it would be easy to miss the Morris House Hotel. The Georgian manor blends into the historic Washington Square neighborhood, and from the old entrance at 225 South 8th Street it appears to be just another well-preserved 18th century residence.
Known to preservationists as the Reynolds-Morris House, it was built in 1786-87 by William Reynolds, a doctor, and his brother John, a bricklayer. John used Flemish bond brickwork for the façade, with string courses between the floors. The lintels with keystones and cornice medallions recall the Georgian era, though the Federal style was more popular in late-1700s Philadelphia.
The Reynolds sold the double-lot property to Luke Wistar Morris, son of Samuel, who captained the Continental Army’s First Troop of Philadelphia City Cavalry, and great-grandson of Anthony Morris, one of the city’s first mayors. The Morris family restored the north and south sides of the house in 1914. They also tore down an adjoining home and used the lot for a garden. The Morris family occupied the house for 120 years.
In 2006, it was transformed into the Morris House Hotel, a boutique inn with a lovely outdoor dining area in the former family garden. The grand entrance to the hotel is on tiny St. James Street.
The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1968.
Alan Jaffe writes about historic preservation issues for PlanPhilly and focuses on often overlooked built landscapes in his column, “Look Up!” He
was a writer and editor in the newspaper industry for nearly 30 years, including eight at the Philadelphia Inquirer and nine at the South Jersey Courier-Post. He is currently the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He is also an antiques writer and collector and the author of “J. Chein & Co.: A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker.”