The Merchantĺ─˘s Hotel was originally named the Washington Hotel in 1837 or 1838. While its design is mostly attributed to William Strickland, an 1838 lithograph from the Wainwright collection attributes its design to J. Wild. Its creation was a phenomenon at this time in Philadelphia. According to Daniel Griffen's "The Merchant's Hotel" , the hotel was erected as a ĺ─˙development of the railroad and canal route between Pittsburgh and Philadelphiaĺ─¨ and it was designed specifically to be used as a hotel. This was an extraordinary concept, since most hotels and inns in Philadelphia at the time were created by remodeling other buildings for hotel purposes.

The board of managers, comprised of local merchants and business owners, decided to make a remarkable hotel that was larger than the typical Philadelphia Inn and could accommodate more patrons. The idea was to appeal to a different customer, specifically merchants, thus strengthening the economic base of the entire neighborhood.

At its peak, The Merchantĺ─˘s Hotel was the place to stay when visiting Philadelphia. Although we could not find interior photos of the hotel at its prime, Alice George in ĺ─˙Old City Philadelphiaĺ─¨ states it ĺ─˙offered the most luxurious lodgings in townĺ─¨. The Philadelphia Inquirer from Febuary 10, 1966, states that ĺ─˙the place had an air of grandeur, with soft carpets and luxurious draperies and stuffed furniture.ĺ─¨ In addition, ĺ─˙itĺ─˘s food wine and liquors were among the best available in the city.ĺ─¨

The building itself was large, but we arenĺ─˘t sure of the exact dimensions. The Franklin Fire Insurance Company policy for the building in 1869 states that the building was 88 feet by 52 feet, while the 1963 HABS report (PA-1445) states that the building was 125ČŢ feet by 40 feet. The HABS report also states that the building had a service yard and stable. "Philadelphia Preserved" goes on to state that the building was 88 feet by 190 feet. Though the building dimensions are not clear, we can be certain that the hotel was very large.

ĺ─˙Philadelphia Preservedĺ─¨ states that the building was a brick building with marble trim. It had five stories, flat roof, colonnade at the ground story, recessed five bay balcony at the second story and a central hall plan. The architectural style of the hotel was Greek revival and was typical for the time.

The hotel was also located in one of the most ĺ─˙desirable locations in the cityĺ─¨, according to ĺ─˙Philadelphia: As It Is In 1852. Its popularity and great location is evident from the high status of its patrons. In 1839, the hotel hosted a banquet for then-President Martin Van Buren. Later in 1853, President-elect Franklin Pierce, en route to Washington, DC for his inauguration, stopped and made a speech from the balcony. James Buchanan ran his 1856 presidential campaign from the hotel. During these peak years, the Merchantĺ─˘s Hotel was certainly a popular and important establishment.

However, the Merchantĺ─˘s Hotel time in the spotlight was not long lasting. This could be inferred from its less than effusive listing in the 1868 ĺ─˙Guide to Philadelphiaĺ─¨ when it is compared to its competitors. The Continental Hotel could hold 700 guests and was said to be the ĺ─˙finest of the kind in the USĺ─¨, and the Girard Hotel, which could accommodate 500 guests, had several additional comforts for guests such as reading rooms and reception rooms. The Merchantĺ─˘s Hotel was listed simply has having the ĺ─˙advantage of good surroundingsĺ─¨ and having ĺ─˙a large open spaceĺ─¨. In fact, the Merchantĺ─˘s Hotel isnĺ─˘t even listed in ĺ─˙City of Philadelphia: As It Appears in the Year 1893.ĺ─¨ The Febuary 10, 1966 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, states that as more luxurious hotels began appearing in the city, the Merchantĺ─˘s Hotel gradually lost its prestige.ĺ─¨ The building was able to survive by ĺ─˙converting to a business establishment, the Merchant Building, catering to mercantile enterprises.ĺ─¨

The Merchantĺ─˘s Hotel was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 1956. During the 1950ĺ─˘s and early 1960ĺ─˘s, there was discussion of what should be done with the hotel. There are excerpts from the Philadelphia Historic Commission meetings showing that the city was trying to determine if there was a use for the hotel. The November 27, 1956 meeting minutes of the Commissionĺ─˘s meeting states that the hotel ĺ─˙will be demolished in favor of a parking lotĺ─¨, or possibly use it as a hotel. One month later, under the threat of demolition, the Historic Commission wanted to determine the plans of the City Planning Commission. The City Planning Commissioner, Edmund Bacon, was in the process of discussing converting the existing building into the Seamanĺ─˘s Institute. However, the minutes from the January 1957 meeting state that the City Planning Commission could find no suitable use for the building. The development discussion continued as The Redevelopment Authority announced that Shoyerĺ─˘s Restaurant, a local business on Arch Street, would be renovating its restaurant, which would ĺ─˙completely change the west side of 4th street. It seemed as if the Merchantĺ─˘s Hotel would be engulfed in this redevelopment, but, before this plan was realized, the hotel burned down in 1966.

The Mikveh Israel Synagogue moved to the location in 1976.

View of Merchant's Hotel as it appeared in "The Baxter Panoramic Business Directory, Est 1857" At the Free Library of Philadelphia in the Castner Collection , Philadelphia Vol . No. 12, "Streets 1"
From PA-1445 Original Door and Trim, Southeast Room, Second Floor
From PA-1445 Entrance Porch
From PA-1445 Staircase, to second floor, main stairhall
Sources:

Dainty, John. Guide to Philadelphia. 1868. Philadelphia.

George, Alice, L., Old City Philadelphia. 2003. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.

Griffen, Daniel H. The Merchant's Hotel. 1961. Philadelphia.

HABS No. PA-1445. 1962.

McManus, William and Taylor, Frank. City of Philadelphia: As It Appears in the Year 1893. Philadelphia: George Harris and Sons.

Peterson, Charles. Philadelphia Preserved. 1981. Philadelphia: Temple University Publishing.

Sinclair, Thomas. Philadelphia As It Is In 1852. 1852. Philadelphia: Lindsay And Blakiston Publishers