Historic Structures

Building Description Reynolds-Morris House, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

The Reynolds-Morris House is a 3 1/2 story brick structure with a low gabled roof and three pedimented dormers. The walls are Flemish bond with glazed headers, and two slightly projecting courses of bricks form decorative beltcourses at the second and third floor levels. A heavy modillioned cornice and molded gutter spouts form a frame for the almost square facade. Prominent stone lintels, deeply scored to resemble keystoned architraves of individual parts are placed above all the windows. These heavy elements of the facade are somewhat out of date for this period when the lighter, delicate Federal style was being generally used in the finer houses. If John Reynolds built his own house, this might account for the use of earlier fashion. Only the entrance, with its delicate mullioned fanlight, slender framing pilaster and small pediment suggests the later date of the house.

During the latter part of the nineteenth century and early twentieth, various additions were made to the house. The withdrawing room to the right of the entrance was deepened by the addition of a bay. This extension was carried across the rear of the house to provide space for a hall and bathroom. In the rear of the north wing the first room beyond the kitchen was originally an open loggia. The old kitchen with its open fireplace was inadequate for modern living, and a new pantry and kitchen were added at the end of the wing. Bedrooms were built on the second and third floors above the kitchen addition. A two car garage and a chauffer's room were built after the adjoining houses were torn down in 1914.

The interior plan of the Reynolds-Morris House is an outstanding example of the house constructed on a double lot. When a double lot was available, the front building developed into a mirror image of itself with a single hall in the middle, resulting in a plan similar to a country house. This type of plan is not common and the Morris House illustrates the luxurious result of a double lot on an urban dwelling.

Here the narrow center hall opens upon a garden. The large parlor on the right of the hall has a paneled chimney wall and a well scaled cornice with a Greek fret frieze which surrounds the room. The mantel has elaborate scrolls at either end supporting the shelf. A crossetted overmantel surmounts the fireplace. This design is repeated in the chimney wall of the library to the left of the hall. Modern bookshelves were installed in the parlor in the new addition which also has a large french window opening onto the garden.

During the restoration, old random-width floorboards were refinished and the pine doors were scraped to return them to their original mahogany stain, a frequent practice of the 18th and 19th century to imitate real mahogany. Additions to the mantels on the first and second floors were also removed, but were allowed to remain on the third floor where there was a danger of damaging the old wood. The wall paper was removed as was the first floor stair dado, believed to be of a later period. The garden surrounding the house is not in keeping with any historic period but provides a pleasant surrounding which does not disturb the integrity of the architecture to any greater degree than the initial destruction of the adjoining houses.