Built in 1765 by merchant and businessman Charles Stedman, this elegant Georgian brick mansion was purchased by Samuel Powel in 1769 at the time of his marriage to Elizabeth Willing. Samuel Powel, an important, educated man who had toured the Continent for seven years before settling down, served as the last mayor of Philadelphia under the Crown and was the first mayor of the city after the creation of the United States. Mayor Powel was later dubbed the "Patriot Mayor". Mayor Powel and his wife were well known for their hospitality and frequently entertained such notable guests as George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, and the Marquis de Lafayette.
During the early 20th century, the house served as a warehouse and office for a business that imported and exported Russian and Siberian horse hair and bristles. The owners had sold much of the interior architectural detail to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum. Little more than a shell, the building was slated for demolition and the site to be used for a parking lot. After learning of the imminent demolition, Miss Frances Wister formed The Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks (Landmarks) and raised sufficient funds to purchase the property in 1931. Over the next decade, Miss Wister and Landmarks restored the house to its appearance during Samuel Powel's residency, interpreting the daily lives of wealthy Philadelphians at the time of the American Revolution.
Today, the rich history of the Powel House may be seen in its decorative arts collection, its portraits of Powels and Willings, and its formal, walled garden so typical of Colonial Philadelphia. Its beautiful entryway, ballroom with bas-relief plasterwork, and mahogany wainscoting give the house its reputation as perhaps America's finest existing Georgian Colonial townhouse.