Makeover Nearly Complete for Nonexistent Old City Home

The most famous house not standing in Philadelphia is almost ready to receive visitors again as the reconstruction of Franklin Court in Old City has moved above ground.

Work began on the $21 million restoration of the Independence National Historical Park museum memorializing the only home Ben Franklin ever built in October 2011. We were able to grab some shots of the construction work on a recent stroll down Chestnut Street, where one of the two entrances to Franklin Court is located.

The “ghost houses” – Robert Venturi’s imaginative approach to evoking structures for which no physical evidence save their foundations survive – only need a fresh coat of paint. The real work has largely taken place below ground, where dated 1970s exhibits have been replaced, leaky ceilings have been repaired and the structure brought back to a state of good repair.

Photo: K. Clappa for GPTMC

Photo: K. Clappa for GPTMC

Judging from the fresh copper cladding on the museum entrance, the reconstruction – which accounted for $9.5 million of the $21 million project budget – is just about complete, which means that Franklin Court should be on track for a summer reopening.

The makeover was financed through a public-private partnership involving the National Park Service, the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the William Penn Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Independence Visitor Center and philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest.

The structures Franklin built that still stand – a row of houses in the 300 block of Market Street dating to 1786 – remained open throughout the reconstruction project.