Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

He was the first of that group of foreign officers to offer his services in the cause of American liberty, and his labors earned him the reputation as the best military engineer that George Washington had. He was one of the first men of consequence in the colonies to shout for the freedom and education of black slaves, and in a will that was later broken, he left money to free and educate black slaves. He wrote the first book on horse artillery in the United States, one which was widely used during the 19th century. And yet, General Thaddeus Kosciuszko (Kos-choos-ko) has all but been left out of the history books.

Kosciuszko was 30 when he arrived in the Colonies in June of 1776. He was commissioned a colonel and joined the staff of Major General Horatio Gates. Kosciuszko’s dazzling engineering feats under Gates turned the tide in the American Revolution at the Battle of Saratoga when Burgoyne’s army destroyed itself on Kosciuszko’s fortifi­cations there.

George Washington considered West Point, on the Hudson, the most important point of defense in the Colonies and ordered Kosciuszko to fortify it. Beginning in March of 1778, and for the next 28 months, Kosciuszko worked and created what came to be considered “The American Gibraltar.” Strategic though it was, the British never even dared to attack it. For these successes, Kos­ciuszko was named Chief Engineer of the American Army of the South, under Nathaniel Greene.

His close friends, Thomas Jefferson and George Washing­ton, praised his talents and his character to the skies. Gates and he remained close friends throughout their lives. For six long years, Kosciuszko fought the war for independence, taking not one furlough, and drawing no more than a total of a few months pay.

After the American Revolution, Kosciuszko returned to his native Poland seeking to restore that country as a free state. The fight in America had but whet the appetite of this son of liberty. Unfortunately, in 1792, the Russians crushed that revolution. Kosciuszko fought on in an under­ground resistance movement, but in 1794 was captured and imprisoned. After two years he was freed on the con­dition that he never return to Poland. For his valor and his charisma he was touted as a romantic hero, and Keats, Coleridge and Byron all wrote about him. A novel with him as the central figure was widely read in Europe in the 19th Century.

Kosciuszko returned to America in 1797, landing at Philadelphia on August 18. He and his party were advised by Dr. Benjamin Rush to flee – a yellow fever epidemic had just taken hold of the city. They did so on August 30 and were gone three months, visiting General Gates and others of his wartime friends.

In November of 1797, Kosciuszko, his friend, Julian Niemcewicz, Polish author and statesman, and a servant returned to Philadelphia.

With the assistance of Dr. Rush, they found the inexpensive and remote lodgings they sought. It was a small brick house at Third and Pine Streets, run as a rooming house by a widow named Ann Relf “where students and a few others shared common lodging.” These were, for the most part, medical students, students who probably ministered to the ailing Kosciuszko, who still suffered from wounds received during the fight for Polish independence, years before. The three moved in on November 29 and were to stay for nearly six months.

This house on the northwest corner of Third and Pine Streets, in which. Kosciuszko chose to dwell, was built in 1775 by a carpenter named Joseph Few on land acquired from a Jacob Duche. Two houses were built on the 29 1/2 x 40 foot property as speculative ventures in the rapidly ex­panding Philadelphia area. Few sold the houses in Novem­ber, 1776, shortly after their completion, to a prosperous retired sailor by the name of William Allison. Allison already owned a number of properties in Philadelphia and these two were added to his holdings as real estate investments. Mrs. Ann Relf rented the corner half of the twin houses from Allison during the 1790’s and operated there the boarding house in which Kosciuszko came to live.

After 1810, when the properties were sold by the Allison heirs, the properties had separate owners for 30 years. In 1841, the properties were brought back into common ownership, a condition which was to endure for nearly a century.

The house we see today on the corner at 301 Pine Street is a restoration of the shell which stood there until a few years ago: the house having been much modified during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first floor through the years had been used variously as a doctor’s office, a dentist’s office, a barber shop, and as a tavern. To suit these purposes, original brick had been removed and a store front with bulk windows had been installed. The original en­trance to the house had been moved from Pine Street to the southeast corner of the building, and the original open­ing had been bricked in, and 1846 insurance survey shows us. The stairway had been moved from the center of the building and rebuilt near the back wall. The second floor, which had consisted of two rooms, was converted into one room and a passage. The cellar, according to the 1846 survey, now contained a kitchen, a dining room, and a bake oven. Sometime in the second half of the 19th Cen­tury a two-story bathhouse was built at the back or west end of the building, and sometime before 1878 a doorway was cut in the second-floor party wall, connecting the Kosciuszko House with its twin. That door was closed up by 1884.

Recognizing the historic value of the house, Edward Pinkowski purchased it in 1967. An historian and a member of the Philadelphia Historical Commission, Pinkowski was able to prove that 301 Pine Street had indeed been Kosciuszko’s 1797-98 residence in Philadelphia.

For a number of reasons, though, Pinkowski was not successful in having the house receive the Congressional recognition it needed to be preserved, restored and desig­nated a National Memorial. This challenge remained for Edward J. Piszek, a Philadelphia businessman, who purchased the property from Pinkowski in 1970. The house, an eyesore in an otherwise lovely and restored part of old Phila­delphia, had been scheduled for demolition when Piszek stepped in. Piszek later also purchased the twin house attached to it. Because of the relatively small size of the Kosciuszko House, he knew that a memorial of any scope would need this additional square footage. Too, the twin was historically significant, since it was built at the same time as the corner house.

After Piszek purchased the property, he went to Wash­ington and began his long campaign to save the Kosciuszko House and have it designated a National Memorial.

He was able to have the order to demolish the house stayed, pending an investigation by the National Park Service, and then began enlisting assistance and support from all quarters.

Senate Bill 1973 was written and introduced, and hear­ings were held in Washington in 1972 before the Ninety­Second Congress. The National Park Service Advisory Board had recommended against the establishment of the Kosciuszko home as a National Historic Site for several technical reasons, but many senators and representatives disagreed with this decision and rallied round the issue. Henry Jackson, Richard Schweiker, Hugh Scott, and Edmund Muskie from the U.S. Senate spoke at the hear­ings. U. S. Representatives Annunzio, Byrne and Pucinski were also on hand to fight to save the house.

After several years of coaxing, writing, listening and speaking, the bill to designate the house a National Memo­rial was passed. But then, it is one thing to have the des­ignation established and another to have the necessary monies allotted to carry through the project. It was U.S. Representative Minish of New Jersey and U. S. Representa­tive Annunzio of Illinois who fought the House Appropria­tions Committee and came up with the funding. Without their assistance, those interested in the Kosciuszko House might still be waiting to begin the restoration.

The Park Service people charged with planning and supervising the restoration of the Kosciuszko House were fortunate in that there was a plethora of documents available which showed the evolution of the house from the 18th to the 20th Century.

A fire insurance survey from March of 1775, the year in which the houses were completed, notes, among other things, that all the carpentry work had been done with the exception of a part of the first floor, and it states that the outside of the house had been painted. Another sketchy survey was done seven years later.

Most of the data needed for restoration purposes was gotten from a fire insurance inspector who visited the house in 1796 and wrote a description and drew a sketch of it. In general terms he describes the three-storied house with two rooms to a floor and the kinds of woodwork in the building. He drew a plan sketch of the house, complete enough to include the back yard and the position of the yard gate and then goes on to locate and measure the privy for us and the back door to the house. He positions the front, or south, door on the long facade, the Pine Street side of the house. He gives us the location of the windows, including those in the cellar, and even the cellar door. His precision was such that his measurement of the outside dimensions of the house are within a couple of inches of what contemporary architects measured it to be: 30′ 7″ x 14′ 8 2/3″. Historians and architects believe this survey reflects the original plan of the building in 1775.

Surveys performed in 1835, 1841, 1846, 1853, 1865, 1878, and 1884 show us substantive and superficial changes made to the building in the 19th Century. We are sure that no major changes occurred in the 20th Century, with the exception of bricking up the corner, or store, entrance where the south and east walls meet, and moving it to the west end of the south, or Pine Street, wall. Other changes were in matters of electrification and in plumbing improvements.

Specific determinations had to be made concerning the restoration of the structure. It was decided to make full use of both the Kosciuszko House and its twin for the purposes of the Memorial, and the entire exterior and part of the interior of the Kosciuszko House were to be fully restored to the period. The exterior of the twin was to be restored as necessary and the interior of that structure redesigned to provide visitor services and interpretive displays of Kos­ciuszko’s life and accomplishments.

Structural engineers determined that extensive stabiliza­tion was necessary to make the building structurally sound. Foundation walls needed underpinning; new concrete floor slabs had to be laid; steel columns and beams were needed to support the first floor framing. Supplemental steel and wood framing were necessary on all floors. The roof, too, needed to be completely restored. No shortcuts were to be taken.

Before work began on the exterior brick work, it was known that after restoration the facade would have a slightly irregular and worn appearance. This would be caused by the intended replacement of scattered sections of non-historic material by period brick and also by the damage suffered by original brick in having stucco applied and removed sometime in the past. This is the price exacted in preserving as much of the historical as possible.

The second and third floor brick work is nearly all original. The first floor work is almost all reconstruction.

Two kinds of brick were used in the restoration. The more interesting of the two are the 200-year old glazed headers: brick fired in a special way to give it a shiny black glaze. Some of this brick was saved from the Kosciuszko House and the rest was gotten from another building nearby of the same period. The other type of brick is hand-made and was obtained locally.

The protrusion from the plane of the three-story wall at the bottom of the facade is called a water table and is typical of houses built in the Philadelphia area during the period. The brick is laid in a pattern different from the rest of the building and contains no glazed headers. These few courses of brick are a visual device, but more importantly, serve a structural purpose: they thicken the wall and make it stronger. The water table provides a structural and visual transition from the very thick stone foundation to the brick plane of the rest of the wall.

Too, there are belt courses, four bricks in height, marking the lines between the first and second and second and third floors. This is strictly a visual device.

In considering the outside of the house, it should be noted that once again the front door is located in the middle of the south wall – where the original plan of the house shows it to be. Window locations and types were changed over the years, but by examining evidence on the outside of the building, the size and location of all of the windows in the house are known. According to the data we do have and the comparison of the house with others of its type and of the same period, the windows have been restored to their period type and positions.

The cornice around the roofline as seen today is original, although some of it had to be repaired because of water damage. Under many subsequent layers the original paint used on the cornice was found. Laboratory analysis and comparison made it possible to recreate the original beige color of the wood trim on the exterior of the house. That first fire insurance survey had stated that the wood on the outside of the building had been painted.

It is appropriate to note here that since the Kosciuszko House and its twin were built for speculative purposes, architects are on fairly firm ground when comparing these two with other similar structures of the period. It is improbable that carpenter Joseph Few wanted more than a typical, structurally sound building.

The inside of the house presented particular problems to those in charge of the restoration. Which room was Kosciuszko’s? How much of the interior was it necessary to restore? The inside of the house had changed dramatically from Kosciuszko’s day. Considering the little square foot­age available in the two houses, what should be done to give the house its proper historical significance, to provide real visual impact, and to ensure the comfort of those visiting the Memorial?

It was established with reasonable certainty that Kosciuszko occupied the west room of the second floor of the house. We rely on the diary of his friend Niemcewicz who occupied another room in the boarding house and on period accounts of the many famous people who visited Kosciuszko during his residence there.

The first floor contained two partitioned rooms: a parlor for the six to eight boarders and the room in which the landlady, Mrs. Relf lived. A man of Kosciuszko’s international reputation would have had one of, if not the best room in the house. This, coupled with his physical condition, makes it probable that his quarters would have been on the 2nd floor. Architectural data shows that this 2nd floor had only one partition, rather than two, so Kos­ciuszko would have had the room behind this partition or back room – the front room containing the only partially enclosed stairwell. He could not have lived on the 3rd floor because of its austere interior finishing and because of his health.

Kosciuszko’s second floor room is the only room in the house that has been restored to its probable historical condition. The windows of the room faced south, providing a good deal of sunshine to the ailing Kosciuszko. He looked out at the lovely brick edifice and churchyard of St. Peter’s Church across Pine Street. The size of his room is known because of the marks on original wood structural members at the floor and ceiling levels and also because of marks on the original framing of the stairs.

The floor boards now in the restored room are not original to that room but were salvaged from the rest of the house. These random width yellow pine boards were fitted, planed, trimmed, and then nailed into place in the reconstructed room.

Kosciuszko filled his small (11′ 6″ x 12′ 8″) room with his many belongings, including a complete collection of cooking and serving utensils. Because of the famous 1797 Benjamin West painting of Kosciuszko, done in Kosciuszko’s London boarding house, and because of Kosciuszko’s own inventories, there is a good deal known about his possessions. Through these and the accounts of those who visited him in his room on Pine Street, and through his interests and his physical condition it was possible to know how the room should be furnished.

It is assumed, therefore, that the house should be furnished mainly with late Chippendale and early Hepplewhite furniture and accessories. There is his bed, a couch noted by a visitor, several Windsor chairs, a chest of drawers and a multipurpose leaved table. Several other pieces have been added to suit a gentleman of Kosciuszko’s stature’s needs. There is his paint box for sketching, a crutch, some books, and the tomahawk pipe left him by a visiting Indian chief. There are some pewter pieces and a chest of cookware.

The color of the interior woodwork of the house has been restored to the original beige tinged with gray through the same kind of detective work used on the outside of the building. The wallpaper in Kosciuszko’s bedroom is an 18th Century vine pattern. Fragments of the paper were found on original plaster in the house, and through comparison with a better example of similar paper found in a house in Allentown, New Jersey, an excellent facsimile was found for Kosciuszko’s room.

The 3rd floor of the house has been renovated but is not in use. The garret of the building, virtually untouched through the centuries, has been set aside as an architectural preserve for study by students of the 18th Century.

One enters the restored Kosciuszko House through the Pine Street door and finds himself in a lovely, contempor­ary reception area, designed to orient the visitor to Kos­ciuszko’s life, and through paintings and facsimile reproductions to recount some of his exploits and give an idea of what he did for the cause of American liberty. A door has been cut in the party wall connecting the two houses and in this doorway is a desk for the Park Service inter­preter on duty. The visitor goes up the east stairs to the second floor to visit Kosciuszko’s restored room. He then passes through the door cut in the party wall on the second floor to a small theatre, where at the push of a button a seven minute audio-visual program is available to him. The visitor then proceeds down the west stairs in the twin house, to the first floor and finds himself in a room lined with slides and pictures of tributes to Kosciuszko in this country, and then exits by the east door onto Third Street.

On February 4, 1976 – the 230th Anniversary of Kos­ciuszko’s birth and the year of our national Bicentennial – the Thaddeus Kosciuszko House was officially added to Independence National Historical Park, a tasteful monu­ment to a great patriot.



Giannini, Robert, Furnishings Plan for the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial. Independence National Historical Park, Phila., Pa. 1976.

Haiman, Miecislaus, Kosciuszko in the American Revolution. The Polish Institute of Arts & Sciences in America, New York. 1943.

Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, United States Senate, Ninety-Second Congress, Second Session on S. 1973. A Bill to provide for the establishment of the Thaddeus Kosciuszko Home National Historic Site in the State of Pennsylvania, and for other purposes. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. January 26, 1972.

Magaziner, Henry, Study Report: Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial. Independence National Historical Park, Phila., Pa. 1973.

Mote, James, and David Henderson, Historic Structure Report: The Kosciuszko House. Denver Service Center, National Park Service, Denver, Colorado. 1974.

Wilson, Robert, Thaddeus Kosciuszko and His Home in Philadelphia. Copernicus Society of America, Phila., Pa. 1976.


Michael Kennedy is a member of the executive staff of Edward J. Piszek of Philadelphia, and a past chairman of the English Department of Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia.