Thomas Jefferson & George Washington Were Here: The Clarkson-Watson House ($599,000)


“Preservation Nation,” the blog of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, recently featured a remarkable property for sale in Germantown (Philadelphia), PA.  Though it’s dubbed “The Clarkson-Watson House,” the property at 5275 Germantown Avenue has a couple of even higher-profile names attached . . . Jefferson & Washington. According to the write-up, the house (circa 1744) was once owned by the mayor of philly_jefferson1Philadelphia, Matthew Clarkson, and “Thomas Jefferson lived there during the summer of 1793 when he resided in Germantown to escape the Yellow Fever epidemic that ravaged Old City Philadelphia.”  But even by that time, the house had already been witness to some historical legends in action:  In 1777, during the American Revolution, the “upstairs parlor was used as a meeting place by the Generals Washington, [Henry] Knox, and [Nathanael] Greene after the Battle of Germantown.”  The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.  So, some pretty cool historical pedigree . . . and indeed, you’ll pay for it with an asking price of $599,000.

philly_washingtonThe curb appeal of the house is also impressive.  The real estate ad claims the house was “meticulously and sensitively renovated by four architects in 2007-2008,” and that the “architectural and historic character has been preserved and enhanced through this current restoration.”   The write-up for the house also boasts of a “new roof, new paint, new zoned heating and air conditioning, new bathrooms, new kitchen, new electric, beefed-up insulation, new ductwork, restored flooring, new security and fire alarm systems.”  The property is zoned “commercial” in the National Trust’s ad.  So clearly, the house has had a lot of work done.  This is especially obvious if you check out the what could be considered a “Before” picture, posted a few years ago on This Old House online (see pic below).  It seems that the current ownership group, Clarkson-Watson House LLC, may have purchased the property back in 2007, when the house had been offered for sale for $249,90o, and then they worked their magic.


The house most recently was leased by a company publishing independent newspapers, Germantown Newspapers, Inc.  However, it appears the company, publishers of the Germantown Chronicle and the Mt. Airy Independent, had to vacate the property earlier this year, which presumably prompted the current owners to offer the property for sale.  For more information, contact the list agent, Janice Manzi of Elfant Wissahickon Realtors, here.

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  1. by Antique Houses, on 11.27.11 @ 10:31 PM


    $250K to $600K seems like an amazing profit in an off market. Great job to the investor if they make the sale!

  2. by Amadara, on 03.13.12 @ 8:07 AM


    Have you been to Germantown? While there is an amazing historic district and the houses are super old…with examples of every style of architecture spanning the late 1600’s through the late 1800’s…the rest of the area could be considered a suburb of Philadelphia that has experienced a severe decline.
    The neighborhoods are poor public and federally assisted communities. The trash and non maintenance of the surrounding area is in the majority. There is a large historic and modernized Friends School campus that defies the area, but that education would only be available to the elite of the hood, with some students granted a charitable attendance.
    The 600K price may be prohibitive considering the surrounding area. I wish some pictures had captured the left and right sides of the street.
    It often seems that these historic properties are available in the locations with the least attractive qualities. Is there something that we can all do to increase their desirability in these cities and towns beyond their stand alone appeal as historic property?

  3. by Michael, on 03.13.12 @ 8:17 AM


    I haven’t been to Germantown, but some of the research I did when writing that article hinted that the area might be hit-or-miss. That is too bad, but cities tend to be cyclical. I hope that Germantown eventually rebounds & becomes a desirable place to live again. Historic preservation efforts are often a part of a renaissance, breathing money into neighborhoods & creating a sense of revitalization, renovation, and historical/aesthetic value. But obviously, there are much larger forces at work, and preservation efforts must be coupled with smart growth, the stimulation of business, and so on.

    I appreciate your kind comments about the blog!

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