Sixth and Arch Streets, Philadelphia
May 1794October 1796

In the middle of May 1794, the Department of State moved from the building at 287 Market Street to another building in Philadelphia, located on the southeast corner of Sixth and Arch Streets.1 Notices of the move appeared in the Philadelphia newspapers for many days. The Philadelphia Gazette of the United States stated that “THE OFFICE of the Secretary is moved from High [Market] Street, to the New Buildings, the corner of Sixth & Mulberry [Arch] Streets.”2 The Philadelphia General Advertiser indicated, under the heading “Secretary of State’s Office,” that “The Office of the Secretary of State is removed to the house next to the corner of Sixth in Arch Street.”3

No description or picture of this house has been found. The site is now an open area included in the three-block Independence Mall.4

The Department remained in this building until about October 29, 1796. During this time, it paid a quarterly rent of $108.335 to Nathan Sheppard, a “lumber merchant.”6

On August 20, 1795, while the Department was at this location, Timothy Pickering reluctantly succeeded Edmund Randolph, who had been forced to resign, as Secretary of State. In a letter to a Mr. Higginson dated September 22, 1795, Pickering declared: “ will believe the President not so unwise as to have tendered and me not so imprudent as to have accepted an office to which I am so little competent. The business of the office could not be suspended and from necessity I have by the President’s direction undertaken the temporary conduct of it.”7

The Department never had more than eight or nine employees while Pickering was Secretary, and he did much of the clerical work himself.8 On February 10, 1796, Pickering’s staff consisted of the Chief Clerk, three clerks, a translator, and a messenger.9

  1. MS. Department of State, Accounts Records, Cash Book, 1785-1795, under dates August 8 and 15, 1784; Stephen’s Philadelphia Directory, for 1796 (Philadelphia, 1796), p. 213; Hunt, op. cit., p. 428.
  2. May 15, 1794, and in each subsequent issue of this newspaper (daily except Sunday) to and including that of May 31, 1794.
  3. May 17, 1794, and in each subsequent issue of that newspaper (daily except Sunday) to and including that of June 30, 1794.
  4. Yoelson to Costrell, March 27, 1975.
  5. Hardie, Philadelphia Directory, 1794, p. 138; Stephen’s Philadelphia Directory, for 1796 p. 165.
  6. Stuart, op. cit., p. 29.
  7. Ibid., p. 33
  8. MS. Department of State, Miscellaneous Letters, January—April 1796.