Historic Roxboro House

The home of the Arlen Specter Center for Public Service is in the historic Roxboro House at Jefferson, located in the East Falls section of Philadelphia. Built circa the 1800s, the house was considered a historic and important touchstone to both Philadelphia and America's origins by Senator Specter, making it the ideal location for the Center.

At least part of this building dates back to 1779, to what extent is questionable. It is possible that Richard Hill Morris built the present home in 1800. This is a Georgian period house constructed of frame and clapboard, which was expanded and given a portico in 1810.

A few years later Dr. Caspar Wistar, who published the first American textbook of anatomy in 1811, apparently owned it. He was well known in Philadelphia society and the president of the American Philosophical Society from 1815 to 1818. His friend, Thomas Nuttall, a famous botanist, named the “Wisteria” after him. It is said that Dr. Wistar enlarged the house with the addition of the distinctive “wings” on either side of the house.

Around the 1830’s, the house was acquired by members of the Brown family which owned the house until 1915 with the death of Mary Walin Wistar Brown. In 1965 the Philadelphia Historical Commission added this house to its list of registered buildings (No. 141).

Prior to the University’s purchase of the property in 1998, the house was being used as a Bed and Breakfast establishment. 

The Roxboro House was historically preserved and renovated by PDP – Preservation Design Partnership of Philadelphia, opening as the Arlen Specter Center in 2014. See: http://www.pdparchitects.com/roxboro for more detail on the house history and renovation.