Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Martin Meyerson’s Presidential Residence at 2016 Spruce Street

In 1970, University of Pennsylvania’s new president Martin Meyerson hired arguably the most famous architect in America at the time, Penn’s own Louis Kahn, to renovate a double-wide brownstone mansion at 2016 Spruce Street into a new presidential residence.  Meyerson was a unusual university president, in that his background was not in academia, but in […]
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Joseph Moore Jr., “A Remnant of the Mauve Decade”

There are few interior shots available on PhillyHistory.org. The insides of the grand mansions of Rittenhouse Square and their modest West Philadelphia rowhouses have been largely lost history, their contents dispersed to family members, sold at auction during the Great Depression, or buried in landfills. Among the few surviving images of these every day stagesets are […]
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The “Shameless” Architectural Self-Promotion of Stearns & Castor

  The Gilded Age was when Philadelphia smoked from fires of industry and shimmered in the glow of the electric light. The newfangled incandescent bulb became an object of near-mystic veneration.  Located in Northeast Philadelphia, the Rohrbacher & Horrmann Jefferson Flint Glass Company specialized in making high-quality “art glass” shades for electrical and gas lighting. […]
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The Mystery Church: St. Andrew’s Chapel of Spruce Hill

St. Andrew’s Chapel, one of Philadelphia’s finest examples of neo-Gothic architecture, is the  only quiet place on its tree-shaded block.  The locked building is surrounded by the bustle of the children attending the Penn Alexander School and the Parent Infant Center.  From the 1924 to 1974, this church was the centerpiece of the now-closed Philadelphia […]
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Books in Trust: The Germantown Friends Free Library – Part 2

“In an age in which the individual is merely a number to his employer, his bank, his insurance company and his government, humanizing influences are sadly needed. It is our belief that books and the libraries that make them available constitute one of the most powerful of these influences.” –Germantown Friends Free Library Annual Report, […]
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A Cursed Mansion in Belmont: The Rise and Fall of the Rorkes (Part 2)

During the hot summer of July 1900, Franklin Rorke was faced with mounting bills and a failing construction business. His new mansion at 41st and Ogden, an extravagant gift from his late father, had every modern convenience, and boasted mosaics, hardwood floors, marble trim, and onyx fireplaces, as well as a fully equipped stable in […]
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Books in Trust: The Germantown Friends Free Library – Part 1

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Proverbs 29:18 Today, Germantown Friends School is well-known for its strong arts and theater programs.  Yet there was a time not too long ago when the school could not acquire fiction for its library.  The restriction lay was written into a type of ancient trust so common […]
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Apothecary Roses of Germantown

The Wyck mansion, located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, is not just one of the oldest structures in the city, but is also home to the oldest surviving rose garden in the nation. The first section of the dwelling dates to 1690, when Germantown was a satellite of the new city of Phialdelphia. For […]
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The Autocrat and the Engineer (Part II)

As the capital of Imperial Russia, St. Petersburg was a city of many palaces.  Some belonged to the Romanov family, such as Peterhof, the Winter Palace, the Pavlovsk Palace, the Anichkov Palace, and Tsarskoe Selo.  Others belonged to wealthy Russian nobles, such as the Yusapov, Beloselskiy, and Stroganov clans. Many had been constructed in the 18th century, […]
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Creating Community at the Powelton Co-op – Part 2

Part I of “Creating Community at the Powelton C0-op” A few years ago, Gwendolyn Bye, daughter of Friendship Co-op founders Jerry and Lois Bye, was thumbing through some old photos from her 1950s West Philadelphia childhood. When she came across a class picture from the Charles Drew Elementary School, which once stood on the 3700 […]
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