The Building of Christ Church

By Charles E. Peterson, FAIA


When the tall brick walls of Christ Church rose above the modest streets of Quaker Philadelphia, it must have been the architectural sensation of its time. In less than fifty years the town site had been hacked out of a forest with only scattered clearings by the early Swedes and the Dutch. But already in 1727 the parish fathers were emulating the great works of Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor in faraway London. Today we have no eyewitness description of this monumental project under way and only a fragmentary knowledge of its progress. But what we do have is interesting.

The grant of Pennsylvania to William Penn in 1680 seemed to guarantee the right for the Bishop of London to send “any Preacher or Preachers to reside within the Province without any denial or molestation whatsoever.”2 The Church of England would be free to establish itself peacefully and grow among the Quakers. That, however, did not prove to be the case.

The first Anglican to invest heavily in the new colony was Nicholas More, a “practitioner of physick” in London. More was elected president of the Free Society of Traders in Pennsylvania.3 Crossing the Atlantic in his own ship with some sixty “servants” skilled in useful trades, he set up a waterside headquarters at Little Dock Creek on the Philadelphia waterfront with a sort of industrial park in Frankford. Though appointed to high offices by Proprietor Penn, More quickly ran into opposition from established Philadelphia residents. In contrast to the myth of “The Peaceable Kingdom” where lions and lambs were pictured lying down together, an examination of the documents of the period reveals a brawling frontier town. The feisty More before long retired to his huge “Mannor of Moreland” and died there, quite likely of frustration.

In the following decade Colonel Francis Nicholson, governor, in turn, of both Maryland and Virginia4, and admiralty judge Robert Quarry5 gave local Anglicans strong support. By the summer of 1700, a first church had been completed at a cost of some £600 and already needed enlarging.6

The First Church

A great parchment in the Christ Church records attests to the fact that the building site, which fronted one hundred feet on Second Street, was bought in 1695. Only a stone’s throw from the little courthouse in the middle of High Street, it was land which had first been granted to Lasse Cock, a pioneer Swedish trader. The first church was begun in the following year. On January 18, 1698, three Anglican carpenters certified that the structure was complete.7 However, as late as December, a letter to London reported “the church is unglazed, making it unusable in winter.”8

From the manuscript Journal, which begins in the year 1708, we can learn something of the original frame structure which had a shingled roof and was enclosed with the churchyard graves behind a wooden fence with a padlocked gate. Not unlikely, it was designed by carpenter John Harrison, a parishioner who soon afterwards built Old Swede’s south of town and whose name appears frequently in the Christ Church records.9 By 1709 there was a freestanding (?) belfry, generally out of repair, housing a “Great Bell and a little bell” which were rung on “publick Rejoysing days.”

Inside, the church was paved with brick and had a gallery. There were two additions made: one in 1711, perhaps a transept like Old Swede’s, for which 37,110 bricks were laid by John Redman, including 1,500 “blew headers” which denotes the then popular Flemish bond pattern for brick walls. As to windows, it was recorded that there were two oval casements at each end-east and west.10 For lighting, a Mrs. Crapp was paid six shillings for two brass sconces--perhaps the two that are still on the premises. Two candlesticks assisted at the pulpit.

Separately, there were a parsonage or minister’s house with a stable and water pump, a schoolhouse, and, after 1719, the distant burying ground that survives at the corner of Fifth and Arch streets.11

The new church

First Campaign (1727-1732)

The Vestry Minutes, which begin only in the year 1717, soon reveal the need for a larger church “to Accomodate divers New Settlers and other well wishers to the Church who are forced either to stay at home or frequent dissenting Congregations for want of Seats.” A steeple with a set of bells was envisioned. Thereupon, an additional twenty-foot strip of land was acquired to the north and a subscription book opened. Although there is no record of it, the design for a new building must have been approved by the spring of 1727 when the vestry resolved to build the first thirty-three feet of a wholly new structure.12 This took the extraordinary form of a monumental addition to the west end of the small existing church, the latter continuing in use for some years.

In all of this the Philadelphia physician Dr. John Kearsley was to play a conspicuous part.13 A pew holder from 1717, vestryman from 1719, and a member of the building subscription committee from 1721, the impatient doctor in the spring of 1727 “out of a hearty desire to have the sd Work begun” agreed to pay the workmen himself until the subscriptions came in. In less than three weeks the new church was under way. 

Construction was begun before all the funds were in hand. A letter of May 4, 1728, to the Bishop of London admitted as much

. . . we are engaged in carrying on a very large Addition to our church and a Stone Steeple, the expense of which we are not able to bear without Assistance from abroad. But by your Lordship’s Countenance & Favor, and the Influence of our Reverend Minister, we chearfully hope to see this good Work compleated . . .14

A few weeks later it was explained that, unlike the established Church of England, Pennsylvania public money was not available, “the government here being in the hands of professed Quakers.”15

In this writer’s opinion, while the written evidence has not been found, money from London found its way into Dr. Kearsley’s hands.

Unfortunately, “Dr. Kearsley’s Book” recording the business of construction is missing. But good progress may be assumed from the fact that on September 7, 1730--with winter coming on--the vestry ordered that the windows be glazed with “all Expedition.”

Many items concerning building materials and construction do appear in the Journal for this period, but they are only a small fraction of what it took to build. No description of the great brick fabric rising can be found today, though bricklayer Thomas Boude, soon to be undertaking major work on the State House, appears in several small items for paving at the church. Daniel Harrison must have done a major part of the carpentry and joinery; his bill was contested as excessive. There are items for turning and hauling the interior columns (no names given). The payment of 2s6d in April of 1728 for a riggers man “at Raising ye Church” indicated that the roof framing was already up.16 There were expenses for building a gallery and an organ must have been in place by the summer of 1729 when the Journal shows payments to “the Dutch Organist” and “the Irish Organist” as well as to an “Organ blower.” But work seems to have continued all through the 1730’s. William Bradley was glazing the windows in this period and Gustavius Hesselius, the Swedish artist, was paid in three installments for painting (1736-37) and Daniel Harrison for “Flooring the Belfrey” and “Shingling the Steeple.”

The latter was probably a small structure riding the ridge line and carrying a clock as noted there by traveler Peter Kalm in 1748:

The English established church stands in the northern part of the town, at some distance from the market, and is the finest of all. It has a small, insignificant steeple, in which a bell is rung when it is time to go to church, and at burials. It has likewise a clock which strikes the hours. This building, which is called Christ Church, was founded towards the end of the last century, but has lately been rebuilt and more adorned. It has two ministers who get the greatest part of their salary from England.17

We have no image of the “insignificant steeple” reported by Kalm. It is possible that it was removed and stored by architect/builder Robert Smith who built the present steeple in 1753 and then re-erected on St. Peter’s Church in 1758-59.18

There are no vestry minutes for the period October 6, 1732, to May 25, 1735.19 But years later, Dr. John Kearsley divided the overall construction program into three parts. In the shaky hand of old age, he wrote of the first campaign:

The Expence in Laying the Foundation of the Church and Steeple from its westernmost Boundaries to the Second Column Eastward, Containing 2 Windows and a Large Door on Each Side with the windows at the End, Including the Key Stones, imposts, window Stools & Proper Ornaments with the west Gallery and north & South Galleries Extending from the Said west Gallery Eastward to the aforsd Second Column wt Proper Seats & Pulpit within that Space made of Stuff and Rough 1/2 priced Boards for Present use . . .20

For several years the church must have presented a most ungainly sight: the grand, tall new west end done in elaborate brickwork joined to the little old wooden church still abutting Second Street. But to the eyes of those lately come from the old country the incongruities of ancient churches built in installments at different periods and in different styles this would not have been unusual.

Second Campaign (1735-1740)

In the meantime the original church had fallen into a ruinous state and a fund drive to replace it was started.21 In the spring of 1735 it was agreed to complete the exterior of the new building as soon as work on the western galleries was paid for and the scaffolding taken down.22 Among the decorative features then on hand were the big urns for the eaves balustrade and gables which Dr. Kearsley had already imported from England.23

A new subscription book traces the fund-raising campaign which began May 7, 1739, with a pledge of £50 by Governor George Thomas. It noted that “the Body of the new church on the outside was almost finished” and that the foundation of a steeple had been laid. Inside, more pews were much needed.

Most contributions were offered in pounds, doubloons, pistoles, and johannes. But the offerings in kind were more interesting. Thirteen subscribers promised to pay “in work,” seven in nails, four each in lime and boards, two in iron, and one in copper. Carpenters John and Joseph Thornhill, parishioners, pledged £5 each in work. William Pyewell promised “to find hair for plaistering ye Church,” Peter Sonman’s £5 worth of painting and Elizabeth Henmarsh a quantity of lampblack. The time of payment in some cases was contingent. Several said they would pay “when seated,” some when the bells arrived. A Mr. Martin was willing to contribute £5 “when ye Steeple is 60 feet high.”24

Thus it can be seen that the five new bays at the east end, including the Second Street front, were built in the period 1735-40, though there is no surge of payments evident in the Journal for such basic materials as foundation stone, wall brick, or roof timbers. But it is significant that on July 31, 1740, the Vestry ordered the pulpit moved to the east end of the church. Dr. Kearsley in his letter to Dr. Evans (cited above) reported that this second phase of construction “Rebuilding & carrying on the Body and East End of the said Church” cost to build £1229.6.9--roughly only one-third more than had the west end.

Third Campaign, Completion (beginning 1741)

By the spring of 1741 there was admitted “a necessity for Finishing the Church”25 and in July a committee consisting of Dr. Kearsley, Thomas Leech, and William Maugridge was appointed to that task. In attempting to line up mechanics for the final program they reported that the two Thornhills, the only Church of England carpenters available, “would cheerfully serve the Church in this particular but that they were not acquainted with that [sort of] work to engage alone in it, but if any other Capable workman could be had they would act in Conjunction to the best of their power.” Carpenter John Nicholas (religious affiliation not specified) was thereupon admitted to the building team.26

But at this point even the redoubtable Dr. Kearsley’s patience seems to have worn through. He thereupon

delivered in a petition to this Vestry greatly Complaining, that he had served his congregation ever since the Year 1727, as Trustee and Overseer in Carrying on & rebuilding this Church & that in the Compass of full five Years of that time he had Given daily attendance without any Relaxation from that Service, in Which he had greatly neglected his private affairs, and undergone Much Fatigue, and had always been in advance large sums of mony Some part of which he Conceives, has not been Discharged to this day, for all which he has not received any Consideration, or the least acknowledgement. But in Stead thereoff has been frequently loaded with Calumny, and ill treated by Members of the Congregation, and therefore prays his Vestry, will be pleased to appoint some persons of known ability to audit & Settle his Accots that he may for the future be acquitted or Condemned of the Calumny thrown upon him.

Such a committee was then convened and the doctor was cajoled into resuming his superintendence, reporting that already there were missing several account books and valuable papers that should be turned in and lodged in a chest.27

Again, the principal records for this period have been lost but there are substantial entries in the Journal for carpenter work by John Thornhill, Samuel Reed/Reeves, and John Nicholas and joinery by Daniel Harrison. The celebrated Thomas Godfrey,28 working as a humble glazier on the old window glass (which was set in lead) was employed almost continually through those years. By 1743 the vestry, evidently growing weary with inconvenience and expense, asked Dr. Kearsley and Thomas Leech as trustees to complete the building “in the most Decent and least Expensive manner Possible.” They, however, took care to give credit for “the Uniformity and Beauty of the Structure” which was “greatly Owing to the Assiduity, Care, panes and Labour of him the Said Doctor John Kearsley.”

For this last phase £822.14.9 had been spent, a grand total of £3010.10.0.29

The Design

We must agree that the building of Christ Church was indeed a splendid accomplishment. Today, it is often declared to be our finest Early American church.

But how can the design be accounted for? While Dr. Kearsley’s enthusiasm and persistence was obviously an essential factor, it had not been shown that during his lifetime as a busy physician he ever drew an architectural line. The making of preliminary sketches to study effects and of final working drawings to communicate design concepts to the building mechanics who execute them is essential to architectural practice. In the case of Christ Church--the main body of the fabric, this is--there are no references to the preparation of drawings, to their approval or their presence on the job--let alone their authorship.30 Yet the church couldn’t have been built without them. As will be seen, in the case of the tower/steeple, we are more fortunate.

In the surviving papers there are many names of carpenters and bricklayers. But what is known of their abilities and accomplishments elsewhere does not account for the successful character of Christ Church or the virtuosity of its brickwork. No comparable example is known in American colonial architecture elsewhere.

The English character of the design is evident. Two English authorities on Stuart and Georgian church architecture-Marcus Whiffen31 and Kerry Downs32--have been consulted. They write that while the various design motifs at Philadelphia are familiar to them, the church as a whole is not a copy of anything known to have been built in England.33

Of the great Anglican churches erected on these shores, Christ Church is the fourth--following St. Philips (Charleston, begun 1711), Christ Church (Salem Street, Boston, begun 1723), and Trinity (Newport, begun 1725). The basic facts concerning the latter three are just as mysterious as they are in Philadelphia.34 The writer is forced to conclude that plans for Christ Church were imported (like its great urns) by Dr. Kearsley and that the mechanics who laid out the brickwork and executed it were likewise brought over from England for the job. They must have returned thence, for nothing quite like our church was done here again.

The design of Christ Church was certainly fixed by 1727 when the construction of the west end began. The few architectural pattern books that were available here at the time do not solve our problem. As is well known, the Library Company of Philadelphia early on imported architectural books, but I have found in them nothing more than scattered ornaments that could have been copied for Christ Church.35

Today it is well known (and agreed) that American carpenters designed almost all of our earliest buildings. But their competence in such matters could only cope with relatively simple problems and with plenty of local precedent to steer by. In the case of Christ Church we have its elaborate brickwork to account for. It had to be painstakingly laid out on paper before molding and burning by an experienced hand.

An examination of what is known of early Philadelphia brick makers and bricklayers and their works36 hasn’t revealed any other examples which can match Christ Church in the variety and success of the varied combinations of purpose-molded brick. Master bricklayer Thomas Boude’s name appears among those doing minor jobs on Christ Church properties. He was the contractor for the competent brickwork of the great State House (Independence Hall) built very soon afterwards. But the character of his craftsmanship is different.37 The brickwork of Colonial Virginia is in general the finest produced in America but is clearly of yet another character.38

The expedient of importing skilled mechanics for a specific job was not unknown here. The fact is recorded in the Pennsylvania Legislature’s Votes of Assembly that in 1738 money was sent to London to recruit plasterers (or stuccadores) for the State House, though they never came over.39 The available church papers in London have been consulted by American historians, but the correspondence and reports relating to the Philadelphia enterprise seem to have mostly disappeared from view, possibly as the result of the trans-Atlantic political controversies that raged throughout the period of construction. Or, someone may have borrowed the papers from the London and Philadelphia archives, intending to write a book-and failed to return them. In the case of the Christ Church tower/steeple we are more fortunate, as will be shown below.

Folwell has been called “the Thomas Chippendale of America.” His well-known bomb‚ or “wine glass” pulpit incorporated elements from five plates of Batty Langley, the prolific English compiler of architectural books. Other well-known examples of his work still in existence are the so-called “Rising Sun” mahogany armchair in the Assembly Chamber of Independence Hall40 and the decorative case of the Rittenhouse Orrery at the University of Pennsylvania. The vestry soon after approved Folwell’s submission, and it was finally agreed to locate the pulpit in front of the communion table.41 By the following June the Rector reported that it was well executed and “unusually admired.” In addition, Jesse Roe made a reading desk (£20.2.10) and both were painted by Timothy Barrett (£18).42

The Malcolm view of the interior (1787) shows the Folwell pulpit in a central position with a canopy or sounding board overhead.43

Fitting Out the Interior

While this study is focussed on architectural matters it may not be amiss to take some notice of the interior fixtures, especially the pulpit and the pews. It is a complicated story involving many changes.

Nothing much is known concerning the character of the earlier pulpits. We know only that when the west end of the church was first completed that the pulpit was moved west44 and when the east end was ready it was moved back.45

A new (and present) pulpit was made possible by a special bequest, and on August 14, 1769, it was directed that “Plans or Draughts” be procured.46 Ten weeks later a

Plan and Elevation of a Pulpit was produced drawn by Mr. John Folwell for £70 Pounds--It appeared to all present to be a neat Performance, and that a Pulpit constructed after that form would be a proper one. The Place where it should stand was then considered; and it was thought by some that it might be best stand where it does-But others thought that if it could be placed so as not to incommode the Two Ayles, one leading across the Church fronting the Communion Table, and ye other thru the middle of the Church, it would afford more Conveniences, and a better Light . . .47

Revenues from the rental of pews made their number and layout a matter both of financial and social concern.48

Well before the Revolution, the Anglicans had definitely become “the congregation of wealth, fashion and position.”49 Where the Governor sat50--and where President George Washington sat51--were naturally details of great popular interest. The original pews--at Christ Church now gone for a century and a half-were of the old box type still to be seen in St. Peter’s on Society Hill. Some of the congregation could view the pulpit head on, others had to face the back of the church. Pews filled the galleries, too. We have one curious bit of information: on the completion of the west end of the church, when the materials were on hand and the mechanics ready to proceed, it was decided to increase the width of the “long seats” from 2'8" to 2'9" like those in St. Martin’s, London. How anyone in Philadelphia knew about that detail is not explained.

Today the oldest pewing plan is a crude one which dates from 1751 or earlier. It covers only the east end of the main floor but seems to show that on that level there were eighty-six pews altogether. Those on the window walls were rated to seat six persons, the center pews four, the others eight--with some variation among those front and center, one of which was intended “for the Conveniency of Funeralls, the Meeting of the Clergy, &c.”52 The pews were originally upholstered, some elaborately. The details would comprise a whole history of Early American fabrics and decoration.

It was the duty of the Vestry to “regulate” and assign the pews which were numbered and locked, but not everyone was always satisfied with the Vestry’s decisions in these matters. “Great Disorders” were reported in 1745 by the Wardens “through some persons pretending a right to move one seat Nigher the Pulpit.”53 And when one Oswald Peel broke into his own pew he was in consequence ejected from the congregation.54

In point of date, the second surviving pew layout is a pair of drawings that represents the period before the Folwell pulpit was located in the center of the chancel.55 A third set, late eighteenth century and showing the new pulpit in place, is pasted inside the back cover of a bound manuscript titled “Christ Church 1785-1800.”56 The pews are numbered but only the Rector’s and the Governor’s pews are identified by name. Another pair of such plans (tentatively dated c. 1824) shows further modifications.57 None of these is well drawn in the architectural sense, but we have to be grateful for them in the absence of anything else in the way of contemporary floor plans.

In 1795 Christ Church was reputed to have “galleries and convenient pews for one thousand people.”58

The tower and the Steeple

The Tower (1750-1753)

In eighteenth-century Philadelphia the distinction was often made between the tower of a building, generally of masonry, and the steeple or spire--a lighter wood frame construction which topped it. In the case of Christ Church the distinction is important because they were designed by different parties at different times.

Hope for a steeple on Christ Church went back at least to 171759--well before the present edifice was begun--and it appears that the foundations were laid as early as 1727.60

When the body of the church was complete the vestry was reminded “that it is the zealous inclination of very many inhabitants of this City to Contribute Handsome Sums of Money towards building a tower or Steeple for Holding a ring of Bells.”61 Two years later the church wardens were directed “to consult with Skillful Artichets [sic] and Workmen and endeavor to get a plan or Draft thereof” together with an estimate.62 By June of 1746 a plan drawn by a “Mr. Harrison” was adopted and a committee delegated to show it to the Governor.63 But nothing came of it and as late as October 28, 1750, Richard Peters of Philadelphia advised the Proprietor in England that the view of the city the latter requested was hardly worth painting “for want of steeples” on the skyline.64

But the tower/stairhall/steeple of the State House was already six months into construction65 and a Philadelphia artist--John Heap--finally accepted the challenge, undertook a view as seen from the Jersey shore of the Delaware River and completed it by September of 1752.

It was May 11 of the next year before a copy was made and shipped off to England,66 and it seems likely that Peters had been waiting for the new design for Christ Church steeple. In any case the Second Street construction had started just two weeks earlier as signalled by a cash payment of scaffolding spars and poles to carry the carpenters and their work high up into the sky. And so the design as executed could and did appear on the new engraving, the printing of which was begun in June of 1754.

The engraving, though crudely drawn in detail, corresponds well enough with the building as it stands today, although it shows clock faces in the circular windows which today are blank.67

Remarkably, the new engraving showed three steeples. The form of that one of the State House, started earlier, could have been ascertained from the architect’s drawings. The steeple of the new Second Presbyterian Church (which also appears) was not to be erected for some years. Naturally the publishers were trying to make sure that their new engraving wouldn’t be quickly out of date.

In the race to put up Philadelphia’s first steeple, Christ Church began its subscription list three weeks before construction started at the State House,68 but not until a year later were the managers of the building program asked to proceed.69 From here on we are fortunate to have more or less connected and comprehensive building records. In the form of a little paperbound manuscript, neatly copied out in a professional hand, The Steeple Account--for that is how its labelled on the cover--begins on May 10, 1751, with an entry in favor of William Pyewell for “Bords and Halling” (£9.14.3).70 The second records rum bought for boat crews bringing in stone. Those “flattmen” were to consume a lot of the stuff; such treats were customary here in the eighteenth century. Lime and sand for mortar and poles for scaffolding were assembled at the site in quantity. Thomas Childs was in charge of the stone quarry (location not given-perhaps on Crum Creek which supplied much of early Philadelphia). It is not generally realized that the foundation of the tower and a large part of the walls above grade are of stone hidden under a veneer of brick.71 John Grant and John Armstrong cut the stone on the site; it was laid up by Thomas Ward, stonemason. John Coats, the well-known brickmaker of Northern Liberties, got £140.19.1 for his product.

John Palmer, bricklayer, was first paid on July 17, 1751, and continued through until May 29, 1752, when Isaac Roberts got 4s8½d “for Measuring ye wall” to value Palmer’s work.72 Then it was discovered that there wasn’t enough money on hand to pay the tradesmen.73 In this crisis it was decided to hold a lottery and Benjamin Franklin, reliable champion of civic progress, was enlisted as a committeeman.74 The lottery did not bring in the whole sum needed so a “Supplement” was mounted with emphasis on acquiring a set of bells.75 By the end of 1753 a set had been ordered from London.76

The design of the brick tower of Christ Church is of considerable interest as related to that of St. James (Piccadilly), of Christ Church (Boston), and of Holy Trinity (Newport). In the 1720’s there were no English “pattern books” offering church designs and few prints to send across the Atlantic. Remarkably enough, though, there was an engraving of Wren’s church of St. James, which delineates an elevation and two floor plans. It could have--and probably did--influence the American builders. A separate copperplate engraved by Henry Hulsbergh from drawings made by Anthony Griffen, shows a certain arrangement of four superimposed masonry openings in the tower on the entrance side.77 This same distinctive layout appears on all of the three American buildings.

For the building of the brick tower itself, John Thornhill had done the necessary woodwork.78 But he was soon to be joined by another carpenter, a notable figure whose career was to bridge the gap to the profession of architect.

The Steeple and Robert Smith (1753)

The new star was a young Scottish carpenter only recently arrived in Philadelphia. Though little known today, he was to create an outstanding architectural practice extending from Pennsylvania to Virginia and Rhode Island. He not only built, but he drew plans for others to build in places he never saw. Participating fully in the responsibilities of both carpenter and architect--and directing the work of other trades--he was what historians today call a “carpenter-architect.” He was also something of the professional who today we know as “engineer.”

Robert Smith--for that was his name--was born in Dalkeith Parish near Edinburgh on January 14, 1722, the son of John Smith, a baker.79 How he got to America is not known, but he had appeared in Philadelphia by February 19, 1749, when carpenter Gunning Bedford and he were asked for construction proposals for the new Second Presbyterian Church projected at Third and Arch streets.80 In that period Smith also worked on the remodelling of the Bush Hill mansion north of the city for James Hamilton, recently become Governor of Pennsylvania. It was a substantial project, disbursements to Smith running until July 1, 1751, when he was paid “in full.”81

A year later Smith was at work on Christ Church steeple. He was possibly introduced there by bricklayer John Palmer; they had worked together at Bush Hill and at the Presbyterian Church. By the time the steeple was under construction, Smith was well on his way to success. He was making drawings for Nassau Hall at Princeton to which village he soon moved to supervise construction.

Robert Smith’s importance to American colonial architecture prompts the writer to relate here some of the recent findings about his background and career.82 It seems likely that he joined with William Adam, the prominent Scottish architect, while he was working on the Duchess of Buccleuch’s great country place at Dalkeith in 1740-42. The work there included a great stone stable and a two-arch bridge over the South Esk, along with other dependencies of the Duke’s “Palace.” We can hypothesize that young Smith was picked up as a local carpenter of promise and taken along with the Adam organization to Edinburgh. Evidence of that association was to appear shortly in Smith’s American buildings which repeat Adam designs for cupolas long before they were actually published.

William Adam (1689-1748) is described as “the leading Scottish architect of his day.”83 He was a contractor and builder as well and the father of four sons: John, Robert, James, and William-the middle two of whom became very celebrated in London. Robert Smith may well have stayed with the group until William Adam’s death in 1748. Early the next year Smith was in Philadelphia.

James Hamilton of Philadelphia visited Britain about that time and perhaps recruited Smith while there. It was a troubled period in Scotland, and many were emigrating to the New World. In any case, Hamilton was a man of wealth and influence and a patron of the arts, having helped sponsor young Jacob Duché84 (perhaps Philadelphia’s first architectural critic), and Pennsylvania-born painter Benjamin West in Rome.85 As related above, Hamilton was in 1749 remodelling Bush Hill recently inherited from his father. Though still new, it was extensively worked over, Smith probably giving it some fashionable touches new to Philadelphia. Hamilton early on got young Smith, whom he referred to as “my carpenter,” into the local St. Andrew’s Society, of which he was President. He also gave substantial donations to the construction of buildings on which Smith worked: the Second Presbyterian Church (6/6/1750), Christ Church steeple (12/4/1751), and the Philadelphia Academy (4/3/1753).86

Work at Christ Church picked up again in the spring of 1753 when poles and spars were bought to erect the steeple or spire. A large order for cedar lumber went to Job Lippincott, and George Fudge recapped the brickwork on which the frame would be seated. Progress was fast. The basic frame, undoubtedly prefabricated on the ground, was up by July 11 when a cash distribution of 15 shillings was made to the carpenters. On September 5 “the Coppersmith Boys” got a pourboire of 7s6d, and on October 2 there were two big payments for a collation “at raising” indicating a really outstanding celebration (£17.2.2½)! There was yet another by October 30 for “raising the Spindle” (£3.18.3½). Rigger John Coburn as steeplejack would have been the hero on that occasion. The last of eighteen payments was made to Robert Smith on December 19, 1754; his total coming to the large amount of £396.4.6. It is today his greatest monument.

Other major participants at the steeple were John Rouse, paid £130.2.0 for ironwork, and Samuel Harding, the eminent wood-carver who got £12 for the decorative consoles whose human faces night and day still stare from the steeple in all four directions. As a finale, ten payments went to William Leech for £59.18.1 worth of painting.87

Although somewhat outside the scope of this study, it may not be amiss to include here a few notes on the famous bells. The date 1754 was cast on each of the eight. The invoice and bill of lading (together with “particular directions for hanging them”) was dated August 16, 1754. They came over on the ship Myrtilla, Captain Budden.88

On January 7, 1755, the Pennsylvania Gazette published a financial summary of the steeple project which included the following:

The Pennsylvania Gazette for April 24, 1755, reported that the

musical peal was cast by Lester and Pack, who are at present the most noted and ingenious artists of that kind in England. They were hung by Nicholas Nicholson, a native of Yorkshire, in a manner the most convenient and entirely new. And when a clock for the chimes is added, which he seems very desirous of, they will be the compleatest sett in America.

A loose page, unaddressed and undated, still in the archives provides an estimate and an interesting opinion about the tenor bell. For models ranging from 2800 down to 1600 pounds at 14d per pound-and including “8 new Wheels Stocks Roles Ropes Clappers Brasses and fitting” the cost would diminish from £885.2.8 to £512.6.8. Lest anyone consider this was a simple matter the document includes an unsigned note:


I have found out to oblige you the only Man in all England for casting and Wtting up Church Bells in the Compleatest Manner Wtt for hanging and he has given me an Estimate to send you which is as above being that Church Bells are out of my way upon acc. of Largness and tuning. The Bell Founder will not undertake ye Job without the mony is Lodged in some Merchants Hands in London as he shall approve of to be paid for before the Goods are ship’d for they are nobodys Money but the person who Orders them and one hundred Guineas before he Begins them you must not take it Ill Because it’s their way by every body who employs them and I’ll be bound for his well executing the same in a Workmanlike Manner. . . .

A news item in the Pennsylvania Gazette for April 24, 1755, reported that the new bells had just been rung in honor of the governors Delancy of New York, Shirley of Massachusetts, and Denny of Pennsylvania on their return from a congress in Alexandria.

The Steeple Rescued (1771)

The proud new steeple was in trouble almost immediately. On November 22, 1756, a special committee was appointed “to examine that part of the Steeple which is like to be injured by the Weather & to call in what Tradesmen who they thought proper and agree with them on the best Terms for having it speedily repaired.”89 Six years later it was ordered that the steeple “be immediately repaired and painted.”90 But nothing was done and by the spring of 1771 the situation had become alarming. Robert Smith was called back and inspected the problem on May 7. He found the wood sills on top of the brick tower decayed and the shingle walls leaking. He asked that some of the brickwork be removed for a closer inspection.91 The vestry pressed him for his attendance at the site, and he reluctantly consented to undertake the work on July 1 or sooner.92 A week later members of the vestry climbed the scaffold with the architect and were appalled at what they saw. “The Ends of the great Timbers [were] so rotten as to be a mere Powder, and the other Parts likewise very much decayed.”93

To signal the start of the repair program on July 3, a large order of lumber was delivered by Arthur Donaldson. For the first time in the surviving records of the church there is a clutch of detailed vouchers, starting with blacksmith Samuel Wheeler’s large bill for furnishing spikes, nails, screws, and the repair of tools. Thomas Cuthbert furnished poles and spars for scaffold and hoisting. Wetherill & Cresson more lumber. Joshua Humphreys oak scantling. John Inglis a double block and rope. On August 1 Robert Smith wrote that he “shud be pleased to see some of the Vestry now and then at the Steeple to see how we go on. I have a very difficult piece of Business. I think it is more so than any I Ever had before.” How many climbed the dizzy heights to look is not recorded.

Eden Haydock provided 320¼ lbs. of sheet lead and Arthur Donaldson supplied shingles already dressed. By October 14 it was all over but the painting which was done by Barrett & Fling.94 Robert Smith then reported the steeple “as strong as it Ever was.”95

It says a great deal for Smith’s reputation with his contemporaries that he was called back to correct the errors made in the original construction of the steeple. The truth of the matter was that Philadelphia had had no experience with steeples and did not very well understand their construction. Both those of the State House and the Presbyterian Church were soon to fail structurally and to be taken down.

We have little direct information on Smith as a person. No portrait of him is known, not even a description of his appearance. But he was highly thought of in Philadelphia, and, once launched on his career, he seems to have got most of the best work in the city. As a designer his repertoire was limited; his routine cupola, for instance, was repeated everywhere. His architectural contemporary in New England-Peter Harrison (1716-1775)96 was more innovative but couldn’t begin to match Smith’s long list of completed works.

Two other immigrant architects came on a little later: Charles Pierre L’Enfant (1754-1825)97 from France and Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764-1820)98 from England. Neither L’Enfant nor Latrobe succeeded professionally in Philadelphia. Robert Smith, on the other hand, was well received and highly employed. He was to make himself a useful place in the Carpenters’ Company’s affairs and to design their Hall. A few years after his death there was an exhibition of his drawings (along with those of his son-in-law William Williams), perhaps the first show of the kind in America.

In 1805, Owen Biddle, another member of the Company, in publishing his Young Carpenters’ Assistant; or, A System of Architecture Adapted to the Style of Building in the United States included a carefully engraved plate (No. XLIV) and a tribute to Robert Smith and Christ Church steeple. “For the justness of its proportions, simplicity and symmetry of its parts is allowed by good judges to be equal if not superior in beauty to any Steeple of the spire kind, either in Europe or America.”99 It remains for us to find the precedent on the other side of the Atlantic.

The upper stories of the steeple can be found in William Adam’s rare collection of plates titled Vitruvius Scoticus in the design for George Gordon’s Hospital at Aberdeen. The hospital was built in 1730-32 but without its planned steeple. The engraving of the plates, a collection of Scottish designs mostly by Adam himself, had begun about 1727, but the book itself wasn’t published until 1812 by Adam’s grandson William.100

Incidentally, the architectural “eyebrows” with Samuel Harding’s carved consoles over the clock panel are similar to the ones on St. Cuthbert’s Church, Edinburgh.101

THE WAR AND AFTER, 1775-1835 

Jacob Duché’s Sash Windows


The window panes of Christ Church were originally set in lead cames in an old-fashioned English way, but through the years the upkeep was a major expense. The frequent bills of Edward Bradley, the glazier, began in 1728102 and Thomas Godfrey’s and others in 1736.103 Finally, Anthony De Normandie offered to “repair the Glass & new lead the Windows for £12 and to maintain them in repair for 5 shillings a year,” which was agreed to.104

But the old problem continued and by 1773 persons who had seats near certain windows complained that they could not attend church if they weren’t immediately repaired.105 The old leaded windows were thereupon replaced with the vertical-sliding sash types with painted wooden muntins still to be seen. Young Jacob Duché himself made the drawings for them.106

The Church Rides Out the War

On June 9, 1777, the “Electric Rod and Conductor” were struck by lightning and made useless.107 It seems in retrospect like an evil portent. War was coming closer to Philadelphia with the British Army and Navy already on the way to seize the city.

On September 15 the Rector was alarmed to learn that several persons had got into the steeple and were preparing to take down the bells. It turned out that Charles Thomson, Secretary to the Continental Congress, had issued orders to the Commissary of Military Stores. Colonel Flower was to employ Mr. Worrell, Mr. Allison, and Mr. Evans “or such other workmen as he may think proper to employ & take down the Bells of all the publick buildings in the City and Convey them to a place of Safety.”108 Against some resistance, the eight Christ Church bells were hauled up to Bethlehem (along with two from St. Peters) where they were to remain for a year. When the British occupation was over, the bells were brought back and hung again at public expense.109

After Independence and the establishment of Bishop White, the weather vane was changed. The new one bore a miter with the following inscription: “The Right Reverend William White, D.D., consecrated Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Pennsylvania, February 4, 1787. The miter is four feet in circumference at the bottom and has thirteen holes in it, indicative of the number of the original states.”110

Interior Decoration

The plain painting which has characterized the interior finish in recent years is quite likely a modern taste, probably originating in the austerities of the Greek Revival under the hand of Thomas U. Walter in the 1830’s.

An engraving, our first interior view and probably done about 1787, portrays elaborate decoration on the chancel walls and ceiling and a striking guilloche painted on the reveals of the main arches. A documentary reference to this sort of thing in the church is a loose manuscript bill from house painter William Fling in 1797 to cover “Ornamenting the Pillars, Arches & The Work Over the Comunion [sic] Table And Sham paneling the front of the Gallery . . . £13/2/6.” That the American taste in church work embraced all kinds of fancy effects, including graining and marbleizing, is shown on a contemporary bill for decorating Christ Church, Salem Street, Boston. There the statement of John Gibbs, the painter, to the wardens for interior work included “ye Cherubims heads & fustoons & Drawing pannells under ye Arches Both Sides.”111 All of this was a substitute for three-dimensional work on carved wood or molded plaster characteristic of the great London churches. The Boston ironwork, presumably the chandelier rods, was painted in “Prussian blew” and picked out in vermilion. Twenty-one books of gold leaf were also used.112

In respect to such decoration it may be significant that the Swedish artist Gustavus Hesselius painted the Philadelphia church. We know from an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette for December, 1740, that he was capable of such work as “Coats of Arms drawn on Coaches, Chaises, &c. or any other kind of Ornaments, Landskips, Shew-boards, Ship and House Painting, Gilding of all Sorts, Writing in Gold or Colour.” Hesselius’ contemporary work in the State House was on a larger scale.113

A generation later it was reported that the roof was leaking and that the church wanted “white-washing and new Painting.”114 The vestry decided to take advantage of the scaffolding erected for the white-washers to have the woodwork redone. Anthony De Normandie turned in an estimate of £65 for work to include gilding in the chancel and “ye Paintings on the Arch [vault? which] would like wise want to be mended & cleaned.”115 That De Normandie was capable of elaborate decoration can be seen in the records of his work at the stylish mansion of General John Cadwallader on South Second Street. There his work included painting in unusual colors (green and yellow), mahogany graining, gold leaf and papier-mâché borders.116

Enclosing the Churchyard

The grand new edifice called for something better than the old wooden fence, and by the spring of 1756 Committeeman George Okill had a brick wall under way with the intent of incorporating an iron palisade or clairvoyee along the Second Street front.117 Early on, presumably urged by property owners on Church Alley in the rear, there was a demand for a passage across the south edge of the graveyard. This shortcut was later encouraged by the offer of £100 by Hugh Roberts and Attwood Shute. It was agreed that the new “Common and Public alley or foot way” should be six and a half feet wide.118 The work of enclosure was completed by bricklayer George Fudge, only after Okill’s death, though not without a dispute over its cost.119

In a sense this walling marked the first completion of the Church. In the years following the planning and building of St. Peter’s Church (begun 1758); St. Paul’s, Third Street (begun 1760); and St. John’s, Northern Liberties (begun 1764) must have taxed the energy and purse of the parish.

After the war the enclosures come in for further work and on March 26, 1793, a subscription list was opened with the preamble:

Whereas the ruinous condition of the Gates & Wall inclosing Christ Church must strike the notice of every Member of said Church, and excite a wish to have the same put into a decent situation; which has by no means escaped the attention of the Rector, Church Wardens & Vestry, who have been lead to examine into a state of the Church Funds, but to their no small regret, find them altogether inadequate to carry into effect that desirable & necessary Repair. . . .120

The eminent financier Robert Morris led off the subscribers with a contribution of twenty dollars, followed by his business partner, Thomas Willing, (ten dollars) and a list of generous citizens. Work was evidently soon under way when John Robbin in June of 1794 submitted a substantial bill for work done along the south side of the churchyard and at Church Alley.121

But the notable new feature was the fine ironwork along Second Street. On September 1, 1797, Samuel Wheeler, the master blacksmith, was paid the large sum of £264.15.2 for the balance due him “for Iron Gates and other Iron Work.”122 The gates in the iron palisade are still in use; they are signed and dated “S. Wheeler, 1795.”

Thomas U. Walter’s Work

There is a vast record relating to the maintenance of Christ Church in the nineteenth century that needs to be studied to get a picture of changing styles in interior decoration. For instance, the 1828 bid of painter John Kenworthey who agreed

to paint the woodwork inside of the Church two coats Gild the Organ pipes and ornamental work on the Organ. letter the tablits in Gold, Gild such ornamental work near the communion as may want it and Gild & paint the chandelier chain and ornament in the Ceiling for Five hundred and forty Dollars123

The tendency has been towards plainer effects in later years.

But there were more basic problems. As the musical program of the church developed, the weight of the organ increased and space for the choir in the west gallery became crowded. As early as 1773 Robert Smith had been asked to inspect its supporting “Pillars” but he pronounced them sufficient.124 Two years later some church members

had associated themselves for their mutual Improvement in singing along with the Organ and it was thought by him and several others that if a seat could be conveniently built in the west gallery on the Front of the Organ that would hold this little Society of Singers that part of the Church Service would be performed to very great advantage125

The result was that small columns were indeed added to support the galleries.

In 1818 a special committee was appointed to examine the galleries and make suggestions to “render them more convenient to the occupants & tend to increase the church funds.”126 Two years later another committee was appointed to consider enlarging the organ loft “to make it more commodious for a Choir.”127 But these needs had to wait a dozen more years.

An extensive program of rehabilitation and change got under way in 1832 beginning with the notion of substituting a coal-burning furnace for the four stoves then in use128 and the enlargement of the “organ loft” to seat a choir and as well as orchestra. Carpenter Daniel Knight proceeded with the latter project to suit the committee on music but his work seems to have raised architectural objections.

Architect Thomas U. Walter, recently become famous by winning the Girard College competition, was then engaged.129 He presented his recommendations in a comprehensive letter of April 29, 1834. The conversion of the colonial-style exclusive “box” pews with locks to the more democratic “slip” pews was approved. But the conservative and sentimental element of the congregation had to be assured and Walter wrote:

You further requested me to suggest such other improvements as would tend to the comfort of the congregation, and the beauty of the house; this, to me, is by no means an unpleasant duty, I have often looked with regret at the many innovations on the original purity of the architecture of Christ Church, and it affords me pleasure to think, that there is some hope of its restoration to its pristine beauty.

He proposed that the organ be moved backwards with some of the mechanical elements actually penetrating the tower structure to the west.130 But he rejected the idea of lowering the ceiling for acoustical reasons and to save heating costs as well as a suggested extension of the galleries all the way to the eastern wall.

The problem of light for the great Palladian window got special attention:

The eastern window opening into the chancel, is altogether useless for purposes of light, and must be a great annoyance to the congregation, yet it is of importance to the Architecture to retain it, this may be done and its inconvenience avoided, by placing permanent blinds each slat to be so wide as to prevent any possibility of seeing thro’ from any attainable position in the house--by this means, all the glare of light may be destroyed and the beauty of the window preserved. I also suggest the propriety of making an additional sash in the window, on the outside of the blinds for the purpose of keeping out the noise from Second Street.131

Walter’s recommendations for a heating furnace in the cellar was abreast of the new mechanical comforts of the period.132

Construction work proceeded under a contract with the architect himself and was completed late in the autumn of 1836 at a considerable overrun in cost. Lacking drawings and specifications for the job, it is now hard to say exactly what was done. Besides the large orders for lumber, the highest paid mechanics were D. R. and R. T. Knight, contracting carpenters ($2,657.43), and George Wise & Co., painters ($1,991,00).

But one project led to another and work was soon extended to the exterior. The advancing technology of the times made it possible to use copper sheets on the main roof and steeple, hydraulic cement mortar for the most exposed brickwork of the tower, and a more permanent substitute133 for Dr. Kearsley's wooden urns--by then decaying-which were finished off, along with the eaves balustrade, with sanded paint. The weather vane was newly gold-leafed and fitted with “friction rollers which cause it to point true with a very light wind.”

The Walter work drew some unfavorable notice in subsequent years.

His personal diary has recently come to light. To it he confided (October 22, 1835) he wasn’t really sympathetic to the job.

Visited Christ Church . . . nearly completed. The architecture is very Sad-always been over rated. I don’t like the idea of preserving disreputable antiquities, only because they are old. Greece, Rome & England have all antiquities to look at that far exceed the genious of the present day; these are well worth preserving.134

A little later Benson J. Lossing, that indefatigable surveyor of historic sites, was happy to find the exterior of the church unchanged. And in the churchyard, standing amidst its graves, he felt that an American could sense that he was on consecrated ground. But he wrote: “the interior has been greatly changed by that iconoclast improvement--that breaker of images which patriotism delights to worship.”135


By 1854 the organ was felt to be crowding the west gallery and the vestry authorized it to be cut back into the stone wall of the tower. At that time the church was in need of repainting and one thing led to another. It was decided to remove the curtains and blinds at the great Palladian window and glaze the inner sash with “a plain enamelled Glass, that would admit an agreeable subdued light.”136 Further changes were made in the chancel: the pulpit was moved back to the middle; the canopy removed and a “Rich Walnut” graining applied to it and the pews. A clear photograph of 1860 illustrates the results which also included classic revival foliage in panels painted on the chancel wall and arched ceiling.137

The introduction of Gibson’s fashionable stained glass and dark woodwork seems to have stirred up an antiquarian reaction. By 1861 a parish committee on Library and Relics reported that they had “discovered quite a number of interesting relics, that without timely care will be destroyed.” On February 17, 1864, there was a long committee report concerning the pews traditionally used by Benjamin Franklin and George Washington138 and considering what might be done to preserve their identity. The committee included vestryman (and ink manufacturer) Joseph E. Hover, who built a scale model of the church which has fortunately survived.139

In 1867 the church was lit by gaslight for the first time, but care was taken to restore the old “central chandelier,” returning it to its original position. On December 4, 1872, the Committee on Relics reported a minor triumph to the Vestry when the wooden portrait in low relief of George II--originally mounted over the Palladian window on the east front--was returned from the Philadelphia Library which had preserved it for years.

Abetting the parish antiquarians was the rising interest in historic landmarks of national dimensions. A literature addressed to what we now call “tourism” began at an early date as a new function was added to the house of worship.

At random, Edmund Hogan’s Prospect of Philadelphia, 1795 (p. 31), gives a brief historical notice allowing it to be a “beautiful church.” Carey and Hart, Philadelphia in 1830-1 . . . A Complete Guide for Strangers (p. 37) notes it as “one of the most ancient and certainly not the least striking or beautiful religious edifices in this city.” Thomas T. Ash and Co., Lions of Philadelphia . . . a Pocket Cicerone for Strangers (1837) allows Christ Church a very scant notice but predicts that “It will soon become a point of attention to strangers” by reason of an elegant marble monument then proposed to memorialize Bishop White. R. A. Smith, Philadelphia as It Is in 1852, Being a Correct Guide (p. 282-3) allowed the steeple to be “a graceful piece of architecture” and the Queen Anne silver “very interesting.”

At cross purposes to the antiquarian pursuits was a functional wing built in 1871. A contract was made with Robert B. Blake, builder, to construct “a certain building for school and parish purposes” according to plans prepared by architect Henry Augustus Sims.140 This was actually connected to the body of the church at the northwest corner and stood until a separate parish house was erected years later.

The Centennial of 1876 brought great crowds to Philadelphia and in the words of Bishop William Bacon Stevens “tens of thousands visited old Christ Church, the great historic temple of the Protestant Episcopal Church, to see the place where Washington and his companions worshipped, where Franklin and his family attended service.”141


The crowds at the 1876 Centennial made Philadelphia more tourist-conscious and the next year Rector Edward A. Foggo recommended that Christ Church be kept open daily for private devotions and to recognize “the praiseworthy curiosity of strangers in the city.”

The church was soon planning its own centennial--that of the formation of the Episcopal Church in America. George W. Hewitt, Philadelphia architect, was called in as early as December 7, 1881.142 Architect Hewitt’s mission was to restore the church to the period 1783 and for this he offered his services without compensation for his “labors and plans.” A committee worked with him and plans and specifications were offered for approval on February 1, 1882. Work proceeded over the summer and the church was reopened on November 8 with forty clergymen present and a crowded congregation.143

Rector Foggo in a sermon preached on November 11 rejoiced that the church was again “beautiful in its stately simplicity [and] its walls free from gaudy and meritricious coloring” and was grateful that when the church Centennial convened the next year it would find “very much the old building as it then stood.”


Over the years all church fabrics, especially those churches with steeples, have their troubles-large and small. On May 28, 1908, the top of the Christ Church steeple was destroyed by fire. Fortunately, there were measured drawings to go by and it was replaced by John Duncan, carpenter and builder.144 But the hazard of fire was never forgotten.

To celebrate the 225th anniversary of the founding of the parish, an historical symposium was held in 1920 and the commemorative volume edited by Louis C. Washburn reported progress including six new monumental stained glass windows made in London by the firm of Heaton, Butler and Bayne.145 A parish house had been built across American Street to which the church heating apparatus was moved.146 At that time it was hoped that the churchyard could be extended some forty-five feet north to Filbert Street147 and that was subsequently done.

A large area of landscaping to the south became possible with the creation of the Independence National Historical Park. The Park, a great project undertaken by the Federal Government (along with the Independence Mall carried out by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) was intended to protect Independence Hall and other historic buildings in the area. The movement began during World War II when European cities were ablaze under air raids. Immediately afterwards Congress created a Philadelphia National Shrines Park Commission under the adroit and tireless chairmanship of the late Judge Edwin O. Lewis. This led to the establishment of the Park itself, and by March of 1951 one hundred and twenty-five parcels of land were under acquisition. It was from the first intended to incorporate Christ Church as a separate but important part of the Park.

On December 27, 1950, there was concluded an agreement between the U.S. Department of the Interior (Oscar L. Chapman, Secretary) and the Rector, Church Wardens, and Vestrymen of Christ Church (E. A. de Bordenave and W. Beaumont Whitney signing) which recognized the Church “as possessing national significance because of its high place in American architectural history and its intimate connection with the personages and events associated with the establishment of this Nation.” There was no thought of acquiring title to the church itself but only to clear out for fire protection a narrow strip of land alongside Church Alley-known as “Project E” to the park planners. Awareness of that hazard had already caused the church to install a comprehensive set of piping on the exterior which would envelop the structure in a protective curtain of water in case of emergency. Before the original plan could be carried out, the church, led by Rector Ernest A. Harding, prevailed on the National Park Service to acquire more land and to clear it all the way to Market Street. To the west, however, resistance by property owners alongside Grindstone Alley stopped the clearance short of that ancient passageway.148

Two dozen years ago it was discovered that the low roofs on both sides of the church were in danger of collapse and corrective measures were quickly taken but at great expense.149 At that time the strength of the galleries came under suspicion and their capacities were sharply limited. In 1974 an historical-structural-architectural study was made which led to the reinforcement of the galleries, the addition of fire stairs concealed in the northeast sector and other safety measures. The church was thus prepared to play an important part in the national Bicentennial of 1976.150


1. The author acknowledges that this essay carries on the work of others: The Reverend Benjamin Dorr, A Historical Account, New York and Philadelphia, 1841; Louis C. Washburn, Christ Church, Philadelphia, a Symposium, Philadelphia, 1924; and Robert W. Shoemaker in Historic Philadelphia, Philadelphia, 1953. Each made his contribution.

2. William Stevens Perry, ed., Historian’s Collections Relating to the American Colonial Church, AMS Press, New York, 1969, II, 5.

3. The Society’s Charter was dated March 25, 1682. It has been printed in facsimile by the Friends of Nicholas More. More first came to our attention when Penn in 1687 published in London More’s enthusiastic letter extolling the wonders of the new Colony. Republished in 1982 by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

4. Nicholson left his mark in laying out Annapolis and Williamsburg. In the latter capital he named two streets after himself.

5. Quarry Street near Christ Church named after him existed until recently.

6. Perry, II, 16. Edward Portlock to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

7. Carpenter John Harrison was one of the three. Also signing was Thomas Stapleford who was paid for joiner’s work as late as 1711. The third was carpenter Robert Snead from Jamaica. Charles Penrose Keith “The Founders” in Louis C. Washburn, Christ Church, Philadelphia, 1925. pp. 98-100. Today we can regret that the designer’s name does not appear as such in the records.

8. Letter, Bridge to Secretary, Narragansett, December 2, 1707 (partly illegible). Washington, Library of Congress, Christ Church, Philadelphia transcripts.

9. Old Swede’s Church, Gloria Dei at Wiccao, just south of Philadelphia, was begun just as the first Christ Church was completed. Still standing, it is the oldest known structure within modern Philadelphia. Both churches were probably designed by John Harrison, Sr. Dr. Moss shares the opinion that the two churches may have looked much alike, the difference being that the former was built of brick. See Roger W. Moss, Jr., “The Origins of The Carpenters’ Company of Philadelphia,” Building Early America, Radnor, 1976, pp. 38-39.

10. Cash Journal, Christ Church, various entries.

11. The Journal and Vestry Minutes (VM), while listing payments for materials and workmen, do not always identify which building was being referred to.

A progress report from Evan Evans the minister in Philadelphia dated November 3, 1705, notes that “. . . The Schoolmaster is arrived & yE Schoolhouse finished, & a house for yE Minister is now in building, & will be ready before Christmas. There is no glebe but one Lott laid out for a Garden. The great charge that the Number of yE Church have been at in building those two structures has incapacitated them for yE present to buy any more land. . . .” London, Lambeth Palace Library, S.P.G. Papers, Vol. XV (1702-1707), No. 89.

On May 21, 1711, Governor Gookin wrote from Philadelphia that while the new additions to the church would be finished in two or three months that it would still be too small. S.P.G. Papers, Vol. XV, No. 183.

12. William Stevens Perry, The History of the American Episcopal Church, 1587-1883, Boston, 1885, p. 237. The cornerstone was laid by the Honourable Patrick Gordon, Governor of Pennsylvania, on April 27, 1727.

13. Dr. Kearsley (1684-1772) was a native of County Durham, England. Nothing is known of his education or professional training. According to his obituary (Pennsylvania Gazette, January 16, 1772), he came to Pennsylvania in 1711. One is tempted to believe that he had been living in London where he could have studied the city churches of Wren (Surveyor General to the Crown until 1718). Kearsley was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1726 and in 1730 was appointed one of the committee of three to direct the expenditure of £2,000 on the new “Stadt house” (Independence Hall). In planning the latter project he soon fell into conflict with Speaker Andrew Hamilton and withdrew.

Dr. Kearsley lived near Christ Church on Front Street just south of the London Coffee House and maintained a pasture in Northern Liberties. He also owned a number of houses with which he endowed Christ Church Hospital (today called “Kearsley Home”).

14. Fulham Papers, Library of Congress. Excerpt of letter, Christ Church Wardens and Select Vestry to the Lord Bishop of London, 4 May 1728.

15. Ibid. Excerpt of letter, Archibald Cummings to the Bishop of London, June 7, 1728.

16. Journal, various entries.

17. Adolph B. Benson, ed., Peter Kalm’s Travels in North America, Vol. I, New York, 1964, pp. 20, 21.

18. The specifications for Smith’s contract at St. Peter’s was dated August 5, 1758. It called for “a Cupola Erected and Compleately finished on the West End of the said Building of Ten feet Diameter and at least Thirty two feet high from the Top of the Roof to the Top of the Vane, that said Smith shall provide and fix thereon a large ball & vane composed of Copper and to be neatly Gilt.”

A lithograph by artist W. L. Breton of 1826 depicts the St. Peter’s cupola. It in turn was removed when William Strickland’s tower and steeple replaced it in 1842.

19. The Minutes, copied in the fine hand of a professional scribe, simply relay to us what was available. The rough minutes, taken by various volunteer businessmen who were contributing time to the Church, were probably carried home for further work. There, many would have fallen into the hands of children to scribble on the backs of sheets (paper was expensive), or thrown out by distraught widows or pasted over to make scrapbooks by spinster hobbyists. Some may come to light yet.

20. Christ Church Manuscripts, Loose Documents, John Kearsley to

Evan Morgan, December 17, 1760. The total cost was given here as £598.8.6.

21. VM, March 16, June 30, 1732.

22. VM, May 25, 1735.

23. VM, July 5, 1736. He was allowed £9 each for them.

24. Bound MS, Building and Steeple Fund, 1739-1754. Only partly paginated.

25. VM, May 1, 1742.

26. VM, March 20, 1743.

27. Such a chest was eventually procured, secured with three locks, and kept in the Parsonage (VM, April 23, 1745). Today, historians heartily wish that the papers had been locked up sooner.

28. Inventor of the quadrant.

29. VM, October 23, 1744.

30. Today there are few American architectural plans that survive from this period. There being no inexpensive form of reproduction, the original drawings were probably worn out on the job. For those that survived, it was difficult to fold them into standard packets and bind them with red tape like other documents. Finally, torn and dusty, they were probably thrown out by irate housekeepers.

31. Marcus Whiffen, Stuart and Georgian Churches: The Architecture of the Church of England outside London, London, 1948, and The Public Buildings of Williamsburg, Williamsburg, 1958. Professor Whiffen is now at the University of Arizona, Tempe.

32. Kerry Downs, Hawksmoor, New York, 1970. Hawksmoor (1611-1736) was a proteg‚ of Sir Christopher Wren and Sir John Vanbrugh. Professor Downs teaches at the University of Reading, Berkshire, England.

33. I would like to suggest that the designer could well have been Thomas Archer (c. 1668-1743) “an able and active designer who was one of the Commissioners for building Fifty New Churches in London under the Act of 1711.” See Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, New York: Facts on File, Inc. 1980, 68-70.

34. The precedent for the great Charleston church was acknowledged at the time to be the Jesuit Church of Antwerp.

35. In a study of Library Hall (built 1789-90) I was able to find copper plates in the Library Company’s holdings which offered valuable suggestions for Dr. Thornton, the prize-winning amateur who created that relatively simple building. It must be remembered that he had available a group of experienced mechanics (the list survives) to design the trim and other necessary details. Historic Philadelphia, American Philosophical Society Transactions, Vol. 43, Part I, Philadelphia, 1953, pp. 146-147.

Helen Park in her valuable study “A List of Architectural Books Available in America before the Revolution” JSAH, Vol. XX, No. 3 (October, 1961) pp. 115-140, lists many titles but those I have examined are too late in date and do not explain Christ Church.

The original library of Christ Church contained a building-oriented book by John Barker titled The Measurer’s Guide, Or The whole Art of Measuring made short, plain, and easie: shewing 1. To measure any plan Superficies. 2. All sorts of Regular solids. 3. The Art of Gauging. 4. To measure Artificers’ work; as Carpenters’, Joyners’, Plaisterers’, Painters’, Paviers’, Glaziers’, Bricklayers’, Tylers’, etc., London, 1692. The only copy known to be present in the United States is in the Clarke Library at the University of California at Los Angeles. It was located with the help of librarians Edwin Wolf II and William Bidwell. About half of the little volume relates to building construction; there are no illustrations.

36. Harrold E. Gillingham, “Some Early Brickmakers of Philadelphia,” PMHB, Vol. LIII, No. 1, pp. 1-27. That study badly needs updating.

37. This writer has followed the career of Thomas Boude with some care, hoping to find that he was the virtuoso who manipulated the brickwork at Christ Church-but in vain.

Boude’s name is often misspelled Bonde, both in manuscripts and in print. He was born in Perth Amboy or Philadelphia about the year 1700, the son of English immigrant Grimstone Boude. He first appears in the Pennsylvania Gazette for February 1, 1732. The Boudes married into various prominent families here (notably Hillegas and Clarkson), but Thomas doesn’t figure in many transactions of record. Among his possessions was a house near Poole’s Bridge below the British Barracks operating at the Sign of the Highlander. Boude was a ranking Mason, briefly Philadelphia Coroner, and he died at the home of Mathew Clarkson in 1781. His historical distinction is mainly for laying the brick (probably as master bricklayer with John Palmer and Thomas Redman) at the State House. John F. Watson, Annals of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Vol. I (1927), p. 396. Granville Leach, History of the Bringhurst Family with Notes on the Clarkson, de Peyster and Boude Families, Philadelphia, 1901.

38. Herbert A. Claiborne, Comments on Virginia Brickwork before 1800, The Walpole Society, 1957, n.p. The late Thomas T. Waterman, another friend and connoisseur of colonial brickwork, often lectured me on this subject. In Virginia “Rosewell,” Gloucester County, though long in ruin, still represents the epitome of Early American brickwork with its elaborate molded and cut work.

39. Pennsylvania Archives, Ser. 8, Vol. IV, Harrisburg, 1931, p. 2716.

The art of the brickmaker involved a great deal of technical expertise in special molding and burning for large layouts as at Christ Church. A comprehensive idea of what was involved may be found in Nathaniel Lloyd, A History of English Brickwork, London, 1925 (reissued New York, 1972). The wall design of Kew Palace, Surrey, built 1631 (pp. 173-175) makes an interesting comparison. Good building stone was hard to come by in London and southeast England generally and it was there that fancy brickwork was evolved to imitate the sophisticated Italian buildings done in cut stone that they so much admired. The Dutch had had the same problem and did much to show the English the way.

40. William MacPherson Hornor, Jr., Blue Book, Philadelphia Furniture, Philadelphia, 1935, pp. 74-77, 176.

41. VM, December 6, 1769.

42. VM, June 11, 1770.

43. Benson J. Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution, New York, 1851, Vol. II, p. 248 was pleased to note “One vestige of the olden time remains untouched-the pulpit sounding-board, the indispensable canopy of the old pastors.” In recent years it became derelict and seems now to have disappeared.

44. VM, March 16, 1732.

45. VM, July 31, 1740.

46. VM, August 14, 1769.

47. VM, October 23, 1769.

48. The Vestry ordered a new pewing plan before the first section of the new church was even completed (VM, June 11, 1730).

49. Carl and Jessica Bridenbaugh, Rebels and Gentlemen, Philadelphia in the Age of Franklin, New York, 1942, p. 17.

50. At first it was reported that the Governor wished to sit in the gallery and wardens called on him to get that confirmed (VM, March 16, 1732). However, that didn’t suit His Excellency, as it turned out, for he wanted his pew “where the pulpit formerly stood.” It was then directed that a handsome one be built and that the Governor be asked to approve it before the communion table was pulled down (VM, May 26 and 27, 1732).

51. On August 15, 1790, Robert Towers was paid £7.4.0 “for Crimson Velvet for Lining the President’s pew” (Journal).

52. VM, November 6, 1744. Benjamin Reeves is the only joiner specifically credited with the pew construction. The Journal for August 14, 1746, reported that he was paid £5 “in part for the Pews on the South Side.”

53. VM, February 22. 1745.

54. VM, March 23, 1745.

55. Redrawn by architect George S. Bethell in 1865 and presented to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where it has been preserved. On close analysis, the names of the individual holders will probably pinpoint the date of the layout.

56. Christ Church Archives.

57. Bound pew book for Christ Church, St. Peters and St. James. Christ Church MSS.

58. Edmund Hogan, A Prospect of Philadelphia, Part I, Philadelphia, 1795, p. 31.

59. VM, June 11, 1717.

60. VM, May 2, 1727.

61. VM, April 3, 1744.

62. VM, April 24, 1746. The misspelling of the word architect here says something about its unfamiliarity in early Philadelphia.

63. VM, June 2, 1746. Not otherwise identified but probably John Jr. or Daniel Harrison.

64. Nicholas B. Wainwright, “Scull and Heap’s East Prospect of Philadelphia,” PMHB, Vol. LXXIII, No. 1 (Jan. 1949), p. 18.

65. Edmund Woolley’s accounts began on March 30, 1750. For the State House see Edward M. Riley, “The Independence Hall Group,” Historic Philadelphia, Philadelphia, 1953, pp. 17-18. This has been updated by a massive mimeographed study “by staff,” Historic Structures Report, Part II, on Independence Hall, Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, April, 1962.

66. Wainwright, p. 19. To get his painting engraved, Heap embarked for England with it but he died en route. The painting was recovered by Heap’s widow who sold it to Peters who had a copy sent off to England where it was engraved soon enough to be advertised in the Philadelphia newspapers on November 1, 1753.

There are other examples known of engraved steeples never actually built yet appearing on old city views. It would seem that steeples, prominently delineated in port city views, often were valuable landmarks to ships; navigators.

67. The principal views we have today are the Columbian Magazine (1787), Thomas Birch’s engraving “Second Street North from Market St. with Christ Church” (1799) and William Strickland’s painting of 1811. In later years the artists’ views multiplied to eventually being succeeded by photographs.

68. VM, March 11, 1750.

69. VM, April 29, 1751.

70. “The Steeple of Christ Church in PhiladA to Jacob Duche Treasurer Dr.” A brief historical summary may be found in the Pennsylvania Gazette, January 7, 1755.

71. The same thing happened at Independence Hall. Stone was a basically stronger material, less porous and more waterproof.

72. Steeple Accounts.

73. VM, August 6, 1752.

74. VM, October 27 and 30, 1752.

75. VM, February 22, 1753.

76. VM, December 3, 1753.

77. The engraving is reproduced and discussed in Suzanne Foley, “Christ Church, Boston,” Old-Time New England, Vol. LI, No. III (January-March, 1961), p. 71. This article was brought to my attention by Penelope Hartshorne Batcheler who made a study of the Boston structure for the U.S. National Park Service (Denver Service Center).

A drawing of St. James may be seen in Bannister Fletcher, A History of Architecture, 5th ed., London and New York, 1905, p. 577. There it is depicted without the steeple or spire which was actually designed and built by Edward Wilcox (H. M. Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of English Architects, London, 1954, pp. 670, 709) and has no relationship to the American steeples.

78. Vestry Minutes, August 23, 1756, and April 14, 1759. Because John Thornhill’s first bill for carpentry was contested as “very extravagint” it was decided to get third parties to measure and evaluate his work. Three years later this troublesome matter was settled when the master carpenters Edmund Woolley and John Harrison, Jr., adjudged Thornhill’s work to be worth the large sum of £114.4.0.

Thornhill’s work included framing, floors, stairs and partitions, two arched windows with their sash, and two arched doors and the necessary scaffolding. Loose MS dated April 6, 1759.

John Thornhill, a member of the Carpenters’ Company of the City and County of Philadelphia, died in 1783. He lived on North Third Street and owned a Vine Street tavern “At the Sign of the Tennis Court.” Pennsylvania Gazette, September 5, 1765.

79. The record can be found in the Edinburgh General Register Office among the County’s parochial registers. The bound manuscript is titled Register/ of the Childrens Names / Baptised in the Church of Dalkeith Since Martmas / 1712 / Together with an Account of the Dayes of their Birth & Baptism. On page 67 is the neat but tightly written entry “John Smith and Martha Lawrie had a son born Jany. 14. baptised 23 [?] Rob: witness Rob Lawrie and Ja: Barron.”

80. The body of the church was built 1750-1752. Presbyterian Historical Society, Second Presbyterian Church Congregation Minutes, 1747-1772, MS, various entries.

Smith’s partner Bedford (1720-1802), born in New Castle, Delaware, was working in Philadelphia as a house carpenter as early as 1746. On September 16 of that year, he indentured an Irish servant girl. PMHB, Vol. 32 (1908), p. 354. “Account of Servants Bound and Assigned before James Hamilton.” The Presbyterian church, begun 1749, was probably his first important job and, under construction, it appears in the background of Bedford’s portrait by Charles Willson Peale. He fathered thirteen children, served in the French and Indian War as a lieutenant, surveyed for fire insurance under the Philadelphia Contributionship, played an important part in the affairs of the Carpenters’ Company, and was elected Philadelphia alderman in 1787. His funeral on March 28, 1802, was “attended by a numerous concourse of mourning relatives and friends.” Lewis D. Cook, “The Gunning Bedford Family,” The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, Vol. XXX, No. 1 (1977), pp. 1-9. This includes valuable notes by Hannah Benner Roach.

81. James Hamilton, Cash Book, 1739-1757, MS, HSP. I owe this reference to Mr. Nicholas B. Wainwright.

82. Since publication of my notes on Robert Smith in “Carpenters’ Hall,” Historic Philadelphia, Philadelphia, 1953, pp. 119-123, several persons have made important contributions. Willman Spawn in 1955 reported the letter (8/9/1759) from David Hall, Philadelphia printer, to Hamilton and Balfour, Edinburgh booksellers, transmitting money from “my good friend M. Robert Smith” to be remitted to his widowed mother Martha Smith of Lugton, near Dalkeith (D. Hall Letter Book, No. II [MS], American Philosophical Society Library). It remained for Beatrice B. Garvan in Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art, Philadelphia, 1976, pp. 31-32, to report the entry in the Dalkeith parish records and to suggest that

he may have shared in work at Dalkeith under the direction of William Adam.

Smith’s career was to close on February 11, 1777, when he was working on the American army barracks at Billingsport, New Jersey, part of the defenses on the Delaware River.

83. H. M. Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of English Architects, London, 1978, p. 56.

84. William Smith, Philadelphia County Gaol, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, February 7, 1758, London, Lambeth Palace Archives, S.P.G. Papers, Vol. 1123, Part II, No. 112.

85. E. P. Richardson, “West’s Voyage to Italy, 1760, and William Allen,” PMHB, CII, No. 1 (January, 1978) pp. 20-21.

86. Hamilton, Cash Book, various entries.

87. Steeple Accounts, various entries. Today, Harding’s most famous works are the carvings in Independence Hall central hall and grand stairway. His bill for “Carved Work Done for the State house” covers in picturesque detail such items as “8 blases for the balconey hurns at 10S pr blase,” “6 flowers & 6 fishes for the pillars” of the back door, “4 Compositta Cappitalls 2 plasters & 2 quarter plasters” and “the carven of 2 tabernackels frames one of each side of the Venession winder.” The itemization is spread from 1753 to 1756 totalling £195.13.11. Payments were acknowledged for June 17, 1757, to August 23, 1758, when Elizabeth Downey got the final payment “in full as pr agreement made with Joseph Fox.” Norris MSS, HSP. The late Lester Hoadley Sellers, AIA, brought this to my attention.

James Hamilton’s Cash Book shows Harding also worked for Hamilton: “for carving” (6/11/1751) and “for Carving Shield” (2/27/1753).

Benjamin Loxley, a fellow member of the Philadelphia Carpenters’ Company, had also assisted-partly by furnishing a large quantity of shingles which (in the Philadelphia manner) were shaved and “jointed” on the job.

88. Dorr, pp. 106-107. The Steeple Accounts record the £40 cash was paid on December 4 for hanging them.

89. VM, November 22, 1756.

90. VM, June 2, 1762.

91. James Glen handled this work May 31-August 10 for which he employed two to six “hands” at a total cost of £9.5.0. Loose MS.

92. VM, May 20, 1771.

93. VM, June 4, 1771.

94. Smith wrote to Hopkinson recommending “the Painters to paint the spindle Black of A dark Couler.” The painters’ bill for three and four coats came to the large sum of £123.3.10½ from which £8 was deducted as a contribution. (Many others had done the same.) They were steeplejack prices. Included was an item for “Smalting the Cap of the Spire”--a coating of tiny glass beads that would glitter in the sunlight.

95. The last payment voucher was dated May 8, 1772, in the amount of £41.16.5. In all the work Robert Smith was closely assisted by his son, John, also a house carpenter.

Francis Hopkinson, who kept the steeple repair accounts, reported that £664.2.10 had been spent, causing something of a financial crisis in the church’s affairs (VM, November 16, 1772).

96. Carl Bridenbaugh, Peter Harrison, First American Architect, Chapel Hill, 1949.

97. H. Paul Caemmerer, The Life of Pierre Charles L’Enfant, Planner of the City Beautiful, the City of Washington, Washington, 1950.

98. Talbot Hamlin, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, New York, 1955.

99. Philadelphia, 1805, p. 56. Biddle further noted “The superstructure of this steeple is composed of three distinct well-proportioned parts of Architecture, the first story, with its small Pediments and Attics, forming one; the octagonal part, with its ogee formed dome, being the second; and the spire and its pedestal, the third. These three parts are very dissimilar, no one having any thing in it that is common to the others; and yet they agree very well with each other, forming one complete and consistent whole.” The plate notes that the total height is 190 feet.

100. The curious, complicated story of the publication may be found in the 1980 reprint in detailed essay by Edinburgh architect James Simpson.

101. The Reverend Robert W. Fraser, Parish Kirks and Manses in Scotland, Edinburgh, London and Dublin, n.d.

The early years of Robert Smith’s American practice were later reviewed by Charles E. Peterson, “Robert Smith, Philadelphia Builder/Architect: From Dalkeith to Princeton” in Scotland and America in the Age of Enlightenment, Richard B. Sher and Jeffrey R. Smitten, eds., University of Edinburgh Press, 1990, pp. 275-299.

102. Journal, April 2, 1728. On June 19, 1732, Bradley advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette: “A choice Parcel of Glasier’s Diamonds, and Window Glass, of different Sorts, by the Box, to be sold, and Looking Glasses silvered.”

Succeeding the medieval diamond-shaped “quarrels” the larger rectangles, also set in lead, came into use; many London churches still have them.

The windows of the Thomas Massey house (c. 1696) in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, were painstakingly reconstructed by John Milner, AIA, from fragments of glass and lead found on the site. Kenneth M. Wilson, “Window Glass in America,” Charles E. Peterson, ed., Building Early America, Radnor, 1976, pp. 155-156.

103. Journal, October 8, 1736. Christopher Marshall on October 5, 1742, John Ellis on December 29, 1747, Joseph Godfrey on August 28, 1750, and William Leech on September 27, 1756.

104. VM, June 15, 1767. De Normandie, painter and glazier, later did extensive decoration in General John Cadwallader’s house on South Second Street, remodelled in 1770. Nicholas B. Wainwright, Colonial Grandeur in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, 1964, various entries.

A very mysterious item appeared in the Vestry Minutes for April 11, 1746: “Jacob Drake is requested to order a Light or Window to be near the north east Corner of the Church in the best and safest manner, the outside thereof to resemble brick-work, as near as possible.”

105. VM, December 17, 1773.

106. VM, November 2, 1773. On November 24 Thomas Clifford was paid for two crates of glass and on December 20 Carlisle Simmons for lumber. Jesse Roe & Co. got the large sum of œ10.2.5 on July 11, 1774 “for a New Window.” It is possible that they were gradually replaced over a period of years.

Somewhere in this essay should be inserted the comments of Duch‚ who, in his anonymous volume Observations on a Variety of Subjects, Philadelphia, 1774, noted (pp. 9-10) that “CHRIST CHURCH has by far the most venerable appearance of any building in this city; and the whole architecture including an elegant steeple (which is furnished with a complete ring of bells) would not disgrace one of the finest streets in Westminster. The eastern front is particularly well designed and executed; but its beauty is in a great measure lost, by its being set too near the street, instead of being placed, as it ought to have been, forty or fifty feet back.” The volume, interestingly, is dedicated to James Hamilton Esq. of Bush Hill.

Duch‚ deserves some study. His house on Third and Pine, Society Hill, today known only from an old painting, was an unusual one.

107. VM, June 9, 1777.

108. VM, September 16, 1777.

109. VM, October 22, 1778.

110. Lossing, Field-Book, p. 250.

111. Bill from Mary Gibbs dated December 5, 1727. MS, Boston, Christ (Old North) Church Manuscripts. I owe these references to Penelope Hartshorne Batcheler of Philadelphia, who has recently studied the fabric of that church and, by scraping old paint, has found traces of the ornamentation.

112. Ibid. Bill of December 23, 1732.

113. Finally settled in 1743. Pennsylvania Archives, (8th ser) IV, 2767, 2857.

114. VM, June 15, 1767.

115. VM, July 6, 1767.

116. Nicholas B. Wainwright, Colonial Grandeur in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, 1964. Various entries.

117. VM, April 26, 1756.

118. VM, May 3, 1756, and March 3, 1757. A request for such a footway had been made as early as 1736 when the Wardens were asked to consider it (VM, August 12, 1736). The new footway appears on the excellent Nicholas Scull map published by Clarkson and Biddle on November 1, 1762. Much later the alley was widened to make the present “cartway.”

119. VM, April 18 and August 9, 1757. In the meantime a part of the wall on the north side had given away.

120. Christ Church Manuscripts, Loose Documents.

121. Ibid.

122. Journal, September 1, 1797. Wheeler had done work on the church steeple (Journal, March 25, 1772). He also made the balcony on Congress Hall (1787) and the iron palisade at St. Peter’s Church in 1785 (Journal, November 23 and 29, 1785, and April 22, 1786).

123. September 2, 1828. Christ Church Archives, Loose Papers.

Among the same papers Robert Shoemaker found an 1804 bill for 668 pounds of white lead, 6 kegs of Spanish brown and a few pounds of lampblack. Another bill or 1814 to Samuel Wetherill & Sons included, along with more white lead, small quantities of Prussian blue, yellow, and red pigments along with six books of gold leaf.

124. VM, May 12, July 5, 1773.

125. VM, February 13, 1775.

126. VM, March 30, 1818.

127. VM, April 10, 1820.

128. On February 10, 1832, Samuel Louderback offered a furnace to heat the church for $250. Loose Papers.

129. Thomas Ustick Walter (1804-1887), a native of Philadelphia, was first apprenticed as a bricklayer under his father. He was to become justly famous for his extensive and far-flung works which included the Dome and Extensions of the U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.

130. An organ was first introduced in 1728. The second, replacing it in 1766, grew until it had about 1607 pipes. The third organ, built by Henry Erben of New York in 1837, had 1809 pipes and weighed eleven tons. Dorr, pp. 325-329. A drawing for an organ case is the only known drawing by Walter for Christ Church known to still exist. It is preserved in the privately held Walter Papers.

131. In the records there are frequent references to measures for controlling the light. A loose manuscript of June 13, 1836, offers a bid from Clapp and Roberts for venetian blinds “all to be put up, well secured with Iron double hooks to belay the cords when the blinds are hoisted.”

132. Walter wrote: “The present manner of heating the church is quite ineffectual, and the stovepipes and flues mar the beauty of the architecture. I therefore suggest the propriety of removing all the stoves, . . . and in lieu thereof to construct a large furnace for the purpose of supplying the church with rarefied air. A cellar may be excavated under or near the door leading from the vestry-room to the nave of the church, and the furnace built in this cellar, the rarefied air to be admitted into the church through an iron grating made in the floor. This I believe to be the only method by which the church can be warmed effectually, the ceiling being so very high. By this manner of heating, we may obtain comfort, without marring the beauty of the church, or interrupting the worship, by making fires, etc.”

The T. U. Walter Receipt Book shows that Stephen P. Morris & Co., grate manufacturers, were paid $308.70 for their apparatus.

133. “In 1838 . . . the Urns, formerly of wood, were remade in the same form of gravel concrete [except for the four on the steeple, see photograph, p. 11] . . . In [1908] they had so far disintegrated that they were discarded and new ones made of cast-iron filled with concrete.” Herbert C. Wise and H. Ferdinand Beidleman, Colonial Architecture for Those About to Build, Philadelphia, 1913, p. 170.

134. Walter Papers, with thanks to Mr. Ennis.

In this respect Walter falls in line with notable American architects both earlier and later. In 1796 Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764-1820) remodelled Governor Berkley’s picturesque Green Spring mansion on the James River (thought in Virginia to be the oldest house in America) beyond recognition. In 1807 Robert Mills (1781-1855) tore down the original wings of Independence Hall to put up something (in his opinion) better. Architects today still believe that they can improve on any historic building, the U.S. Capitol in Washington being no exception.

135. Lossing II, p. 248.

136. John Gibson executed this extensive work, providing an elaborately patterned set of windows, a premonition of the glass ceilings he was soon to install in Thomas U. Walter’s new wings of the United States Capitol in Washington. See Edwin T. Freedley, Philadelphia and Its Manufacturers, Philadelphia, 1959, p. 278.

137. An estimate by Gibson survives as a loose MS dated June 7, 1854.

On completion the special committee reported “the whole interior more in harmony with the design of the architect, and more beautiful, although now more than a hundred years since the entire building was erected” (Vestry Minutes, April 16, 1855).

138. The Washington pew found its way to the City of Philadelphia’s “National Museum” on Independence Square and today is in storage by the National Park Service.

139. It is remarkably explicit, recording details of the fabric--inside and out--that might otherwise have been lost.

140. Loose MSS. Contract dated November 2, 1870, to be complete December 1, 1871.

Sims (1832-1875) was a native of Canada, came to Philadelphia about 1860, became a charter member of the local chapter of the

America Institute of Architects, designed many country estates and a number of public buildings. Withey & Withey, 1956, p. 556.

Sims also submitted estimates for minor work inside Christ Church on a sheet dated October 21, 1871. (Loose MSS).

141. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Wescott, History of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, 1884, Vol. III, p. 1341.

142. Hewitt (1841-1916) trained under John Notman, was in partnership with his brother William in the years 1877-1902. He was the architect of more than fifty churches and the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. Withey & Withey.

143. The restoration measures accomplished consisted in large part of undoing the changes made by architect Walter in 1836. Exterior doorways were reshuffled in accordance with archeological evidence found. The grave floor slabs in the aisle were again exposed and supplemented by tile flooring to match the color of the old brick. The 1854 side doors opening into the chancel were obliterated, the pulpit moved again and its “walnut imitation” finish burned off and the earlier white paint restored. A new gallery access stairway in the southeast room (which remains today) was a tour-de-force of antiquarian accuracy.

A happy postscript of this campaign was the installation of an electric light (then sensationally new) over Benjamin Franklin’s grave at Fifth and Arch streets in connection with the great electrical exhibition then being held in Philadelphia.

144. Wise and Beidleman, p. 170.

145. Washburn, p. 37.

146. Ibid., p. 312.

147. Ibid., p. 310. The plat is dated March 15, 19

148. The early history of the Park is sketched by this writer in “Philadelphia’s New National Park,” Proceedings of the Eightieth Annual Meeting of the Fairmount Park Art Association, Philadelphia, 1952, pp. 14-36. Architectural Historian Constance M. Greiff of Princeton since then produced a book-length work Independence: The Creation of a National Park, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987.

149. Designed by Keast & Hood, structural engineers (Nicholas L. Gianopulos, president) and executed by the A. Raymond Raff Co. (Walter S. Riley, president).

150. The study was funded by the U.S. National Park Service, Hobart G. Cawood, Superintendent, and carried out by a consortium of Charles E. Peterson, FAIA, and the Keast & Hood and Raff companies. Their report was titled Certain Problems and Needs at Christ Church, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, 1974. An analysis of the interior problems, generously illustrated with old views, is dated December 10, 1974. The structural report with plans is dated December 31, 1974.

The work was executed by J. S. Cornell and Sons using funds appropriated by the U.S. Department of the Interior and allotted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, matched by monies locally donated.

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