Pennsylvania’s Architectural Heritage: Representative Styles as Seen in Lancaster County

At the time of the Common­wealth of Pennsylvania’s Ter­centenary, it is appropriate that architecture receive special atten­tion. Of all the arts, architecture is most closely related to life itself: whether a barn or a cathedral, a build­ing satisfies a human need. Thus, buildings are a mirror of a given epoch’s ideals and functions. 1n this light, Pennsylvania’s architectural...
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Fayette at the Crossroads

Fayette County has always been at the crossroads, both literally and figuratively, its destiny shaped by its location, the incredible riches of its natural resources and the vi­tality of a people descended from al­most every nation of Europe. It has a son of dual personality, geo­graphically divided between mountains and lowlands, historically divided into two almost equal eras of economic...
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Benjamin Henry Latrobe: The Artist as Commentator

Benjamin Henry La­trobe (1764-1820) is generally acknowl­edged to be America’s first professional architect and engineer, practicing in the United States from 1796, when he immigrated from England, until his untimely death from yellow fever in New Orleans in 1820. He worked, during that period, in cities as diverse as Richmond, Philadelphia, Balti­more, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, and...
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The Wissahickon Valley: To a Wilderness Returned

The rural Wissahickon Valley, near center-city Philadelphia, typifies the rugged landscape which greeted the first white settlers. Today, its huge hem­locks and towering sycamores contrast markedly with the busy factories and row houses only a mile away. But this valley of contrasts has always been different from the sur­rounding region. A century ago, when most of America was rural or wild, the...
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The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts: An Ideal and a Symbol

By 1805, the year the Pennsylvania Acad­emy of the Fine Arts was founded, Phila­delphia had achieved a large measure of political, social and economic stability. It had been the nation’s capital and contin­ued to thrive as a center of banking and commerce. The largest city in the United States at the opening of the nineteenth century, it was arguably the center of culture, with Boston its...
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The New Taste in Pennsylvania

Like the nation itself during the so-called “Federal” period, the arts in Pennsylvania reached a crescendo in their development that had an unexpected unity, a strong purpose, and a national style. Despite great varia­tions in the Germanic and English traditions, Pennsylvania emerged from the revolutionary period reasonably cohesive. City and country perspectives, naive and...
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A Walk on the Wild Side: Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Creek

At one time deli­cately depicted on dainty lamp shades, the Wissahickon Creek has offered generations of Philadelphians a verdant retreat from the stress of urban life. It is a place to meet old friends, engage in spirited recreational activities, or simply seek solitude. Each person’s reason for seeking respite along the Wissahickon is as unique as the individual, but all share a common...
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The Fairmount Water Works: “One of the Very Prettiest Spots the Eye Can Look Upon”

Error and the human condition, being bound tightly together, generally keep a sullen kind of company. Yet as unpromising as that pair might seem, their offspring sometimes attain startling beauty. Certainly the grace and charm of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Water Works, on the east bank of the Schuylkill River, derive both from the human condition and the fitful attempts to improve it....
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The Moon Men of Agriculture

On November 7, 1849, a brief notice appeared in the Germantown Telegraph notifying Philadelphia gentle­men that a club for farmers was about to be organized. Individuals interested in becoming members were informed where and when they could attend this organizational meeting. This single paragraph in a small, local newspaper seems hardly worthy of note, except that this group, the Farmers’...
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The Watering of Philadelphia

In the glory days of the early republic, the Fairmount Water Works was one Philadelphia’s most famous landmarks: a marvel of engineering, scenic beauty, stylish design, and civic mindedness. It was built for the most practical of purposes – to provide a clean and plentiful supply of that most essential elixir: fresh water. Today, Philadelphian’s are blessed with one of the best...
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