Thomas Somerville Stewart

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Thomas Somerville Stewart (1806 May 3, 1889) was a Philadelphia architect, engineer, and real estate developer.

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania, United States

Philadelphia, sometimes known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2017 census-estimated population of 1,580,863. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.


Personal life

Thomas Somerville Stewart was born to a Scottish family living in Ireland (Scots Irish), he immigrated to Philadelphia in 1818 to apprentice to his uncle, a carpenter. Late in life, he married Clara Eleanor Saurmein. They are buried together at Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia in Section L, Lot # 63. [1] They had two sons, Thomas Somerville Stewart, Jr., M. D. and Ralph Chambers Stewart. Stewart was an Episcopalian and attended St. Luke's Church in Philadelphia until his death. He is memorialized there with a stained glass window on the north wall of the nave. A scholarship for students of architecture in Stewart's name was founded in 1901 by his wife and sons at the University of Pennsylvania. [2]

The Ulster Scots, also called Ulster Scots people or, outside the British Isles, Scots-Irish (Scotch-Airisch), are an ethnic group in Ireland, found mostly in the province of Ulster and to a lesser extent in the rest of Ireland. Their ancestors were mostly Protestant Presbyterians Lowland Scottish migrants, the largest numbers coming from Galloway, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire and the Scottish Borders, with others coming from further north in the Scottish Lowlands and, to a much lesser extent, from the Highlands.

University of Pennsylvania Private Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania is a private Ivy League research university located in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Chartered in 1755, Penn is the sixth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States. It is one of the nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin, Penn's founder and first president, advocated an educational program that trained leaders in commerce, government, and public service, similar to a modern liberal arts curriculum. The university's coat of arms features a dolphin on its red chief, adopted from Benjamin Franklin's own coat of arms.

In 1836, he ran for a position on the City Common Council and received 3,251 votes; an insufficient number to be qualified to hold office. [3] Stewart was a member of the Board of Directors of Girard College for the term from 1856 to 1869. [4] Additionally, he was a Director of the Fire Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania. [5]

Professional life

Stewart apprenticed as a carpenter under his uncle Thomas Stewart until his uncle's death in 1822. He continued his apprenticeship with John Guilder until 1827, staying in his employment as a journeyman until 1829. [6] Stewart began his career building houses, taking advantage of the building boom occurring in Philadelphia at that time. He was able to buy up properties thanks to the inheritance he received from his uncle's estate. He began entering architectural competitions in the early 1830s, notably Girard College Founder's Hall and the Preston Retreat - he was bested in both instances by Thomas Ustick Walter. Stewart's first completed architectural commission was Pennsylvania Hall. An auspicious beginning to his career, it only stood three days before being burned to the ground by an anti-abolitionist mob.

Thomas Ustick Walter American architect

Thomas Ustick Walter was an American architect, the dean of American architecture between the 1820 death of Benjamin Latrobe and the emergence of H.H. Richardson in the 1870s. He was the fourth Architect of the Capitol and responsible for adding the north (Senate) and south (House) wings and the central dome that is predominately the current appearance of the U.S. Capitol building. Walter was one of the founders and second president of the American Institute of Architects.

Pennsylvania Hall (Philadelphia)

Pennsylvania Hall was a 19th-century abolitionist meeting place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, designed by architect Thomas Somerville Stewart. The original structure stood for a mere three days before being burned to the ground by anti-black rioters on the night of May 17, 1838. Despite the brevity of its existence, the Hall was frequently cited by various racial, ethnic and religious groups throughout the city as an argument for their claimed right to defend their properties through armed force.

Stewart's first prominent commission was St. Luke's Episcopal Church on 13th Street in Philadelphia. The competition came with a $100 prize for the winning entry. He won the competition with a corinthian design in the manner of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates. The original design provided for a 200 foot high steeple in the manner of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, although the lack of available funds precluded its construction. Upon the church's completion, the Philadelphia Public Ledger reported: "The interior is exceedingly beautiful and chaste. Without pretending to give a detailed description, we state that above the floor every thing, even to the glass of the windows, is of a pure white, and in every section of the church is introduced the richest and most elaborate carving and molding in wood and plaster. Even the organ is of this color and in this style. It is praised as a superb instrument. The pews are represented as of oak and the damask covering them is of a corresponding color. The effect is remarkably fine." Several years later, the building committee from St. Paul's Church in Richmond was impressed enough with this church that they asked Stewart to design for them a church along the same lines. His work at St. Paul's led to his final large commission for the Egyptian Revival hall for the Medical College of Richmond.

Church of St. Luke and The Epiphany (Philadelphia) Church in Pennsylvania, United States

The Church of Saint Luke and The Epiphany is an Episcopal congregation located at 330 South 13th Street, Center City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is part of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. The church was formed in 1898 as a result of the merger of St. Luke's Church (1839) and The Church of The Epiphany (1834), which consolidated at St. Luke's location.

Corinthian order Latest of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture

The Corinthian order is the last developed of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The other two are the Doric order which was the earliest, followed by the Ionic order. When classical architecture was revived during the Renaissance, two more orders were added to the canon, the Tuscan order and the Composite order. The Corinthian, with its offshoot the Composite, is the most ornate of the orders. This architectural style is characterized by slender fluted columns and elaborate capitals decorated with acanthus leaves and scrolls. There are many variations.

Choragic Monument of Lysicrates ancient greek choragic monument in Athens

The Choragic Monument of Lysicrates near the Acropolis of Athens was erected by the choregos Lysicrates, a wealthy patron of musical performances in the Theater of Dionysus, to commemorate the award of first prize in 335/334 BCE to one of the performances he had sponsored. The choregos was the sponsor who paid for and supervised the training of the dramatic dance-chorus.

By the mid-1850s, Stewart was listed in city directories as an architect and civil engineer. Stewart was employed by the County of Philadelphia to design a bridge over the Schuyllkill River at Chestnut Street, resulting in the publication of two volumes, "Report on the designs for a malleable iron viaduct across the Schuylkill at Chestnut Street (1854)" and "Report on the tubular arch viaduct to be constructed of malleable iron, across the Schuylkill at Chestnut Street (1855)." [7] The Philadelphia City Council Committee on Highways recommended the adoption of his design, yet it was never executed. [8] Other references to municipal work include an appointment by the Count Commissioners to inspect a municipal prison hospital in 1854 [9] and surveying work in Passyunk after Philadelphia's consolidation [10]

He likely received his initial training at the Franklin Institute (joining as a life member in 1831) although rosters of the drawing class no longer survive for that period. [11] As a member of the Franklin Institute, he served on the Committee on the Cabinet of Models [12] and later on the Committees of the Library and Exhibitions. [13] He was also a manager of the Institute. [14] [15] In 1868, he was a member of a committee of the Franklin Institute which evaluated the recent patent for a fireproof floor assembly which would now be considered "composite decking." [16]

Stewart was admitted to membership in the Athenaeum of Philadelphia in 1874.

Building List


  1. "Distinguished Persons List" . Retrieved 1 Nov 2012.
  2. University of Pennsylvania Annual Report of the Provost to the Board of Trustees from September 1, 1900 to September 1, 1901. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania. 1901. p. 242.
  3. Journal of the Select Council Beginning Friday October 14, 1836,- Ending Thursday October 5, 1837. Philadelphia: Charles Alexander. 1837. p. 2.
  4. Tatman, Sandra (1898). Semi-centennial of Girard College. : Biographical sketch of Stephen Girard, his will, and other papers relating to the college and its development and government. Account of the exercises on the occasion of the celebration of the opening of the college, January 3, 1898. Philadelphia: Girard College. p. 163.
  5. The United States Insurance Gazette and Magazine. New York: G. E. Currie. 1859. p. 471.
  6. Biographical Dictionary of Philadelphia Architects. Philadelphia: The Athenaeum of Philadelphia. 1985. pp. 763, 764.
  7. Tatman, Sandra; Moss, Rodger (1985). Biographical Dictionary of Philadelphia Architects. Philadelphia: The Athenaeum of Philadelphia. p. 764.
  8. Journal of the Consolidated Council of the City of Philadelphia Beginning May 7, 1855, ending November 1, 1855 Vol. III. Philadelphia: William H. Sickles. 1855. p. 210.
  9. Journal of the Common Council Beginning June 12, ending December 12, 1854. Philadelphia: William H. Sickles. 1854. p. 341.
  10. Journal of the Consolidated Council of the City of Philadelphia Beginning May 7, 1855, ending November 1, 1855 Vol. III. Philadelphia: William H. Sickles. 1855. p. 341.
  11. Cohen, Jeffrey A. (1994). "Building a Discipline: Early Institutional Settings for Architectural Education in Philadelphia, 1804-1890". Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. University of California Press. 53 (2): 149. doi:10.2307/990890.
  12. Journal of the Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts, Vol. XXIII. Philadelphia: The Franklin Institute. 1839. p. 95.
  13. Journal of the Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts, Vol. LXVII. Philadelphia: The Franklin Institute. 1859. p. 215.
  14. M'Elroy's Philadelphia City Directory, Vol. 18. Philadelphia: Biddle. 1855. p. 91.
  15. Journal of the Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts, Vol. LXV. Philadelphia: The Franklin Institute. 1858. p. 140.
  16. Sloane, Samuel (1869). The Architectural and American Builder's Journal Vol. I. Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen, Haffelfinger. p. 66.

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