Architectural Archives

  • Houses for George Woodward, 1915
  • Lafayette Natl. Park Mus. of Stone Age Antiquities, 1927

Edmund B. Gilchrist Collection (007)

This collection, the primary archive of the work of Edmund Beaman Gilchrist, comprises architectural drawings and blueprints, photographic prints,   photographic negatives and office files documenting buildings and projects spanning the years 1908-1945.

Biographical / Historical Sketch

Edmund Gilchrist was born in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, the son of William W. and Susan (Beaman) Gilchrist, and was educated at Germantown Friends School.  His architectural training began in courses taken at the Drexel Institute and at the University of Pennsylvania.  Before beginning his own practice, he worked in two of the most successful architectural offices in Philadelphia.  Horace Trumbauer’s commissions included some of the grandest mansions in the Philadelphia region and beyond, often executed in French neo-classical detail; Gilchrist's work would include similar houses.  While in the office of Wilson Eyre, however, Gilchrist encountered an approach to domestic forms that combined historical motifs with innovative planning, two of the most important features of Gilchrist's designs.  He first worked with his most important early client, developer Dr. George Woodward, while in Eyre’s office.

Woodward gave Gilchrist his first independent commissions near the end of the first decade of the twentieth century.  Together with Philadelphia architects H. Louis Duhring (1874-1953) and Robert Rodes McGoodwin (1886-1967), Gilchrist created a garden city-like community within the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia that combined complex, modern planning with historicist details and gracefully mixed clustered and free-standing houses, gardens, and roadways.  Woodward dubbed his development “St. Martin’s,” and retained most of the houses he built there for rental.  Gilchrist continued to design new houses for Woodward into the 1920s, and made minor renovations to his earlier designs into the 1930s.

Gilchrist’s practice expanded significantly in the later 1910s, and he joined the national AIA in 1916.  His work in this period followed the lead of his Woodward commissions in two significant respects.  First, his clients largely came from an elite Philadelphia social stratum of old families, and second, many of these houses were built in the contiguous Germantown, Chestnut Hill, and Mount Airy neighborhoods of the city.  Work in resort communities in Maine where these Philadelphians summered also began in this period.

Gilchrist’s planning expertise and innovations were recognized in the profession and beyond.  During the latter part of World War I he produced designs to the U.S. Shipping Board's Emergency Fleet Corporation housing.  He was one of a number of prominent architects to design house groups for the planned community of Mariemont, Ohio in the 1920s.  In the early 1930s, he served on the Philadelphia AIA’s special committee on the economics of site planning and housing, producing model designs, and on the Committee for Design for President Hoover's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership.  He also produced designs in the 1930s for the reconstruction of the central portion of the town of Ellsworth, Maine, after a destructive fire.

Although the bulk of Gilchrist’s work was domestic, he also designed commercial buildings in central Philadelphia, and the Gibbsian Unitarian Church of Germantown, a regional landmark.  He retired from practice in 1943.

Scope & Content Note

This collection is the primary archive of the work of architect Edmund B. Gilchrist, comprising architectural drawings and blueprints, photographic prints, photographic negatives and office files documenting buildings and projects spanning the years 1908-1945.  The vast majority of Gilchrist's major commissions are represented by drawings in the collection, with the exception of the Unitarian Church of Germantown.  The collection includes some additional materials dated 1955 and 1984 related to alterations to the Cosmopolitan Club in Philadelphia.

The collection is arranged in five series. Series I through III are arranged by job number.  Each project is associated with a job number assigned by Gilchrist’s office, if available.  A project for which the job number is unknown is indicated by “xxx.”  A full index to projects represented in this collection is found in Appendix A. 

Series I contains more than 3000 architectural drawings and oversized photographs.  In addition to Gilchrist's wonderful sketches, and numerous development and construction drawings, the collection contains a small number of architectural drawings documenting the work of designers other than Gilchrist.  Generally speaking, these drawings form two categories, drawings prepared by his collaborators and drawings documenting existing buildings for which Gilchrist was designing additions or alterations.  The following names are found in project notes in Appendix A:  William A. Amenta, 1910-1994; Baker & Dallett, Architects; Frank Miles Day & Brother, Architects; Furness, Evans, & Co., Architects; Harrison, Mertz & Emlen, Landscape Engineers and Architects; Robert Rodes McGoodwin, 1886-1967; Olmsted Brothers, Landscape Architects; Puckey & Jenkins, Architects; Fred L. Savage, Architect; A. D. Taylor, Landscape Architect & Town Planner; Russell S. Walcott, Architect; and Robert Wheelwright, New York City, Landscape Architect.

Series II contains nearly 1800 photographic prints and negatives of buildings, drawings, construction and sites.  Photographers include Philip B. Wallace.  Notable in this series is a panoramic view of Gilchrist's group of houses at Mariemont, Ohio during construction.  This series also includes a large number of photographs of architectural details (from existing or demolished buildings) offered for sale by Thomas Crowther & Son, London.  Photographers include Alfred Cracknell. 

Series III comprises office files.  A substantial number of project files contain building specifications.  Some project files contain small quantities of correspondence and financial records, including correspondence with builders J. S. Cornell & Son and with architects W. Pope Barney, Ralph Bencker and William A. Amenta.  The collection contains no correspondence with George Woodward.  Dealers' photographs associated with specific projects are filed here rather than in Series II. 

Series IV contains a small number of drawings from dealers in architectural details, including a few handsome renderings. 

Series V comprises miscellaneous personal materials.

Provenance

Acquisition:  Gift of Edmund Beaman Gilchrist, Jr., before 1978.