The Uncanny Valley

Notes on art, culture and preservation

The Homes of Willis G. Hale, Philadelphia’s Most Flamboyant Architect

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The 1500 block of North 17th Street

Now up at Hidden City Philadelphia:

Constructed in 1886, the 17th Street homes were one of several projects that Hale designed for the partnership of two Philadelphia business magnates, William Elkins and Peter A.B. Widener. After striking it big investing in streetcars and railways, they turned to North Philly’s rapidly booming real estate market.

“Elkins and Widener were masters of speculative housing,” says Michael J. Lewis, a scholar of Hale’s work who teaches art history at Williams College. “They had the vision to buy eight to ten blocks at a time and lay them out in a way so that mass production made construction cheaper. And there exists a wonderful harmony between that industrial scale and Hale’s personality.”

The 17th Street residences were meant to exude lavishness with their prominent mansard roofs, bold stone foundations and trim, and shared archways over paired entrances. They also include a liberal placement of corbels, one of Hale’s most recognizable signatures–those inverted pyramids supporting windowsills and racing up stepped gables.

Read more: Divine Lorraine Architect’s Forgotten North Philly Rowhouses At A Crossroads

Written by cwmote

May 26, 2012 at 2:02 pm

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