The Architectural Review and American Builders' Journal (July 1868- November 1870)

Samuel Sloan, a prominent Philadelphia architect, began a journal in July 1868 entitled The Architectural Review and American Builders' Journal, the first journal of its kind in America and served as a voice for the American Institute of Architects (AIA). He presented various issues most relevant to the architectural world at that time. Sloan formatted the journal into a series of divisons addressing these many topics. These include a "Descriptions" section showing pictures of certain buildings being constructed or proposed at the time such as the West Spruce Street Church and describing them; a gazetteer filled with technical information regarding joinery, crafts and how-to articles; and various theoretical editorials or general commentaries by Sloan.

These articles, more than any other piece produced by Sloan, display a certain progressive aspect to his ideology. Although the journal enjoyed a brief two-year run, by the end of it, Sloan began to express some discontent with the conventions of architecture at that time, and he seemed to appreciate Philadelphia even less. The AIA, which was sponsoring the journal, became alarmed at the vehemence of Sloan's views, and it could no longer countenance such writings to continue for his opinions reflected upon them (see Samuel Sloan, an architect of Philadelphia by Harold N. Cooledge for more information). Thus in November of 1870, Sloan published the last issue of The Architectural Review and American Builders' Journal. Since then it has fallen into obscurity. Thousands of pages of technical information, historical fact and intriguing theory are available to students in the Fine Arts Library in the University of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, due to the scarcity of copies in circulation, this treasure remains under tight guard in the rare book collection. It is with the hopes of making this inormation available to a wider populace that we have set up this site. Please, take a moment to browse through these selected articles and discover for yourself the fascinating world of Samuel Sloan.

Samuel Sloan

Mostly known for his prolific writings regarding architectural theory during the middle of the Nineteenth Century, Samuel Sloan (1815-1884) is a source of much more than that. While his architectural projects in and around Philadelphia follow the current picturesque trend more closely, Sloan utilzes a more exotic vocabulary in his famous Longwood in Mississippi, an oriental structure in the midst of American historicism (for more pictures see Bates in Bibliography). Except for this project in the South (in which he was lucky to escape before the onset of the Civil War), Sloan has led an otherwise conservative architectural career in Philadelphia, where he was a member of the AIA. Hanno-walter Kruft writes in A History of Architectural Theory From Vitruvius to the Present regarding Sloan's theoretical writings, "If one [accepts] his recourse to history in the question of style, Sloan can indeed be seen as having developed criteria for the evoluotion of an Autonomous American architecture. His own designs however, lag behind his ideas in this connection" (Krufte 354).

The Articles

As the issues of the journal are too numerous to include in their entirety for now, we have selected a few intriguing articles to post on the web. We have organized them into four groups -- Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Illustrations -- and we have provided an abstract for each article. At the very end, we are including a bibliography of our sources for you edification and further perusal. We hope that the journal will be someday available online in its complete form.

Volume 1

American and Foreign Woods by George Henkels
An article by George Henkels, Philadelphia's foremost cabinet maker in the third quarter of the Nineteenth Century regarding the ornamentation of furniture. He has written a series of articles with regards to various species of wood. In this one, he focuses on the American Walnut, the most ubiquitous material between in American 1860-1870. He discusses its properties, the history of its use, the process of creating a veneer, and its maintenance.

The Progress of Architecture by Samuel Sloan
Sloan provides an in-depth look into the history of American architectural thought and provides a throurough analysis of building techniques and materical available in America at the time. This is part of his effort to name and identify a nationalistic American Style.

The New Banking Office for "The Philadelphia Saving Fund Society" by Samuel Sloan
Part of the "Descriptions" section of each journal, this specific article relates to the banking office of The Philadelphia Saving Fund Society, designed by architect Addison Hutton, who had a partnership with Sloan for a few years (see Philadelphia Buildings and Architects for more information). Sloan provides information as to its location, composition and appearance as well as a brief history about why it was built.

Necessity for the Mutual Conformity of Houses and Furniture by George Henkels
Again Henkels provides his knowledge to the readers of the journal, this time regarding the relationships of houses and the furniture within them. He advocates the sound design principle of making sure all the elements of the interior correspond to one another and their surroundings. He suggests some ways in which this can be accomplishments, specially considering the Philadelphia rowhouse.

The Philadelphia Park Extension and the City Water by Samuel Sloan
As the Schullkyll River gets more and more polluted, plans emerge regarding the solution to this problem. Sloan presents some thoughts as to how to achieve this reformation along with a map of his ideas.

Ornamentation for Looking-Glass and Picture Frames by Samuel Sloan
On of the many technical articles provided in the journal, this one discusses certain processes in the detailing of gilt picture frames and compositional ornament. It also includes a brief history on the evolution of ornamenting techniques in past years and cites new innovations by a local Philadelphia framemaker.

The West Spruce Street Baptist Church by Samuel Sloan
Having to do with the construction of a new church at Broad and Spruce Streets, this is another article from the "Descriptions" section of the journal. Again it displays drawings and plans with detailed writing about the construction. It is especially interesting to read about this church, which was going up at the time the article was published, and now no longer exists when one visits that particular intersection.

Volume 2

Farmers' Market, Philadelphia by Samuel Sloan
This article pursues the design influences of the new Farmers' Market to be built in Philadelphia. Sloan gives some exposition regarding the markets in New York. He then discusses the Parisian model from which the design draws heavily, but suggests that there is still something to be desired in the current American facsimile.

The Mansard Madness by Samuel Sloan
In view of the ubiquitous truncated roof style derived from the form popularized by French architect, Mansart, Sloan takes a critical tone in evaluating the current trend. Although he cites the merits of the manasard antecedents and some practical attributes, he attacks the usage in America as an absurd pseudo-French style widely abused in building practice.

Effectiveness Without Ornament by Samuel Sloan
In this small article, the author offers two building designs of modest scale as an alternative to more elaborate, more ornate, proposals. By discussing simple formal innovations such as the use of a dynamic composition, landscaping considerations, and addition of tower, Sloan makes a convincing case for an aesthetic and practical balance easily obtainable by those of moderate means.

Lesson for Learners: Drawing by Samuel Sloan
Halfway through the run of the Journal, Sloan introduced a "Lessons for Learners" segment that gave tips to amateurs interested in learning how to draft. In this first one, Sloan discusses the necessary tools in order to draft including the drafting table, writing implements, guides, and certain grades of paper. He also goes into the best kind of these items to be found in the market. Students nowadays will find this list quite similar to their supply requirements, and they will recognize the names of many of the manufacturers to whom Sloan refers.

A Rustic Shelter by Samuel Sloan
In two articles, Sloan praises the park structures of Vaux and Olmsted’s Prospect Park Brooklyn. The Rustic Shelter, based on medieval European vernacular structures, is described as a popular trend, both artistic and comforting. The Meadow Port Arch, or “dry bridge” is noted for its simplicity, utility, and high aesthetic merit. The author concludes with poetic statements to reveal a deeper understanding of the educational and reformative powers of public space anticipating much of the theory behind the later City Beautiful movement.

Water-Works Building, Erie, PA by Samuel Sloan
The author gives further praise for Philadelphia engineer, H.P.M. Birkinbine, for his most accomplished standpipe structure to date, the Erie Waterworks Building, completed in1868. Built by Irish workmen, complete with Cornish engine and spiral staircase, the standpipe is recorded as the highest in the world, soaring 217 feet. Sloan provides at timeline of Birkenbine’s other important standpipes such as the Germantown Water-Works, Fairmount Park, and Kensington Water-works, all of which are were constructed in Philadelphia.

The Standpipe, Fairmount by Samuel Sloan
Sloan remarks on this attractive structure, towering 135 feet, which supplied drinking water to 40,000 thousand Philadelphia residents at the time. The standpipe, designed by H.T.M Birkenbine, C.E., went up near the intersection of 35th and Sycamore streets in the summer of 1854.

Architecture, A Woman's Study by Samuel Sloan
In another of his more progressive articles, Sloan advocates the abilities of women in architecture. He explains that women have much to add to the field by way of planning and drawing, especially in domestic architecture; however, he does not go so far as to cede all aspects of architecture (i.e. building construction and field work) into the hands of the gentle sex. Nonetheless, he ends the article by extending women a warm welcome into the profession that is years ahead of its time.

Volume 3

Sylvan Temple by Samuel Sloan
This is an intriguing proposal for a cathedral fashioned entirely of live trees. Sloan emphasizes the importance of Nature and her beauty applied to the lofty ideals of religious worship. He includes a letter from M.C. Meigs, where the idea apparently originated, propositng the concept of this Sylvan Cathedral and the value it may add to Fairmount Park if it were actually "built." This pushes boundaries of landscape architecture and shows a marked precociousness for green design.

Architecture as it is in America by Samuel Sloan
Sloan prints excerpts from an article entitled "American Professional Papers" by Professor Godwin, in his own Journal, the London Builder. Godwin commences the article with a brief paragraph praising the AIA for their work in conservation. He then writes about the significance of the colonial buildings to American culture, likening their historic significance to that of the Saxon buildings in English history. Godwin's aritlce ends with a plea to the AIA to continue conserving these colonial buildings.

Architecture and the Drama by Samuel Sloan
Looking mainly to England, Sloan considers the relationship of architecture to the dramatics arts as seen in such figures as Christopher Wren, John Nash, and Owen Jones. He also cites cross-disciplinary examples such as the career of Charles J. Mathews who, after receiving training as an architect and studied with A.W.N. Pugin, went on to continue life as a comedic actor.

The Illustrations

We have also included certain illustrations located throughout the journal as we feel that they are extremely valuable to the reading experience. These are drawings, probably made by Sloan, that further define the content of each article. Take a moment to look through each piece and appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the making of each one.

Rural Residence

Suburban Residence in the French Style

Skylight and Reflection



The articles on this site were used with the consent of the Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania.


Bates, Margaret and Michael Bates. "Longwood House: Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi." Genie Corner. 2001. Geocities. 18 October 2004.

Cooledge, Harold N. Samuel Sloan, an architect of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1986.

Krufte, Hanno-Walter. A History of Architectural Theory From Vitruvius to the Present. Germany: Zwemmer. 1994.

Sloan, Samuel, ed. The Architectural Review and American Builder's Journal. Philadelphia: AIA. 1868-1870.

"Sloan's Homestead Architecture 1876." Fine Arts Home Department Boston College. 2004. Boston College. 24 October 2004.