The Winterthur Archives hold a collection of watercolor
sketches created in 1861 by a Philadelphia artist identified only as
Taylor. While these sketches depict streetscapes in Philadelphia, notations
provide only the barest information about the buildings’ locations
and offer nothing about the inhabitants.
This project seeks to document buildings in three of Taylor’s
sketches. Through map, deed, and archival research, we have sought to
determine the buildings’ precise locations, earliest documented
date of existence, and “death dates”—when the buildings
were replaced by new structures. Wherever possible, we have tried to
develop a narrative of the buildings’ owners and occupants. We
have focused our search on the 1700 Market Street properties, particularly
on 1725 Market Street, for which there is the richest record. This web
site contains a record of research, including written summaries, timelines,
maps, and images.
Why Taylor created these sketches is a mystery. Perhaps in the face
of the rapid development occurring in many parts of the city, he sought
to preserve images of an older Philadelphia soon to be destroyed. The
wooden dwellings on the 2000 and 2100 blocks of Arch Street were replaced
by brick rowhouses soon after Taylor painted them. The buildings at
1700 Market were among the last wood-framed structures on a block lined
with masonry buildings.Whatever his motivations, Taylor has provided
us with an important visual record of the Philadelphia’ past.
Project and Web Site by J.
Verhosek and S. Katz,
University of Pennsylvania, Historic Preservation