1887 Hexamer & Locher Fire Insurance Atlas Vol. 3, Wards 7 & 8

1874 Jones Fire Insurance Atlas Vol. 1, p. 13
Newspaper clipping of 2101 Walnut depicting it as the residency of Walter Lippincott (Courtesy of the Jane Campbell Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania)
Deed Research
Apartment building floor plan courtesy of the Philadelphia Historical Commission
2101 Walnut Street Audit is courtesy of the Lippincott Collection housed at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
1861 Taylor Watercolor of 2101 Walnut Street (Courtesy of Winterthur Library)
1858 Hexamer & Locher atlas Volume 3, p. 40 showing 2101 Walnut Street as a two-story wooden structure.

This apartment building still stands at the site that TayloríńŰs watercolor depicts and was a selection to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in February 1995 and was then designated as part of the Rittenhouse Fitler Residential District on August 4, 1995.¨› The transformation of the building is a testament to the variability of the built environment in Philadelphia over the last 150 years.

The mid-1800s was a period of city-wide expansion. ¨›The consolidation of the
city in 1853, the construction of City Hall in the 1870s and 1880's, the preparation for AmericaíńŰs centennial were all contributing factors to the growth of the Western half of center city Philadelphia. ¨›The millionaire-developer E. Burgess Warren bought and constructed many of the three-storied mansard-roofed brick and stone Second Empire-style structures in the blocks surrounding 2101 Walnut. ¨›The evidence of this neighborhood transformation can be seen in the Jones Fire Insurance atlas from 1874 and the Hexamer Fire Insurance map from 1887. The livery stable is the only thing that remains intact on the map from 1858. As the area became more and more fashionable, residents flocked to these new mansions. ¨›Owners frequently graced the
pages of Philadelphia Blue Books and Social Registers. These books
and other high society collections at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania provide the most information about the interior and use of the house as well as about the lives and personalities of its residents. ¨›

The most notable residents of 2101 Walnut were publisher Walter Lippincott and his wife Elizabeth. ¨›Both from powerful and rich families, the Lippincotts ensured that 2101 Walnut Street was the site of numerous fancy parties, kept in good condition, and was a cornerstone in the social scene west of Broad Street in Philadelphia. ¨›The Lippincott Collection at the Pennsylvania Historical Society contains a number of records of family activities including financial records, albums, letters and journals. ¨›Among the items in the collection that specifically addressed 2101 Walnut was Elizabeth LippincottíńŰs journal of the household accounts with entries from 1894 until 1913. ¨›Interesting observations were that the family had between three and four servants at any given time, that they had an automobile as early as 1905 and made repairs and alterations to the house frequently. ¨›Even more insightful to the interior design of the house was a complete audit of the belongings of the house in 1906. ¨›Below is an excerpt from the audit that is a partial list of the contents of the Dining Room. ¨›The list of the rooms of the house as well as a close-up of the audit excerpt are provided in the various documents page associated with this site.

We were unable to find out exactly when the individual Second Empire house was demolished, but a fourteen story apartment building was built on the lot and the ones up to 2107 Walnut in 1954. ¨›Documents from the Philadelphia Historical Society show that the apartment building is made of semi-fireproof materials and consists of 299 family units.¨› Below is a copy of the plan for the building.

Images
Insurance Maps
Various Historic Documents
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The building in Taylor's watercolor was located on the northwest corner of the intersection of Walnut Street and 21st Street. The earliest information that we were able to gather about the site was typical of the general history of west center city. Contrary to William Penn's plan for the city of Philadelphia that laid out streets evenly from the Schuylkill to the Delaware Rivers, initial development of the city was primarily limited to the areas closest to the Delaware River. Many tracts of land close to the Schuylkill remained consolidated and under-utilized. We conducted deed research at the Philadelphia City Archives and found out that the house was built on a segment of a larger tract of land that comprised the block between 21st and 22nd (then known as Schuylkill 2nd and Schuylkill Front, respectively) in the 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries. The tract of land was passed through several owners until a period after the Civil War.

The chain of title, which can be viewed on the deed research page, shows that the earliest owners of the block that could be traced were Henry and Elizabeth Ashurst in 1869. The Taylor watercolor from 1861 shows the building as a wood-framed 2-¨á story structure in the advanced stages of deterioration. There is no evidence that the Ashursts lived in the house. In fact, through city directories accessed at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, we found that the Ashursts and the Gibsons (the family that bought the land from the Ashursts) listed their primary residences outside of the block. It is unknown who actually resided in the house, but the 1858 Hexamer & Locher map (Vol 3, p. 40) seen above shows 2101 Walnut as a two-story framed residence.

Maps were an important resource in our research. Insurance maps publicly available at the Free Library of Philadelphia gave information about building types, use and locations. We have highlighted the building depicted by Taylor in the map above. Note the sparse construction on the block, the livery stable in the middle of the block and the number of floors of the different buildings. For a closer look at the map and the others associated wiith 2101 Walnut, please view our 2101 insurance map page.

It is uncertain when the original structure from the watercolor was demolished, but the area was rebuilt as a respectable residential neighborhood in 1870.