The Life of E.B. Warren
Ebenezer Burgess Warren, capitalist, patron of the arts, and yachtsman, was most well-known as a Philadelphia builder in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, much of his work may be seen through his architecture along Spruce and Walnut Streets, surrounding the Rittenhouse Square area.
Commonly known as "E. Burgess Warren," he was born April 18, 1833 to Jesse and Betsey Jackson Warren in Peru, Vermont. On January 21, 1858, at the age of twenty-four, he married Emma Bolton of Philadelphia where they settled down and had six children between the years of 1859 and 1869. Unfortunately, their two sons, Walter and Charles did not survive infancy, but four daughters grew up to enjoy adult lives. Mary married Frederick Woolley of Albermarle, North Carolina on December 30, 1884; Caroline married Louis Fitzgerald Benson of Philadelphia on July 1, 1887; the third daughter Betsey married Isaac Roberts Davis on November 29, 1892; and the forth daughter, Helen, married Dr. Alfred Reginald Allen. Though the date of Helen’s union is unknown, it is recorded in several Philadelphia City Directories that she and her husband took up residence with E.Burgess at 2013 Spruce Street and remained there after his death on January 17, 1917.
Warren, though a well-known figure Philadelphian socialite in later life, is more obscure throughout his early years. In 1861, he appeared in the Philadelphia City Directory as residing at 1211 Race Street and working as a gravel roofer. 1868 receipt books found at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania show Warren as working on 20th and Spruce Street for John M. Beville. This is one of the first instances of Warren working on Spruce Street, a street in later years that is littered with his job sites. This receipt book gives a sense of the types of jobs Warren completed, and those in which he hired other skilled tradesmen to complete. In several instances he paid for plastering, roofing, carpentry work, and stonework. The jobs were relatively close together in location, and include sites along Spring Garden and Walnut Streets. The heightened job activity shows Warren's growing career.
By 1871, the City Directory lists him as a partner in his own roofing business entitled “Warren, Kirk and Company,” with fellow business associates Howard Kirk, Hiram G. Cooper, James Winimore, Jr., and Henry H. Cooper. The business was located prominently at 228 ½ Walnut Street. By 1885, he had become a partner in another business, the “Warren-Ehret Company.” This company dealt with building papers, roofing felt, and ready roofing. With the office and storehouse located at 432 Market Street and the mills at 13th and Cumberland, Warren was beginning to build a successful business that gained an increasing amount of commissions. The business continued to expand and became well-known for the development of properties along Walnut and Spruce Streets.
According to Moses King’s 1902 “Philadelphia and Notable Philadelphians,” printed in 1902 on page 67, Warren had built adn occupied 2013 Spruce Street. This address would serve as his family's home for years to come. Additionally, Warren was described as an “eminent man of affairs and art connoisseur, who did much to develop this aristocratic locality.” It was in 1867 that he built his family's 4 story, Second-Empire row house with a two-story bay window. His new home was not the only indication of his increasing success as a builder and developer in Philadelphia, but can be seen as a tangible expression of such notoriety. .
Warren's social calendar also validates his growing career and social standing. A prominent supporter of the Philadelphia fine arts scene, in 1880 he became a board member of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and at one point, he was the Director. He served until his death in 1917. Furthermore, his own collection of seventy-three works was exhibited from October 16, 1899 to November 1899. At the time of his death, no memorial resolution appeared in the board minutes, which was odd given his length of service. Not only was there no annual report for 1917, there was no quorum for the January 1917 board meeting. However, according to Cheryl Leibold, the present-day archivist at PAFA, this complete lack of information may be due to the onset of World War I.
Additionally, i n 1897, Warren became a member of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution. This organization was instituted in 1888 to:
“Perpetuate the memory of the men who, in the military, naval and civil service of the colonies and the Continental Congress, by their acts or counsel, achieved the Independence of the country, and to the proper celebration of the anniversaries of the birthday of Washington, and of prominent events connected with the War of the Revolution; to collect and secure for preservation the rolls, records and other documents relating to that period; to inspire the members of the Society with the patriotic spirit of their forefathers; and to promote the feeling of friendship among them.”
In the previously mentioned Moses King’s Philadelphia and Notable Philadelphians, Warren is further listed as a capitalist, President of Union League Art Association, and the Vice President of Hahnemann College. It seems that Warren was not only an art connoisseur, but he took an active interest in boating. In a 1909 article, entitled “The Motorboats on Lake George,” by H.A. Schermerhorn, found on the Hydroplane History site at http://www.lesliefield.com/, it is written:
“The Ellide, the fastest boat on Lake George, with a length of 80 feet and an 8-foot beam, and at one time holder of the world’s record for a mile, attracts more than a little attention from Lake George visitors. She is owned by E. Burgess Warren, of Philadelphia. Mr. Warren spends his Summers at Hotel Sagamore on Lake George, and is the host of many pleasantly memorable parties aboard the speedy pleasure steamer.”
Through this information, we know that Warren was successful enough to enjoy the luxuries of a finer life. A summer vacation home, boat, and art collection combine to highlight the tangible expressions of Warren's wealth and success as achieved as one of Phildelphia's builders. An accomplished man till the end, he continued to be an active player in his roofing business. Ebenezer Burgess Warren died at the age of 84 on January 17, 1917. His funeral was held at his home on 2013 Spruce Street, a home that had seen Ebenezer and his family grow for many years.