2013 Spruce St.; 1986- courtesy PA Historic Commission 2124 Walnut Street; 1986 courtesy PA Historic Commission 20th & Spruce Streets; 1986 PA Historic Commission 1920 Spruce St.; 1986 courtesy PA Historic Commission
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Philadelphia during the second-half of the nineteenth century was experiencing an economic boom.  Beginning around 1830 and continuing on past 1860, the City's economic growth was leaping forward due to manufacturing advances, transportation expansion and the influx of skilled immigrants.  By 1860, Philadelphia was a leading producer of textiles, glass, machinery, furniture, ships, publishing tools, and printing among other industries. 

Furthermore, the consolidation of the City of Philadelphia in 1853, the construction of City Hall in the 1870s and 1880s, and the preparation for the United States Centennial in 1876, all contributed to the western expansion of the City. The new-found wealth of local citizens and this westward expansion led to an increased need for more upscale housing.

Warren's career began to grow rapidly, in parallel to the development of Philadelphia. Due to the nature of his work, the builder was in perfect position to help both the city and his business grow.

Construction began along the western sections of Walnut Street and Spruce Street and soon these streets began to draw the best of Philadelphia society. Many of these new residents made frequent appearences in the Philadelphia Blue Book and Social Registers. For example,

Spruce and 20th Street 1980
Photo Courtesy of Philadelphia's Hisotrical Commission

Otto Sperr,AIA, wrote in 1978,

"the development of 1920 Spruce Street encompasses a particularly wide scope of urban process from the early 19th Century when Rittenhouse was an industrial staging area (as well as an area of modest dwellings) for Philadelphia east of Broad Street to its post 1850 period as a highly desirable residential area, to its present role as a neighborhood of homes, apartments, shops and institutions such as the Academy of Vocal Arts whose building is an integral part of one of Philadelphia's finest post Civil War rowhouse blocks."

It was on this block that Warren built one of his most well-known structures. 1920 Spruce Street is a historically certified structure on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and was built by Warren ca. 1868-69 and now houses the Academy of Vocal Arts.

It was during this time period of the 1870s that E.B. Warren truly began to make his mark as a developer and capitalist of Philadelphia properties. He purchased many of the western Walnut Street plots and on these sites he constructed a series of four-story brownstone Second Empire Mansions, with characteristic mansard roofs. These mansions attracted the likes of the wealthy publisher Walter Lippincott and other successful merchants and businessmen. It has also been gathered that E.B Warren built many of the rowhouses on the twentieth block of Spruce Street, one of those being his own home.


Sources: PA Historical Commission, Otto Sperr's AIA Report for The Academy of the Vocal Arts, Academy of the Vocal Arts, PA City Directories