Free Library (Wister House)

HHG1899 mapHABS1stFloor
[Page 13] Handsome Homes of Germantown, Mt. Airy & Pelham ... (Germantown: Germantown independent gazette, 1899).Plate 13. Walter S. Bromley and W Geo., “Atlas of the City of Philadelphia, Volume 7, 22nd Ward,” Atlas (Philadelphia: G.W. Bromley and Co., 1899)Historic American Buildings Survey, “Vernon, Germantown Avenue, Vernon Park, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA,”, 7-2 (Philadelphia, PA, 1934)
     
      At the tme of the publication of the Handsome Homes of Germantown, the Wister House (alternately known as Vernon, or the Vernon-Wister House) served as the public library. The property had been converted into a public park only a few years prior, following the death of John Wister [jr.], and his sisters Mary and Anne.1 In 1895, the house became a library. It served as the Germantown branch of the Philadelphia Library until 1907. The main stairway and the first- and second- story partitions were removed in order to accomodate the buildning's new function.3 The style of the stucco exterior remains largely unchanged since its construction in 1805.
      The oldest portsions of the building date back prior to 1741.4 The first recorded owner of the property is Peter Shoesmaker, in 1685. The first known building on the property was probably built by a German immigrant, Chrisopher Meng.5 His son, Melchor, sold the property to John Mathews in 1803. Mattews built the main house, and then sold it to John Wister [sr.] in 1812.6  The oldest portions of the structure became the kitchen area.7 The house remained in the family until the death of senior John Wister's children.

Endnotes

1p.41. Jones Wister, Jones Wister’s Reminiscences (private circulation, 1920).
2.  [p. 25] Naaman Henry Keyser, Old Historic Germantown; an Address with Illus., Presented at the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania-German Society (Lancaster, 1906)
3. p. 2. Historic American Buildings Survey, “ Vernon- Written Historical and Descriptive Data" 7-2 (Philadelphia, PA, 1934)
4. ibid.
5.  [p. 25] Naaman Henry Keyser, Old Historic Germantown; an Address with Illus., Presented at the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania-German Society (Lancaster, 1906)
6. [p.224]  Harold Donaldson Eberlein and Horace Mather Lippincott, "Vernon" The Colonial Homes of Philadelphia and Its Neighbourhood (J. B. Lippincott Company, 1912).
7. p. 2. Historic American Buildings Survey, “ Vernon- Written Historical and Descriptive Data" 7-2 (Philadelphia, PA, 1934)