A Digital Collection of Philadelphia-Area Illustrations from Late 19th-Century Architectural Journals

This site is meant as a place to gather images from various 19th-century architectural magazines that show either works by Philadelphia-area architects or places in the five-county Philadelphia area (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties). We've started off with the Keely Collection at Bryn Mawr College, but would expect to expand on this by adding similar images from other repositories.
[Sources of images] [Access choices] [Viewing instructions]


1. WAKC: The William A.Keely Collection, Bryn Mawr College.

The collection of architectural materials owned by William Austin Keely (1875-1931) came to Bryn Mawr College in 1993, the gift of John W. Freas. It includes some of his student drawings from the early 1890s, several dozen photographs, and a large set of disbound plates and clippings removed from contemporary late 19th-century architectural publications. A number of these plates date back to the 1870s, and probably reflect previous ownership by an older Philadelphia architect, William H. Decker (d. 1899), whose office stamp appears on the verso of several items. Keely may well have worked in Decker's office and inherited such office materials.

Not a lot is known about Keely. University of Pennsylvania alumni records reveal that he was the son of a lumber merchant named John Howard Keely and Emma Warren Keely, his wife, that he attended the Central Manual Training School in Philadelphia, and that he enrolled as a student in the university's special two-year architectural program in 1893-95. There he earned a "certificate of proficieny," and he proceeded to work as draftsman with Philadelphia architectural and millwork firms, including, a descendant reports, the family lumber and millwork firm S. S. Keely & Sons, of Manayunk.  On 11 November 1903 he married Besse Drake Kirby, and sometme thereafter he reported his address as 614 East Leverington Avenue, Roxborough. Keely died on 25 July 1931.

The portion of the collection scanned and indexed here consists of about 135 plates connected with Philadelphia-area architects or locations. These plates were drawn from the much larger set of several thousand architecural magazine plates dating from the 1870s through the 1890s, probably collected by Keely and Decker. They were taken from a variety of journals, including:

and occasionally: The plates were originally arranged in portfolios by building type, presumably for reference when designing buildings of similar function or scope.

The topical groupings used in these were:

  • Public Buildings 
  • Commercial Buildings 
  • Residences 
  • City Houses 
  • Academic Buildings 
  • Hotels, Tenements, Flats, Clubs 
  • Hospitals 
  • Theaters 
  • RR Stations 
  • Barns & Stables 
  • Entrances 
  • Interiors 
  • Details 
  • Monuments 

2. FLP: The Free Library of Philadelphia

The Art Department at the Free Library has perhaps the most intact copies of the Builder & Decorator, later the Builder, Decorator & Woodworker, as well as the fullest run in the area of the Inland Architect and News Record.

3. PAth: The Athenaeum of Philadelphia


4. FAUP: The Jerome and Anne Fisher Fine Arts Library, University of Pennsylvania



Our Philadelphia-area images posted here can be accessed via lists ordered by


Each of these links above will take you to a comprehensive list of views. From those pages, each individual link opens up a screen-sized scan of the scanned plate in a second window that will serve for viewing all the images. This image-viewing window will open the first time you call for an image. The most effective way to use this two-window viewing system is to slightly de-maximize both windows and overlap them so that the left margin of the image window starts on the left edge of your screen, projecting at least a little beyond the left edge of the index's window, whose right edge should hug the right edge of your screen. That way each window will project slightly beyond one margin of the other, which will allow easy switching from one to the other.

Our intention in posting these images is to tap into the set of richly illustrated resources to be found among plates from 19th-century architectural magazines, which are particularly valuable for documenting this area's architect-designed buildings from this period -- many, if not most of them no longer standing. This is also meant as a seed for a more comprehensive collection of area-connected materials from this kind of publication. If you know of similar materials of precisely this type that may be scanned and integrated, please let us know.
url=http://www.brynmawr.edu/iconog/ajnls/aj.html; last rev. = 22 July 02 jc; Comments?