6043 Germantown Avenue
Shippen-Blair House, also known as "The Laurens"

Included is a copy of an article available at the Philadelphia Historical Commission. The article is accompanied by a photograph from the GHS (the same image shown here in oval form from the Campbell Collection at the HSP). The text of the article follows:

"The Laurens"
by Edwin Iwanicki

"On January 7, 1964, the Germantown Historical Society acquired one of the most unusual buildings in Germantown--a house distinctive in design and rich in reminiscence. Located at the southeast corner of Germantown Avenue and Walnut Lane, the property, known today as The Laurens, or No. 6043 Germantown Avenue, has, at various times, been used as a residence, a hospital, a school, a hotel, a boardinghouse, and an apartment house. It has been occupied by a diverse succession of individuals, ranging from the simple artisan to the sophisticated physician, clergyman, or educator. Its list of owners has been even more variegated, with names ranging from the locally obscure to the internationally prominent.

"The building itself exhibits a certain variety, representing, as it does, the result of a number of additions and alterations. The main portion of the structure, fronting on Germantown Avenue, rises three-and-a-half stories above a full cellar. It is according to tradition, the earliest house in Germantown to rise above the height of two-and-a-half stories, which was the architectural vernacular in this suburb of colonial Philadelphia. The walls are of stone, stuccoed, the exterior dimensions being forty-one feet eight inches in width and thirty-six feet in depth. The shop windows in front, of course, were not part of the structure originally, and the small-paned sash first used throughout the building have been largely replaced with sash of more modern design. Another alteration of the original facade is represented by the frontispiece, which consists of engaged columns surmounted by a section of entablature, ornamenting the doorway. This embellishment formerly adorned a house built about 1795 for Dr. George Bensell at the southwest corner of Germantown Avenue and School House Lane. When that structure was demolished in 1880, the frontispiece was salvaged by Dr. William R. Dunton and imposed on the doorway of The Laurens.

"This doorway opens into a vestibule, beyond which lies a center hall, six feet seven inches wide, extending the entire depth of the three-and-a-half story portion of the building. Originally there were two rooms on either side of this center hall, each of the rooms being nearly square. The two rooms on the south side have, however, been made into one by the removal of a partition wall. The arrangements of rooms in the upper stories differ somewhat from the layout of the first story. Fireplaces throughout the house have been sealed. Most of the interior doors in the building seem to be original.

"Flanking the rear of this main section of the structure is a two-story stone wing of more modest proportions, covering an area less than half that occupied by the above-described section and having lower ceilings and smaller window openings. The wall between the two-story section and the three-and-a-half-story section of the structure is a stone wall, and therefore it presumably was built as an exterior wall, which would mean that these two portions of the structure were erected at different times. The two-story wing contains a stairway leading from the cellar to the first floor and one leading from the first floor to the second floor, the latter stairway having a handrail that appears to be original. Since the three-and-a-half-story portion of the building has no stairway leading either down or up from the first floor, it obviously is dependent upon the smaller wing of the building for access to its cellar and upper stories. On the basis of this evidence it can be concluded that construction of the larger section, which now fronts on Germantown Avenue, could not possibly have preceded the erection of the two-story wing, and that in all probability the smaller wing is of earlier construction. There are two other wings of the structure; these, being constructed of brick and extending further to the rear, are clearly later additions.

"The lot upon which The Laurens stands was part of the 5700 acres of land, comprising the German Township...granted to Francis Daniel Pastorius for himself and for the German and Dutch purchasers whom he represented...When the township was divided into smaller tracts to be allotted to individual purchasers, the site of the present No. 6043 Germantown Avenue fell within a thirty-nine acre lot having a frontage of 239 feet on the present Germantown Avenue and extending eastward a very considerable depth to the township line. This tract, which is referred to as Lot No. 18 of the town lots toward Bristol, was allotted to Andreas (or Andries) Souplis...resident of Germantown in 1689 and...sheriff of Germantown in 1691.

"The tract was purchased from Andreas Souplis by Christian Warmer, the elder, a 'taylor,' who also acquired the contiguous lot on the south side by purchase from John Doeden...Christian Warmer, the elder, made a will in 1728...'my other Messuage or Tenemt. & fifty Acres of land thereunto belonging in Germantown afd. [aforesaid] wch. I purchased of Andreas Souplies [sic], & all the land thereunto next Adjacent which I purchased of John Doeden, being twenty two acres, with the Appurtenances whereon I now live, I Give & Devise the same unto my Son Christian...'

"Christian Warmer, the younger, who thus came into possession of the property upon the decease of his father in 1731, was, by trade, a blacksmith...

"Christopher Witt was a friend of the elder Christian Warmer and a tenant on one of the properties owned by the latter. He also became intimate with the younger Christian Warmer, in whose home he lived during the latter part of his life..."

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