Current Issue Article Abstracts

October 2021,  Vol. 145, No. 3

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Christina Larocco

Earlier this year, I unintentionally let my vote-by-mail registration lapse, and so I found myself at Overbrook High School, my local polling place, early on a Tuesday morning. Understandably nicknamed "the castle on the hill," the school looms large over Lancaster Avenue amid (then as now) an assortment of stalwart single-family homes and commercial establishments. In the end, I was happy to have voted in person. The polling place was a model of efficiency, and the school itself is quite marvelous: if the architecture and design are resolutely early twentieth-century, the hallway murals tell a longer story of Black history through the rest of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. 

Elizabeth Milroy, Randall F. Mason

The essays in this issue, large and small, are all over the map—purposefully. Our intention in editing this volume of PMHB is to provoke fellow researchers and readers to look anew at and think deeply about the built environments all around us. Acts of building shape our everyday lives (collectively and individually) by creating location and a sense of place. The histories of these structures and places guide the creation of new environments, both inspiring and tempering contemporary building practice. By "built environment," we mean to invoke a broad set of places, professional fields, and ways of making, designing, thinking, and describing.

William Penn's Imperial Georgic and the Vernacular Landscapes of Pennsylvania in Eighteenth-Century Quaker Journals
Jay David Miller

This essay analyzes changes in the way Quaker writers represented the landscape of Pennsylvania, particularly the economic features of its built environment, over time. I argue that the promotional writing of William Penn constituted an "official" representation of the landscape, using the genre of imperial georgic to highlight the colony's productive and lucrative potential for an audience of investors while minimizing the role of indentured servitude, African enslavement, and Indigenous dispossession in the process of economic development. Eighteenth-century Quaker reformers, however, developed a more "vernacular" portrayal of the landscape that was attentive to the privations of those who inhabited its built environment. In reading the journals of Elizabeth Ashbridge, John Churchman, Jane Hoskens, Daniel Stanton, and John Woolman, I show how Quaker reformers ironically moved beyond the limits of Penn's vision because of the degree to which they took his articulated ideals seriously.

Sanitary Acculturation: The Social History of Progressive Era Public Bath Houses in Philadelphia
Sarah Lerner

In 1895, the Public Baths Association of Philadelphia (PBA) was formed for the purpose of "establishing and maintaining public baths and affording the poor facilities for bathing and the promotion of cleanliness." In 1898, the PBA opened America's first public bath house to offer both bathing and laundry facilities. The six public bathhouses erected in Philadelphia exemplify a period of national experimentation that aimed to establish an American standard of bodily cleanliness though architecture, based on the belief that the long-range strategy of urban moral control could be achieved through influencing behavior and modeling character in a consciously planned urban environment.

Louis I. Kahn and the Frank Furness Connection
Izzy Kornblatt

Following the lead of historians Vincent Scully and Kenneth Frampton, scholars have tended to interpret the architecture of Louis I. Kahn (1901–74) as primarily influenced by the Beaux-Arts system of design, as well as the ancient ruins that Kahn saw during his brief travels around the Mediterranean. As a result, little attention has been paid to the links between Kahn and Frank Furness (1839–1912), the two leading Philadelphia architects of their respective eras. But new research presented here demonstrates that Kahn in fact engaged deeply with Furness's work: he opposed the demolition of Furness-designed banks, proposed the preservation and renovation of Furness's buildings at the Philadelphia College of Art, and even joined the board of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to spearhead the restoration of its Furness-designed building. Careful examination of Kahn's engagement with Furness demonstrates how Kahn's philosophy of design was rooted in an American way of making buildings, and it places Kahn—at last—squarely within a Philadelphia architectural tradition spanning from Furness through the twentieth century.