We Built This City: Addison Hutton and his Quaker connections

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Addison Hutton), 1917
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the former Robert Pattison mansion redesigned by Addison Hutton, as it appeared in 1917

In mid-January, we gave our readers a history lesson on the Strawbridge and Clothier building located at 8th and Market streets. One of the architects on this particular project vested the majority of his career in the mansions of the Main Line and several prominent buildings throughout the city.

Addison Hutton
Addison Hutton

Addison Hutton was a prominent Quaker architect who not only had a hand in designing the original flagship of the Philadelphia department store chain, but also designed the homes of owners Issac Clothier and Justus Strawbridge, both men also Quakers.

Born in 1834, Hutton’s father was a Quaker carpenter, and Hutton grew up working alongside of his father along with schooling.  Hutton studied architecture under Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan, who worked with John Haviland on Eastern State Penitentiary. After only about five years, Sloan promoted Hutton to partner. Out of their offices at 152 S. 4th St., Sloan and Hutton designed state hospitals, churches, and residences. The partnership slowly dissolved and while Sloan spent some time working in New York, leaving Hutton to finish the remaining projects.

Hutton’s big break was one of these projects; his firm had been selected to design the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (1869). Hutton had beaten out major Philadelphia architectural firms like Furness and Hewitt. Later, Furness worked on the building’s expansion in 1888.

PSFS interior
Interior of the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society building on Washington Square (Addison Hutton, 1869)

Along the Main Line, he was a favorite among Quaker colleges like Haverford and Bryn Mawr College; he also designed buildings for Villanova and Swarthmore.

In the city, he designed the Ridgeway Library (1870-1878), which is now the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, located at Broad and Christian streets.  Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, Hutton worked diligently on the designs for the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (1874), Friends Select School (1885), located at 16th and Cherry streets, and one of his final projects, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, a former mansion located at 13th and Locust streets. The Society had purchased the home from former General Robert Patterson in 1883 for only $50,000. It had concerns about the possibility of fire destroying the collection and hired Hutton to redesign and fireproof the building.

Old PSFS Building (1869-1897)
PSFS Building, W. Washington Square and Walnut Street, designed by Hutton in 1869 with later additions in 1888 and 1897 by Furness, Evans & Co., as it appears today.

The end of his career was shadowed with controversy. In 1901, the American Institute of Architects denounced the design competition for the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hutton ignored the AIA’s insistence that their members not participate and submitted a design. Even though his design did not win, he was still expelled in 1902.  Hutton, who at the time was a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, petitioned the court and was reinstated by the end of the year.  By the way, the winning design ended up going three times over the proposed budget.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania as it appears today. The building is currently under renovation.

In June of 1916, Hutton died and was buried at Short Creek Meeting House in Jefferson County Ohio. His architectural career spanned 53 years, and unlike a lot of Philadelphia architects of his time, many of his buildings are still standing including his home in Bryn Mawr, located at 802 Montgomery Avenue in Bryn Mawr.  Philadelphia history may always have a place for the man who designed the home of the historical society.

Recommended reading for more of the Main Line mansions by Hutton: “Main Line History: Addison Hutton, the Quaker Architect” by Kathy O’Loughlin.

Historical building photos from PhillyHistory.org; public domain image of Hutton from Wikimedia Commons; contemporary photos by Sandy Smith