Consider William Strickland, a pioneer in modern technologies within this historical church


Today we return to the prominent architect-engineer William Strickland who died on April 6, 1854. He designed St. Stephen’s in 1822-3 as a modern urban church that adapted Gothic architectural elements to this parish’s forms of worship. This project reminds us that, like other architects,Strickland designed in various historical styles though he is most famous for transforming Philadelphia into a modern marble Athens through his public buildings, as this portrait by John Neagle shows him. Also, individual designs respond to particular functional needs and clients’ wishes as well as to inherited stylistic principles.

Engineer that he was, Strickland also applied modern technology to St. Stephen’s. Thanks to him, the new church boasted coal-fired indoor heat through floor vents--a new and very welcome amenity come winter! However, for the “Gothic” colonnettes that support the horseshoe-shaped organ loft and gallery, Strickland choose wood over the much-discussed “modern” structural steel that he used in columns for an upper level of a theater only a few years before. Why?

Over the ensuing decades he traded design advice and gifts (a marble tablet with scriptural text for the prestigious east wall) for a rent-free pew at St. Stephen’s. Though he was finally baptized here with his family, he was famously nomadic among denominations.

Suzanne Glover Lindsay, St. Stephen’s historian and curator

Suzanne Glover Lindsay