The Drews and Barrymores at St. Stephen’s, Part II
The widowed Louisa subsequently blossomed as family matriarch, actress, and brilliant manager, resurrecting the Arch Street Theatre, renamed “Mrs. John Drew’s Arch Street Theatre” to capitalize on her reputation. Her children pursued the family profession as well. Georgie became an especially beloved actress. At 21, she married a 27-year-old fellow thespian named Maurice Blythe, whose stage name was Barrymore. The charismatic rector of St. Stephen’s often mentioned on this website, Rev. William Rudder, married them at her mother Louisa’s home just around the corner from the church at 119 N. 9th Street. Their name recorded in the Parish Register: Blythe.
Here, then, is the link between the two families: the marriage between Georgie Drew and Maurice Blythe/Barrymore—at St. Stephen’s. I wonder how often the present-day actress, Drew Barrymore, is told she resembles Georgie? Georgie’s ties to Philadelphia remained strong even while touring. She kept a pew at St. Stephen’s for her much-anticipated visits. Significantly, her pew marker used the name “Barrymore” rather than Blythe. Louisa and Eliza, however, likely reigned over the Drew pew otherwise filled with extended family. I don’t yet know where each of the pews stood.
Georgie and Maurice, moreover, are the parents of the most widely known of the early Barrymores, John, Ethel, and Lionel.
The expanding family toured and lived in various locations. Some, however, returned to St. Stephen’s for final rites and burial, beginning with Louisa’s mother Eliza—who maintained a local address. Her funeral took place at St. Stephen’s on August 13, 1887 before burial at Glenwood.
Georgie died tragically soon after, at 38, of tuberculosis in Santa Barbara, California, where she traveled hoping to recover. Her body was brought to Philadelphia by train for her funeral at St. Stephen’s on July 12, 1893. The Philadelphia Times describes a lavishly decorated church and the “impressive” service by its eminent rector who figures repeatedly in St. Stephen’s posts, the Rev. Dr. Samuel McConnell. The article also describes the moving choral and organ music probably performed by another regular character on our website, Dr. David D. Wood. Mourners, claims the report, filled the church and street. Many followed the procession to Glenwood, where “Mrs. Barrymore” was buried beside her father, John Drew.
The Drew-Barrymore-St. Stephen’s story seems to close with the death of the child star-turned-matriarch, Louisa Drew at 78 in New York. She too returned for a funeral at St. Stephen’s on September 5, 1897, before burial at Glenwood.
When Glenwood closed in 1921, the family moved the coffins and markers of those buried there to Mount Vernon Cemetery next to Laurel Hill Cemetery. Years later, John Barrymore, Jr. moved his father’s remains from Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles to the family plot at Mount Vernon, as his father had wished, under a blank marker that fans replaced with one evoking his most famous stage role, as Hamlet, in the quote “Alas, poor Yorick.”
Mt. Vernon subsequently closed too, but stands intact, in limbo. I mourn for the family and its many fans. I have not confirmed the information but Mount Vernon’s website claims appointments can be made by telephone; another one states it is open Saturdays from 8am-2 pm.
St. Stephen’s embraced this gifted and famous theatrical family for over forty years. It is heartening to learn of this welcome given the centuries-old hostility of the Church to the stage. The pew markers, in turn, give palpable witness to the family’s attachment and presence.
-Suzanne Glover Lindsay, St. Stephen’s historian and curator