The Rev. Dr. William Rudder
Today we consider St. Stephen’s rector following the Civil War: The Rev. Dr. William Rudder, who died on this date in 1880. It’s hard to tell from the impassive face in this formal portrait but Dr. Rudder was a charismatic preacher, a major force in changing the church’s architecture—and an influential civic activist.
He was an energetic champion of public health for the urban working class. In 1870, he and congregant Dr. Wilson Cary Swann (commemorated in Logan Square’s Swann Fountain) raised funds to build public drinking fountains that provided healthful water for workers and working horses throughout the city. Within a year Philadelphia’s notorious summer epidemics, including horse influenza, had dramatically decreased, saving hundreds of lives.
Dr. Rudder’s sermons were so famous that they drew crowds and new members. To the point that, in 1878, he and the vestry hired Philadelphia’s emerging “modern” architect, Frank Furness, to remodel the entire church. To enlarge it, Furness added a transept (for more pews) and a bigger vestry room—built over St. Stephen’s original churchyard. We have exposed the vaults covered by his transept within its new floor and called the space the Furness Burial Cloister in the architect’s honor. I think of Dr. Rudder as well as Furness when I see the combined transept and burial site in this compact space. Come and see!
-Suzanne Glover Lindsay, St. Stephen’s historian and curator