Today we honor a woman patron with no memorial within the church despite her huge contribution
Today we turn to Eliza Howard Sims Burd who died on April 6 in 1860. She and her husband were among the founding members and leaders of the congregation. Her domain was her vast home by Benjamin Latrobe two blocks from St. Stephen’s (since demolished)--a very busy place by several accounts, whether as hostess of the elaborate entertaining that made her and her husband Edward Shippen Burd famous hosts, mother to eight children to died well before she did, or as an organizer of at least two Dorcas networks that provided clothing to the needy. Following her husband’s death in 1848, she stepped forth as St. Stephen’s greatest patron from the seclusion of her home. Until her own death she provided countless church improvements, financial boosts where needed, major remodeling of the church interior, famous monuments and a marble baptismal font and a much-heralded set of church bells. Unlike her husband or Anna J. Magee, her equally reclusive counterpart in the early twentieth century, Eliza Burd is not commemorated anywhere within the church. Her memorial was instead a famous enterprise that she founded with a major bequest to the church: an extensive Gothic Revival home and school for fatherless girls (white, preferably daughters of Episcopal clergy), with vast grounds, on the outskirts of West Philadelphia. When declared irreparably out of date, it was demolished and the operation moved to smaller quarters in town until finally closed in the 1960s. Its contents—containing, among other things, portraits of the lost Burd children, the parents and their relations—were sold and dispersed. St. Stephen’s has no likeness of Eliza Burd. At least two portraits are “out there,” one reappearing tantalizingly on the market now and then. She lies buried with her husband and children in a vault under the Burd Children’s Memorial.
—Suzanne Glover Lindsay, St. Stephen’s historian and curator