Architecture and Architects
Montgomery County Pennsylvania
The architectural history of Montgomery County reflects its social and cultural history. The geographic position of Montgomery County adjacent to Philadelphia, a major port of entry, meant that early settlers arrived here from Europe, bringing building traditions from their native cultures. The houses and buildings constructed during this time period are often referred to as folk style or sometimes as vernacular architecture, meaning that it was not yet influenced by classical architecture and was the everyday architecture of the common people.
As the nation and county began to take shape, more classically influenced styles of architecture began to emerge. Architecture of the emerging nation included Georgian and Federal styles. Classical, Greek, Roman, and Early Gothic Revival styles followed as the county and nation expanded and grew during the first half of the 19th century.
The Industrial Revolution and the increased use of machines resulted in the ability to create a greater variety of shapes out of wood. As a result more stylistic forms of architecture including those of the Victorian Era began to emerge in Montgomery County and were spread by the railroads. Victorian Era architecture includes Italianate, Queen Anne, and Stick Styles.
Streetcars and interurban trolleys ushered in eclectic and modern mass produced housing. Bungalow and Craftsman architecture along with Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival architecture was introduced and flourished. J.C. Penney, Sears, and other mass retailers sold houses by mail in these styles in large quantities through their catalogs.
The use of new materials and technology, particularly the use of metal and glass, resulted in modern styles of architecture including Art Deco, Art Moderne, International Style, Ranch Style, Split Levels, and other forms of contemporary architecture.
Many prominent architects and artists have worked in Montgomery County. A few of these are listed below, along with their buildings, to give a flavor of the depth and breadth of fine work done in the county:
Frank Lloyd Wright designed Beth Sholom synagogue in Cheltenham Township and the Suntop Homes in Lower Merion.
Frank Furness working with Allen Evans designed many train stations for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company including the Norristown Station, as well as the Norristown Main Street Station and the Conshohocken Station both now demolished. Furness also designed the Merion Cricket Club in Lower Merion Township, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Horace Trumbauer designed Grey Towers, a National Historic Landmark on the campus of Arcadia University [formerly Beaver College].
Louis Kahn, a modernist architect, designed Erdman Hall, a dormitory on the campus of Bryn Mawr College. Kahn also designed the Weiss residence in East Norriton Township, as well as the Korman, Honickman, and Roche houses in Whitemarsh, along with other residences around Montgomery County.
Walter Cope and John Stewardson designed the M.Carey Thomas Library at Bryn Mawr College, a National Historic Landmark, buildings at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, the Toland House in Whitemarsh Township, and other buildings around the county.
Wilson Eyre designed the Van Rensselaer residence on Pennsylvania Avenue in Upper Dublin Township.
Napolean LeBrun, Schermerhorn and Reinhold, and Rankin and Kellog all played a part in the design of the Montgomery County Courthouse. Napolean LeBrun also designed the former county prison across from the courthouse.
The well-known landscape architect — Frederick Law Olmsted along with his son John C. Olmsted — designed the campus at Bryn Mawr College.
Robert Venturi designed several buildings in Montgomery County.
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