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Richardson Brognard Okie

Richardson Brognard Okie, Architect [1875-1945]

Pine Forge

Portions of the text below were adapted from the National Register nomination document for Merestone. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.

R. Brognard Okie is perhaps best-known as a master of the Colonial Revival style. He studied mechanical engineering and architecture. Upon graduation from the University of Pennsylvania in 1897 he went to work briefly for Arthur Cochran, a practicing Philadelphia architect. In 1898, along with two other contemporary Penn-graduate architects (H Louis Duhring & Charles Ziegler) founded the firm of During, Okie & Ziegler. Okie resigned in 1918 ending the 20-year partnership.

Okie served as the architect for the recreation of Pennsbury Manor.

Through his career most commissions were for residences; his work is well-represented, especially throughout Chester, Delaware and Philadelphia Counties.

Merestone, (New Garden Township) [1]

As one of Okie's final commissions, Merestone (photo) represents his mature style, a combination of historic restoration and modern adaptation on an authentic Colonial period farmhouse. Okie spent his career working in the Philadelphia area. He was a notable restoration architect who undertook several major commissions including projects associated with Betsy Ross and William Penn. But, he is best known for his unique interpretation of the Colonial Revival style, especially in the design of country houses. His work was admired by both his clients and fellow architects for the creative and artistic expression of colonial design themes. His body of work constitutes a recognizable style that preserves elements of 18th century design while introducing 20th century amenities. Throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware, Okie left a lasting image on the landscape.

A native of Camden, New Jersey, Okie received a degree in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in 1897, then worked with the firm Duhring, Okie and Ziegler until 1918. This firm specialized in the design of country houses. After World War I, Okie worked independently. His earliest commissions provided the foundation for his later work in the Colonial Revival style. Among his first projects were the restoration of the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia; the reconstruction of William Penn's estate, "Pennsbury Manor" using historic documents for authenticity; and the reconstruction of High Street for the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial in association with E.P. Bissell and J.B.P. Sinkler. Okie loved the country and lived on a farm himself. As a result, he later concentrated on the design of the southeastern Pennsylvania farmhouse, which became his specialty.

The inspiration for most of Okie's designs is the vernacular, southeastern Pennsylvania farmhouse of the 18th and early 19th centuries: simple, two story, gable-roofed houses built of native, undressed stone. His designs for new houses frequently borrowed historic details, while his renovation projects usually combined a concern for historical accuracy with the introduction of modern amenities demanded by his mostly upper class clients. Okie was known for his practice of driving the back roads of Pennsylvania in search of colonial buildings, measuring and recording their details of design and construction. His knowledge of early architecture thus gleaned, resulted in the infusion of authentic colonial design elements in his own work. Because of his skill in blending old and new, it is often difficult to separate refinished original features from his own design when they are combined in one building.

  1. National Register of Historic Places, Merestone, 1994, Selections from a copy of the Original Nomination Document.

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