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A firm chiefly associated with residential development on Philadelphia's Main Line, Wallace & Warner specialized in those twentieth-century revivals which were so popular in the suburbs of Philadelphia in the 1920s. As George Gibbs remakred in his foreword to the monograph of the office's work, "But the times have indeed changed. Wealth and opportunity, combined with an overcrowded condition of the cities, have sent many people into the country to live. Every man who could afford an acre of land could afford a house to put on it. . . . Here, then, was the opportunity to do something rather fine in an architecture way for the suburbs of the great American cities, an opportunity that Wallace and Warner, the Architects of many hundreds of houses along the Main Line and Chestnut Hill branches of the Pennsylvania Railroad, were not slow to grasp and put to use." Although it is ironic that these words were published as the Great Depression was gaining speed, the houses illustrated in the monograph reflect a life of wealth and comfort in the twentieth century, certainly humbler than the great manses produced by such palace architects as Philadelphia's Horace Trumbauer, but similar to more modest, early work of Mellor & Meigs. Unlike Mellor & Meigs, however, Wallace & Warner remain associated with residential development of a more speculative sort. Reflecting the tastes of their clients, the firm organized their monograph around "types," such as the "English Types," the "Georgian Types," etc. One must wonder how a firm so firmly entrenched in these types could survive until 1961, and the answer appears to lie in the expertise of Brenton G. Wallace.

By World War II the firm expanded its repertoire of building types in order to emphasize commercial and industrial design, shopping centers, department stores, etc. From this latter part of their career the office contributed the Bryn Mawr Medical Building, Haverford Square Shopping Center, and the Wynnewood Shopping Center. In these endeavors they were aided by Wallace's position as founder and first president of the Main Line Builders Association.

By 1930, when the monograph of the office's work was published, Roland R. Fields, a University of Pennsylvania graduate architect, was listed on the title page, albeit in smaller type that that accorded founding partners Wallace and Warner. There can be little doubt that the early phase of residential success was chiefly due to his hand at design. In a post-World War II monograph, the Wallace & Warner firm name remains, along with Brenton G. Wallace; however, Frederic G. Warner has disappeared; and Frederick W. Dreher, Jr., a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and a specialist in shopping center design, has been added. By the late 1950s three offices represented the interests of the company, including a downtown Philadelphia space in the Girard Trust Building, the Wallace & Warner Building in Bryn Mawr, PA, and a third space in the Delaware Trust Building in Wilmington, DE.

In the 1960s the office was succeeded by Hesser & Higgins.

Written by Sandra L. Tatman.

 

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