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Edgar Viguers Seeler
Local ID #: SEELER
King, Moses. Philadelphia and Notable Philadelphians. New York: Blanchard Press, Isaac H. Blanchard Co., 1901., p. 86

Born: 11/18/1867, Died: 10/26/1929

Biography from the American Architects and Buildings database

E. V. Seeler was born in Philadelphia and attended Central High School, from which he graduated in 1884. His parents, George W. and Anna Maria (Viguers) Seeler, then sent him to night classes at the Philadelphia Museum and School of Industrial Art, where he won the Richards Prize for best drawing executed in pen and ink during the 1885/86 term. When he had finished four years at the PMSI, Seeler moved on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he graduated in the Class of 1890. From MIT he continued his study of architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in the atelier of Victor Laloux from 1890 until 1893. Thus, Seeler represented one of the generation of educated architects, who, having studied at the Ecole, also travelled extensively in Europe and often set up their own practices upon their return, bypassing the traditional apprenticeship with an older, seasoned firm. Furthermore, Seeler represents one of few Philadelphia architects who did not receive their architectural training at the University of Pennsylvania.

Upon his return from Europe, Seeler established his own practice with an office at 328 Chestnut Street and a home in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood (1828 Locust Street). At the same time he began to work at the University of Pennsylvania as an assistant professor of architectual design (1893-98). Seeler's work differed from the general practice so often embraced by Philadelphia's turn of the century firms in that he often operated within the burgeoning commercial sector of the city. His Curtis Publishing Co. Building (1912; North Washington Square, Philadelphia) became a model for the well-appointed highrise then going up in the city. Challenged by a site overlooking Independence Hall, Seeler responded by choosing the familiar Georgian Revival style, in this case embellished on the interior with a Tiffany mosaic and stained glass by D'Ascenzo Studios. In fact, the Curtis Building would not be Seeler's only contribution to Philadelphia's office building. His Penn Mutual Life Insurance Building (1916) at 6th and Walnut streets, the Philadelphia Bulletin Building (1906-08; addition 1915-16) at 1315-25 Filbert Street, and the Real Estate Trust Company building (1903-04) at Broad and Chestnut street, all reinforce the image of Seeler as a seasoned designer of what was then the tall office building. Often working with engineer Frank C. Roberts, Seeler provided corporate office buildings that have stood the test of time and are still being restored and used today.

This does not mean, however, that the Seeler firm exclusively designed for the business world. Like other prosperous Philadelphia offices, Seeler's firm also supplied designs for the lavish country homes being constructed for Philadelphia's elite. "Clovelly" on Old Gulph Road in Ardmore (1905) was designed for Dr. Henry Carey Register in a grand Pennsylvania colonial style. The Seeler firm also carried off the much-coveted commission for the First Baptist Church (1901) at 17th and Sansom streets in Philadelphia, a Gothic Revival style. In addition, Seeler could manage projects with a more modest style; in 1918 he was chosen to create 400 dwellings for Eddystone, PA, a project administered by the U. S. Housing Corporation.

In 1926 Seeler retired from active practice and died three years later of a heart attack while at his country residence, Dingleton Farms in Newtown Square, PA.

As active in professional organizations as he was in his practice, Seeler retained memberships in the AIA, its Philadelphia Chapter, and the T-Square Club. He was elected president of the T-Square Club in 1898. He had been elected a junior member of the Philadelphia Chapter, AIA, in 1886 and to full professional membership in 1897. He served on the chapter education committee in 1902 and was appointed a Philadelphia delegate to the AIA conventions for 1902 and 1903. For the term 1904/05 he became president of the local chapter and remained on the executive committee for 1905/06. In 1907/08 he was a member of the committee appointed to investigate the preservation of Congress Hall. In 1904 Seeler became a member of the advisory committee for architecture of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis, MO. Recalling his days at the Ecole, Seeler was a charter member of the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects.

Written by Sandra L. Tatman.

Clubs and Membership Organizations

  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
  • T-Square Club
  • Pennsylvania Sons of the Revolution
  • Society of Beaux Arts Architects
  • Fairmount Park Art Association

School Affiliations

  • Ecole des Beaux-Arts
  • Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

 

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