One of the most prolific of Philadelphia architectural firms specializing in residential design, Willing, Sims & Talbutt competed with Mellor, Meigs & Howe, Robert Rodes McGoodwin, and Edmund Gilchrist for commissions. The office was established in 1921, succeeding the earlier firm of Willing & Sims by adding James Talbutt to the partners. Although their early work included a number of substantial alterations to residences, they soon began designing large country and suburban houses for the wealthy of Philadelphia, including the 1924 Jay Cooke residence in Chestnut Hill, the Frederic Rosengarten residence (1929) in Chestnut Hill, and the William R. Mercer residential alteration and construction (1930) in Doylestown, PA.
In the late 1930s, when individual residential design had nearly ceased, Willing, Sims & Talbutt added their efforts to the work of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, collaborating with several other architects in Philadelphia on an $8 million project. In the 1940s they continued their institutional commitment by working on the Byberry Hospital development for the State of Pennsylvania and returning to the Philadelphia Housing Authority in their collaborative design for Oxford Village. They would not return to their strong representation in the residential field until the late 1940s, when several of the same names apparent in the work of the 1920s would reappear, including Jay Cooke in Chestnut Hill.
Like their residential competitors, Willing, Sims & Talbutt ordinarily designed in a revival mode, using the American colonial, English, and French designs that were so popular with the wealthy of the 1920s. What distinguished them from their competitors was the ability of Charles Willing in landscape design. While other architects might employ Thomas Sears to extend the design of the house into its adjacent garden, Willing, Sims & Talbutt could rely upon the talents of Charles Willing in this regard.
Sandra L. Tatman.
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