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Born: 1926, Died: 12/22/2014

Born in North Stonington, CT.

Education: Germantown Friends School; Bachelor of Arts, Haverford College, 1950; M.Arch, University of Pennsylvania, 1962. Graham Foundation Scholar, 1962.

Experience: Own firm, 1969.

Joined national AIA, 1969; Member of Philadelphia Chapter.

Obit provided by Betsy Masters, 1/2/2015 John P.A. Todd, 88, an innovative Philadelphia architect whose work blended historic architecture with modernist design, and pioneered sustainability and adaptive reuse long before others, died of natural causes on December 22, 2014, in Ambler, PA, after a life lived to the lees. Mr. Todd developed his signature architectural approach beginning in the 1970’s. Breathing new life into the distinguished properties that were disappearing along with the patrician lifestyles for which they had been constructed, through performing what he described as “selective surgery”, Mr. Todd preserved their historic forms, reconfigured interiors, and added inventive architectural and landscape elements resulting in spacious, bright interiors and gardens updated for contemporary life. His imaginative spatial design and creative land usage avoided the cookie-cutter housing developments that befell many large properties of old private estates of the Main Line, Chestnut Hill, and Montgomery County. In the city, Mr. Todd’s adaptive reuse of a 19th Century livery stable, his design and development of passive solar townhouses on Brandywine Street, and an infill of townhouses on a corner adjacent to the Spring Garden Community Garden all contributed to the transformation of that neighborhood in recent years. Almost 40 years ago, in an interview with the Inquirer, he called on Philadelphia to revitalize its “great warehouse of Victorian architecture” and presciently foresaw “an enormous re-entry of middle-class people into the city.” A descendant of an old Bucks County Quaker family, John Todd attended Germantown Friends School and was a longtime resident of Chestnut Hill. His professional architectural and entrepreneurial career began, in a sense, during high school when he built wooden dollhouses as a hobby, but soon began selling them through the toy department at Wanamaker’s. After graduating GFS in 1945, he served in the U.S. Army with the Occupation Forces in Japan. He majored in classical archaeology at Haverford College and later received a full scholarship to the Architecture Program at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Fine Arts where he earned a Master of Architecture. Before establishing his own practice in 1969 on North 17th Street in Philadelphia and later in Chestnut Hill, Mr. Todd was a Staff Architect in several Philadelphia firms, including that of the noted modernist Vincent Kling. A handsome, erudite man whose tousled hair, bowties, and spectacles bespoke the style of another era, Mr. Todd was devoted to his family. He loved entertaining, sharing stories, gardening, rowing, and sailing. John Todd will be remembered for his sense of humor, joie de vivre, loyal friendship, adventurous spirit, mischievous fun, and his special chicken dinners. He was a member of the American Institute of Architects, the University Barge Club, the Natural Lands Trust, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Philadelphia Athenaeum. He served as a board member for the St. Martin’s Train Station Committee and for the Chestnut Hill Historical Society. The most-beloved John Todd project was his longtime residence in Chestnut Hill, described by many as a magical place. He used the modest Civil War-era cottage as a laboratory for constant experimentation in architecture, interiors, and landscape design, creating a warm, light-infused home for his children; full of books, artwork, and family history. His garden developed into a special retreat where his love for plants and knowledge of their care merged with his design expertise. His home was a consummate setting for intimate, memorable gatherings with friends and family in which interior blended with exterior and was evidenced by an inscription from Virgil’s Aeneid above the garden doors, FORSAN ET HAEC OLIM MEMINISSE JUVABIT (Perhaps this too will be a pleasure to look back upon one day), linking the house to his grandfather, who taught Latin at Friends Select School as well as to the history of Western civilization, and a reminder to all. John Todd is survived by a daughter, Regula Elsbeth; a son, Phillip; a brother, Thomas; and sister, Stefannie Coggeshall. He was preceded in death by his late companion, Bunny Hume Oliver.

A memorial service will be held at Germantown Meeting on February 14th at 2pm.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Morris Arboretum.

Written by Rima M. Girnius, and Sandra L. Tatman.

Clubs and Membership Organizations

  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Philadelphia Chapter, AIA

School Affiliations

  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Haverford College


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