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Like Thomas U. Walter, John Skirving was trained as a bricklayer and so listed himself in the Philadelphia city directories from 1835 until 1843. As early as 1838 he submitted items to the Artists' Fund Society exhibitions; in 1840 alone he exhibited designs for two country houses, a cottage, and a public building; the next year he exhibited four architectural drawings. From 1844 to 1859 he is not listed in the Philadelphia city directories and, in fact, his submissions in the AFS exhibition for 1853--designs for cottages, rural residences, a conservatory, and a summer house--were sent from Washington.

Even before Skirving left Philadelphia he appears to have been engaged at Washington in his chief speciality: the warming and ventilating of public buildings. In 1841, Skirving claimed, "for the last 12 years I have been ingaged (sic.) in warming and ventilating building. I have visited Europe twice during the last 8 years for this purpose of examining the various plans used in London...," and some of the drawings he made on these trips are preserved at The Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Among the structures in Washington, D. C. on which he consulted are Robert Mills's General Post Office (1839-1841), the U. S. Patent Office, Treasury, and the United States Capitol. In Philadelphia Skirving worked on the Franklin Institute and Moyamensing Prison. In 1860 he reappears in Philadelphia city directories listed as "architect" or as "gentleman" at Stenton Avenue and Fisher's Lane; he disappears from the directories in 1866.

Written by Roger W. Moss.


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