[Monument at the Entrance of the Harbor]
A Monument at the Entrance of the Harbor, Walter Cope Memorial Prize Winner
Paris Prize winner Grant Miles Simon represents one of that group of University of Pennsylvania graduates who benefitted from the influence of Paul P. Cret and, following Cret's lead, extended their study of architecture into the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Along the way Simon also won a record number of prizes: Cope Memorial Prize, 1908, University of Pennsylvania Alumni Scholarship, 1909, 1910, 1911, Stewardson Memorial Traveling Scholarship, 1909, Arthur Spayd Brooke gold medal, 1911. In 1911 he was also a finalist for the Paris Prize, eventually carrying off that honor in 1913, one of a line of Philadelphia and Cret-trained architects to do so. (Douglas D. Ellington won in 1911; Donald M. Kirkpatrick won in 1912; Harry Sternfeld won in 1914, and Lee Rombotis won in 1923.)
Simon was born in Philadelphia, the son of Frederick Paul and Mary Ann (Miles) Simon. After graduating from Northeast Manual Training School in 1904, he began pursuing the study of architecture through a number of study programs available then in Philadelphia. In 1905 he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art. From 1906 to 1909 he was enrolled in the T-Square Atelier under the patronage of Paul P. Cret, at the same time working for Cret's partnership Kelsey & Cret on the drawings for the Pan-American Union Building. From 1907 to 1909 Simon also undertook painting classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under the tutelage of Thomas Anshutz and simultaneously was enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, where he would finally receive his B.S. and M.S. in Architecture in 1911, reaping most of the prizes available to an architectural design student of the time.
Simon's design for a "Monumental Treatment of the End of Manhattan Island" won the Paris Prize competition for 1913, enabling him to leave the office of John T. Windrim, which he had entered immediately after graduation (and a year with William L. Price). In Paris he entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts and the Atelier Bernier. He spent 1913 and 1914 in Paris, and upon his return became part of the office begun by his older brother, Edward P. Simon, a Drexel Institute graduate.
This collaboration with his brother was formalized around 1918 when the name of the office changed to Simon & Simon. Grant M. Simon withdrew from the office in 1927 in order to launch an independent firm, but the name Simon & Simon continued to be used until 1936. Grant Simon practiced independently until his death in 1967. The designs which are associated with him, both within the Simon & Simon partnership and in his independent work, display a Beaux Arts correctness devoid of the abstraction sometimes seen in other practitioners. The Fidelity Bank on South Broad Street in Philadelphia (late 1920s), for example, projects a massive approach to classicism characteristic of earlier practitioners of the Beaux Arts method.
During the last ten years of his life Simon received even more awards in recognition of his achievements in public service and architecture. In 1958 he was awarded the Honor Medal of the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge for his book The Beginnings of Philadelphia (1957). In 1959 he was cited by Mayor Richardson Dilworth for leadership as chair of the Philadelphia Historical Commission, which had certified 1149 Philadelphia buildings under its new historic building powers. In 1961 the Colonial Philadelphia Historical Society Award for work in historical development went to him. These awards and others reflected the transformaton of Simon's work in the 1950s. From 1952 to 1954 he served as consulting architect for the survey of Historic Germantown. From 1952 to 1955 he also chaired the AIA Committee on Preservation of Historic Monuments; he chaired the Philadelphia Historical Commission from 1956 until his death. Most controversial of his positions related to historic preservation, however, must have been his appointment as advisory architect for the Federal Commission for Independence National Historical Park, beginning in 1953. In this position Simon affected the development of the Park, occasionally in ways disputed by other members of the architectural/historical community.
Simon was also an accomplished painter and lithographer, and his work was sought by prominent collections of fine arts in Philadelphia and beyond.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Franklin Inn Club
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP)
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- Philadelphia Sketch Club
- T-Square Club
- Union League of Philadelphia
- Society of Beaux Arts Architects
- Historic Germantown
- National Institute of Architectural Education
- University of Pennsylvania
- Ecole des Beaux-Arts
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
- Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art
- Northeast Manual Training School
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