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The house carpenter and would-be architect Samuel Webb appeared in the Philadelphia city directories in 1817, the same year he was elected to The Carpenters' Company. He only appeared in the directories through 1819, although The Company continued him as a member until he resigned in 1857.

In 1815 the Pennsylvania Hospital determined to erect a special building on the Hospital grounds (Spruce Street between Eighth and Ninth Streets) to house Benjamin West's long-promised gift of his painting, "Christ Healing the Sick." According to the Building Committee minutes (June 8, 1816), "the house is to be raised agreeably to the Plan exhibited by Samuel Webb the architect to be employed." In July Webb ("architect") submitted a new design in the Gothic style that displeased West; the artist complained of "the misapplication of Gothic architecture to a Place where the Refinement of Science is to be inculcated and...ought to have been founded on those clear and self-evident Principles adopted by the Greeks." Nonetheless, the painting arrived in October, 1817, and according to Hospital records, Webb served as contractor for the "picture house." Doubt is cast on Webbs's role in the final design by the existence of a drawing by Charles A. Busby inscribed, "Spruce Street, Sketch of a Design for improving the North Front of the building erected at Philadelphia, to receive Mr. Wests Picture--Charles A. Busby--July 1817."

In 1821 a competition was announced for the State Penitentiary for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. So far as is known, the architects who submitted designs were Charles Loss, Jr., of New York, William Strickland, John Haviland, and Samuel Webb. The commission was given to Haviland, and Webbs's plan has not survived. A crude drawing inscribed by Webb does survive for the Academy of Natural Sciences (now on loan to The Athenaeum of Philadelphia) and probably relates to the Academy's alterations of an earlier building in the 1820s.

Written by Roger W. Moss.

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  • Carpenters' Company of Philadelphia


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