Theo White is known as much if not more for his publications on Philadelphia architecture as he is for his designs in the region. He was born in Norfolk, VA: some sources indicate that this may have been in 1902, although he gave 1903 as his birth year during his professional career. He was the son of Wilson and Patsey Ballou White, and graduated from Maury High School in Norfolk. Like his future partners, he trained at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1926. He then entered the office of Paul Cret, and rose to the level of associate by the time he left the firm in 1939.
During World War II, he served as a major in the Army Corps of Engineers. He formed a partnership with Briton Martin and Earle W. Bolton, Jr. in 1946, which continued until Bolton left the firm in 1954. James Hatfield joined Martin and White in 1956; their practice continued into the 1970s. White joined the national AIA in 1950, and was made a fellow in 1963.
Theo White's publications should be noted for his own richly detailed lithographs as much as for his engagement with and documentation of the history of Philadelphia architecture. His first work, A Portfolio of Seven Lithographs of the Colonial Mansions in Fairmount Park, issued in 1933 (Narberth, PA: Grasberger Galleries) with an introduction by the founding director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Fiske Kimball, amply demonstrates his graphic talent. Colonial Mansions was followed twenty years later by Philadelphia Architecture in the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia: Art Alliance Press), edited by White, which grew out of an exhibition at Philadelphia's Art Alliance in June of 1953. White had been a member of the board of directors there since 1950, and chaired the board's architecture committee for many years. White went on to write a history of that institution's first half-century: The Philadelphia Art Alliance, Fifty Years 1915-1965 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1965), and edited a compilation on the work and life of his former professor and employer, Paul Philippe Cret, Architect and Teacher (Art Alliance Press, 1973). White's final publication, Fairmount, Philadelphia's Park : a History (Art Alliance Press), appeared in 1975.
In addition to his extensive involvement with the Art Alliance, White was on the board of directors of the Radnor Historical Society, and a trustee of Philadelphia's New School of Music. He was married to the former Anne Linn (Bryn Mawr College Class of 1926).
Emily T. Cooperman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Franklin Inn Club
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- University of Pennsylvania
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