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Born: 1869, Died: 9/4/1923

While surprisingly little is known of the early life and training of Seymour Davis, the son of Paul A. and Henrietta (Duy) Davis, some information can be gleaned from a letter sent by Frank Miles Day to Cass Gilbert on 3 July 1896. Written in response to Gilbert's inquiry regarding Davis's expertise in architecture (Gilbert was then competing for the Montana State Capitol commission), the letter states that Day had gathered the following from speaking with Davis's father, "First, he learned the business of carpenter and had some training in drawing in a school in Philadelphia, and then went west as a draftsman in the office of an architect in Topeka. After that he practiced architecture in Topeka and held the position of State Architect. After that he went to Paris and studied for about two years and returning to Phila. about two years ago, has since practiced architecture here. His father was unable to tell me of any buildings he had erected. Seymour Davis is now, as I understand, on his way to Helena, Montana, to act as an expert in a competition for a building."

While parts of Day's letter can be confirmed, others remain questionable. Davis did attend the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1880; and he did work as an architect in Topeka, KS (designing the Columbian Building of 1888-89, the Unitarian Church of 1891, and onion dome additions to the Charles Curtis House, 1888); and he did consult on the State Capital Building in Helena, Montana (a note in the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide for 1896 states that he has been employed by the State of Montana "as the expert to decide upon the plan to be adopted from the various ones submitted"); however, no information has been found to confirm that he apprenticed to a carpenter or that he studied in Paris, although a sojourn in Paris could explain his long absence from the Philadelphia city directories.

What is known is that Davis appeared in the Philadelphia city directories first in 1896 as an architect with an office at 907 Walnut Street. The first note indicating a partnership with his younger brother Paul A. Davis, III appears in the Philadelphia city directories in 1911, but by 1901 citations have already been published in the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide for this arrangement. The brothers established a firm under the name Seymour & Paul Davis. It appears that the partners separated around 1914/15, with Paul A. Davis essentially inheriting the business. Although Seymour Davis continues in the city directories through 1923, he is listed without an office address, and presumeably had retired from the profession.

Davis's early work in the Philadelphia area produced a number of schools, including those in Chester, PA, and Shenandoah, PA, and the Central M.E. Church in Atlantic City, NJ, as well as the engine house for the Neptune Hose Co. at Atlantic and Massachusetts avenues in Atlantic City, NJ. When brother Paul Davis entered the firm, his Beaux-Arts training attracted public building which became an emphasis of the practice, but the strong commitment to building in New Jersey remained.

Written by Sandra L. Tatman.

Clubs and Membership Organizations

  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

School Affiliations

  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts


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