Lewis F. Pilcher's association with the Philadelphia area is relatively brief, but he punctuated his time in Philadelphia with an illustrious career which included a 10-year tenure as New York State Architect. Pilcher was born in Brooklyn, NY, to prominent physician Dr. Lewis Stephen Pilcher and his wife Martha S. Pilcher. He studied at the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, entering Wesleyan University (1889/90) and then Columbia University, where he received a degree in Architecture in 1895. He was immediately hired at the University of Pennsylvania as an assistant in architecture (1895-97) and progressed through instructor in architecture (1897-1900) during this first stint at the University. In 1900 he left Philadelphia to take a position with Vassar College but still remained on the employee roster as a sometime lecturer from 1900-1904. While at Vassar, Pilcher established a partnership with W. G. Tachau (Pilcher & Tachau), which would design Mikveh Israel synagogue at Broad Street and York Road in 1909 and some early work on Dropsie College, then also in the North Broad Street neighborhood, as well as a number of buildings on the Vassar campus.
In 1911 Pilcher resigned from Vassar College in order to devote his time to independent practice (by that time with Pilcher, Thomas & Tachau). Only two years later Governor Sulzer appointed Pilcher New York State Architect. As part of his duties as State Architect, Pilcher completed extensive renovation and addition to the famous (or notorious) Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, NY. After his retirement, Pilcher became consulting architect for the U. S. Veterans Bureau, but in 1926 he returned to the University of Pennsylvania, where he was Assistant Professor of Architecture from 1926 to 1927, Associate Professor of Architecture from 1927 to 1929, and Vice-dean of the School of Fine Arts from 1927 to 1929. 1929 did not mark his retirement from an academic career, however, because he then became chair of the Department of Architecture at Pennsylvania State University from 1929 to 1937, when he did retire.
Pilcher joined the T-Square Club in 1895 and also held memberships in the American Institute of Architects, and the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA; but a 13 January 1932 note in his Philadelphia Chapter records indicates that he transferred to the Southern Pennsylvania Chapter. At the time of his death he was residing in Philadelphia.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- T-Square Club
- Southern Pennsylvania Chapter (AIA)
- University of Pennsylvania
- Columbia University
- Pennsylvania State University
- Vassar College
- Wesleyan University
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