Henry D. Dagit, the leading competitor of Edwin F. and F. Ferdinand Durang in the field of Catholic church and institution design, was born in Philadelphia and educated in the Philadelphia public schools. By 1886 he was employed in the office of Walter Geissinger and by 1888 had opened his own office. Although during 1890 he practiced under the firm name of Rowe & Dagit with builder George M. Rowe, his was chiefly an individual practice until his sons, Henry D., Jr., and Albert F. formally joined the firm in 1922; the name was then changed to Henry D. Dagit & Sons. Younger son Charles E. Dagit also joined the firm in 1925.
While Dagit's early practice was general in nature and included such projects as eight workers' houses in Bloomsburg, PA, for the Bloomsburg Carpet Works, his career in the area of Catholic institutional design was assured when he was appointed architect for the Archdiocese of Trenton, NJ, in 1898. This appointment lasted for 10 years and provided both the work and reputation which would ensure him of success in the Philadelphia area. One of the most notable examples of his work in Philadelphia is the Byzantine-revival St. Francis de Sales Church at 47th Street and Springfield Avenue (1907-1911). Here a dome constructed of Guastavino tile was combined with a polychromatic interior illuminated by D'Ascenzo stained glass. (In the late 1960s, following the changes wrought by Vatican II, Robert Venturi added a new altar, lectern, and chair to the apsidal end. These have since been removed.)
Dagit's work was not confined to the Philadelphia area, however, numerous parochial schools and rectories were also designed by Dagit in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and his architectural firm, enriched by the work of his sons and grandson, continues to operate in Philadelphia today.
Sandra L. Tatman.
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