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Born: 4/27/1850, Died: c. 1926

Edwin W. Thorne was born in the area of Marshalton, Chester County, first son of farmers Jason D. and Ellen W. Thorne. He worked on the family farm to age 18 and apprenticed in carpentry, studying its various aspects including mill work and stairs, first in Marshalton and by - no later than 1873 - in Philadelphia. He is listed in Philadelphia city directories as a carpenter through 1877. By 1879, however, he is living in Wilmington, Delaware and listed in city directories as an architect and builder (for a period in partnership with his brother, James Howard Thorne) to 1884. Evidently, he moves his family and practice to Philadelphia ca. 1885 and can be found listed an architect in the city directories 1886 through 1898. After a brief period where his family is found living in Denver, Colorado (1900 Census), he returns to Pennsylvania and settles in the area of Coatesville and and found listed in County directories as an Architect.

That his contributions to Philadelphia were of some significance is indicated first by a note in the 12 September 1887 Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide stating that Thorne's design for the "Model Modern American Workingman's Cottage" would be exhibited at the Constitutional Centennial to be held on 15 September. This focus on housing may have been an influence on Minerva Parker Nichols, Philadelphia's best known female architect of the 19th century. Nichols apprenticed in Thorne's office in the late 1880s and took over his office space at 14 S. Broad Street in 1890. Her experience with Thorne was the launching point for her independent practice -- the first woman architect to achieve this status.

It remains unclear why Thorne stopped practice. By January 1892, however, Thorne is announcing (through the PRERBG) that he has discontinued his practice in Philadelphia and is contemplating opening a new office in either Baltimore, where he was residing, or in Washington, DC. This certainly coincides with the Baltimore residence listed in Philadelphia city directories from 1893 through 1894. However, in the 1895 city directory Thorne is listed with a partner (Frank L. Riley) in the office of Thorne & Riley, at 1305 Arch Street. Instead of opening an office in Baltimore, Thorne had apparently moved to Coatesville, PA, and established a new partnership with Riley. This partnership is cited in the PRERBG from 1894 through 1895, but then Thorne continues alone in the office on Arch Street from 1896 to 1898.

Written by William Whitaker, and Sandra L. Tatman.


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