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[Memorabilia of student work and activities]
Howell Lewis Shay, ca. 1902
Howell Lewis Shay Collection, Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.
Local ID #: aaup.290.2.1
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Born: 12/24/1884, Died: 8/18/1975

Howell Lewis Shay was born in Washington, DC, the son of Aurelius K. and Julia Stanford (Lewis) Shay. Soon after his birth his parents moved to Seattle, WA, where the young Shay attended public schools; however, he returned to the East Coast to enter the University of Pennsylvania; and he was awarded his B.S. in Architecture in 1913. In Seattle he had gained office experience in the firms of W. D. Kimble, James A. Shack, and A. W. Spalding, and had also spent a summer in New York City as office boy for McKim, Mead & White. The summer before his graduation from the University found him in the office of John T. Windrim; and upon his graduation he worked for Horace Trumbauer, with whom he would remain until 1918. While in Trumbauer's office he was credited with facilitating the design of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by aiding the firms involved to agree on the final design.

He worked independently approximately one year before establishing a partnership with Verus T. Ritter under the name Ritter & Shay. Ritter had already achieved some reputation for his design of schools; and hailing from the western part of Pennsylvania, he brought with him contacts in Bloomsburg and other parts of Pennsylvania. Shay's Beaux-Arts-influenced design experience added immensely to Ritter's contacts. The firm was successful, not only in the design of school buildings, but also in office buildings and hotels.

After Ritter & Shay dissolved around 1936, Shay continued to practice successfully on his own, establishing in 1948, with his sons Howell Lewis Shay, Jr. and William Dixon Shay, the firm of Howell Lewis Shay and Assocs., architects and engineers. Considerable work was accomplished during these later years in the area of academic and institutional buildings, continuing the successful school practice which Ritter & Shay had begun.

Shay received a number of awards during his college years, including the Arthur Spayd Brooke prize in 1912, first and second medals from the Beaux-Arts Society in 1912 and 1913. He was a member of the AIA, the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA, the Pennsylvania Society of Architects, and the T-Square Club. He served on the managing committee for the John Stewardson Memorial Scholarship from 1944 to 1948. He served the City of Philadelphia in a variety of ways, including as a consulting architect for the Philadelphia Board of Education from 1937 to 1940, and as technical advisor for the Philadelphia Housing Authority from 1938 to 1941.

Written by Sandra L. Tatman.

Clubs and Membership Organizations

  • Philadelphia Art Alliance
  • Orpheus Club
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
  • Pennsylvania Society of Architects
  • Philadelphia Art Club
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
  • T-Square Club
  • Franklin Institute
  • Society of Colonial Awards
  • Architectural Alumni Soc. (UPenn)

School Affiliations

  • University of Pennsylvania


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