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Both Charles Barton Keen and Frank Mead were products of the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, and they both had worked for Frank Miles Day. The firm's earliest work is residential; and like many young architects of the time, they found favor with developers of some of the suburban communities then established in Philadelphia, first working with Wendell & Smith in the development of the Pelham neighborhood of Germantown and later in Overbrook, off of City Line Avenue in Philadelphia. By 1901, when the partnership dissolved, they were also connected to William T. B. Roberts, producing designs for houses at Ogontz Park and at Glenside, PA.

For their developer clients the partners could produce a modest, but comfortable form of the Arts and Crafts bungalow so popular at the time, but they were also capable of grander designs. The January, 1901 issue which launched House & Garden began with a Keen & Mead design for Stratford Hall in Bryn Mawr, PA. The house itself is yet another, if enlarged, adaptation of the bungalow type; but it is the garden where the writer (perhaps Frank Miles Day) chooses to wax poetic: "Given a pair of young architects bubbling over with enthusiasm; turn them loose on the shores of the Mediterranean; let them see the pillared gardens of Southern Italy; take them about the bay of Naples, the Gulf of Salerno; let them walk under the pergola of the Capuchin Monastery at Amalfi; let the beauty of it all become a part of their very lives; let them think about it, dream about it, talk about it; then give them a fair chance to make a hillside garden, and see how like it will be to this garden."

After 1901 projects for Keen & Mead cease to be listed in the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide, and Frank Mead disappears from the Philadelphia city directories. However, Charles Barton Keen will develop a prosperous practice based on residential design, moving inexorably beyond the work for developers into the single, luxurious house market for such clients as tobacco magnate R. J. Reynolds of North Carolina.

Written by Sandra L. Tatman.

 

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