John Stewardson, son of Thomas and Margaret Haines Stewardson, belonged to one of the foremost late nineteenth century architectural firms in Philadelphia Cope & Stewardson. His early education had been in private schools in the Philadelphia area; he continued at Adams Academy in Quincy, MA (1873-1877). After graduation from Adams, he entered Harvard College, but left in 1879 to join the Atelier Pascal in Paris. Accordng to records maintained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, he entered the Atelier Pascal in October, 1879, was received as a regular student of the Ecole at the examinatin of April, 1881, and left the atelier in July, 1882. In 1882 he returned to Philadelphia, working first in T. P. Chandler's office and then in the office of Furness & Evans.
In 1884 he returned to Europe with his friend Wilson Eyre to travel through Italy and Belgium, and in l885 he joined in personal practice with Walter Cope, who had also spent some time in the office of T. P. Chandler. They were joined in 1887 by John's younger brother Emlyn L. Stewardson, who had recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in civil engineering. The partners had an office at 212 South 3rd Street in Philadelphia.
In 1892 Stewardson joined the University of Pennsylvania as staff lecturer in their new School of Architecture. He was also one of the founding members of the T-Square Clnb, serving in 1885 and 1891 as president of that organization. He also served as treasurer of the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA in 1886.
The firm of Cope & Stewardson had a highly versatile practice encompassing collegiate, medical, and residential projects. John Stewardson was an accomplished artist, and he is credited with the taste for English Gothic Revival which Cope & Stewardson used in their collegiate buildings. Talbot Hamlin, in his biographical description, for the Dictionary of American Biography notes that, following Stewardson's trip to England in 1894, the buildings at the University of Pennsylvania, which were on the boards at the time, changed from stone structures to brick with stone trim.
Stewardson's career was abruptly halted in 1896 when he died following a skating accident on the Schuylkill River, where he had gone for an afternoon's outing with Wilson Eyre. On the day of his funeral the members of the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects voted to close their offices in order to attend. The Traveling Scholarship formerly given by the University of Pennsylvania was formally changed to the Stewardson Memorial Scholarship under the aegis of his partner Walter Cope.
Perhaps Stewardson's greatest contribution during his short career was to introduce a taste for the English Gothic in the Philadelphia area, most particularly in the area of collegiate architecture. The firm's first commission had been for Radnor Hall (1886) at Bryn Mawr College. There followed several other buildings on the Bryn Mawr campus, at Princeton University (Blair Hall), and the University of Pennsylvania. In each the English collegiate Gothic was successfully adapted to the needs of the American campus, setting off repercussions on college campuses across the country.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- Philadelphia Sketch Club
- T-Square Club
- University of Pennsylvania
- Ecole des Beaux-Arts
- Harvard University
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