Wilson Eyre, Jr.
Local ID #: EYRE
King, Moses. Philadelphia and Notable Philadelphians. New York: Blanchard Press, Isaac H. Blanchard Co., 1901.,
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As a proponent of English-influenced residential design, particularly that of Philip Webb and Richard Norman Shaw, Wilson Eyre, Jr., had few peers. As a publicist of his own work through magazine articles and architectural exhibitions, he reigned supreme in Philadelphia; and as a contrast to the well-known and eccentric Frank Furness, roughly his contemporary, Eyre acted as a mediating force in Philadelphia's architectural community, influencing such younger firms of the twentieth century as Mellor & Meigs, Edmund G. Gilchrist and R. Brognard Okie. Eyre was born in Florence, Italy, to American parents Wilson and Louisa (Lear) Eyre. His father had trained as an attorney in Philadelphia but, due to poor health, had been advised to live in a warmer climate. Therefore, Eyre's early years were spent in Italy; and he only returned to the United States at age 11. His early education took place at schools in Newport, RI, and Lenoxville, Canada. He then enrolled for one year at MIT, but did not complete the program there. By 1877 he was already installed in the office of James Peacock Sims, whose sudden death in 1882 left the young Eyre in practice independently, and with a substantial project on the boards for St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill. Although Eyre formed a brief, and rather informal, partnership with William E. Jackson, another employee of the Sims firm, he essentially worked independently until 1911, when he established an office with John Gilbert McIlvaine using the name Wilson Eyre & McIlvaine. This name would continue past Eyre's retirement until McIlvaine's retirement and subsequent death in 1939. During the period of the Eyre-McIlvaine partnership, an office in New York was opened (c.1901-1915) at 317 Lexington Avenue. The success of this office was due to the fact that Eyre's work was not confined to the environs of Philadelphia; and his several residences in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts were publicized widely.
Equally adept as a watercolorist, Eyre was in his later years known chiefly for his rendering and sketching techniques. He was also extremely visible in professional and personal concerns during his active years. As editor and founder of House & Garden magazine before its editorial office moved to New York, he successfully published his own residential designs, as well as those of the Philadelphia architectural community. He also exhibited extensively, not only in the local T-Square Club/Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA annual exhibitions, but also for those clubs which were members of the Architectural League, i.e., in Baltimore, MD, Boston, MA, New York City, Brooklyn, NY, Pittsburgh, PA, Portland, OR, Washington, D.C., and Toronto, Canada, where were held prominent exhibitions not concentrated solely on local talent. He joined the AIA in 1887 and received fellowship status in 1893. He further served the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA as president from 1897 to 1902. In addition, he held memberships in the Art Club, the Architectural League of New York, the Archaeological Society, and the Philadelphia Club. In 1917 his firm, Wilson Eyre & McIlvaine, received the Philadelphia Chapter Medal for "Hunting Hill Farm" in Media, PA.
Eyre's interest in the education of young architects encouraged him to become involved in the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Architecture, by whom he was employed as visiting lecturer from 1890 to 1892, and as professor of pen and ink drawing from 1892 to 1894.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Philadelphia Art Club
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- Philadelphia Sketch Club
- T-Square Club
- Architectural League of New York
- Philadelphia Club
- University of Pennsylvania
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
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