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Although Field & Medary operated for a relatively short time due to Richard L. Field's untimely death due to tuberculosis, the young firm nonetheless created a prolific practice, mostly concentrating on residential design, but with a sprinkling of the church commissions which would mark Milton B. Medary's later career. While both Field and Medary had attended the University of Pennsylvania, neither graduated, but instead moved into office work as their training. By 1895 the young architects had established their partnership in offices at 1414 South Penn Square. By 1898 they were receiving copious praise for their design for the St. Johns Episcopal Church parish buildings in Lower Merion, PA. In fact, in 1898, when the Building Committee for the new Baptist Church to be constructed on South 17th Street was accepting recommendations for their architectural choice, John Field of Young, Smyth, Field & Co. (and Richard L. Field's father) submitted a packet which included his own persuasive letter as well as commendations from John Marston, head of St. Johns building committee, and the Rev. Henry A. F. Hoyt, rector of St. Johns, as well as a critical description of the drawings, on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, from the American Architect and Building News.

The Rev. Hoyt asserted: "Perfect satisfaction expresses briefly the result of the work done by Field & Medary in our new parish buildings. Dignity, beauty and utility combine to make it one of the finest buildings of its kind in the country. . . . I prophesy a brilliant future for these promising young men."

John Marston, somewhat less poetic in his praise, added his own opinion: "I confess I felt at first some doubt as to the selection of these young men, but that we made no mistake I am sure is the opinion of all concerned. The whole conception of the completed design for the group of church buildings is entirely their own, and is worthy of architects with a score of years' experience."

Although these local, possibly biased statements might be discounted, that of the editor of the AABN should be weighed also: ". . . a remarkably clever church group, by architcts not as yet much known to fame."

These letters did not sway the Baptist Church building committee, however; and the commission went instead to E. V. Seeler. Had Richard L. Field lived beyond his 38th year, perhaps Field & Medary would have become one of the foremost Philadelphia firms of the early twentieth century. However, with his death, and the commission for the Daughters of the American Revolution Washington Memorial Chapel in hand, Medary moved on to Zantzinger, Borie & Medary, a firm which would become one of the largest and best-known architectural firms in Philadelphia.

Written by Sandra L. Tatman.

 

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