Clarence E. Schermerhorn was born in Philadelphia, the son of Benton Monroe and Clara (Cunningham) Schermerhorn. After attending Hancock Grammar School and graduating from Central High School, he studied architecture at Spring Garden Institute and by 1888 was in the office of senior architect Stephen Decatur Button, whom he would later succeed. In 1894 Schermerhorn established a partnership with another Spring Garden Institute student, Henry L. Reinhold (Schermerhorn & Reinhold); and the two practiced together until 1901, when Reinhold withdrew from the partnership. His place was taken by Watson K. Phillips, who worked for several years as an associate. It was not until 1906 that the office of Schermhorn & Phillips was formally recorded in the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide, although it never appears as such in Philadelphia city directories. Upon Schermerhorn's sudden death at age 52, Phillips assumed the full responsibility of the office and for many years following practiced independently.
An amazingly prolific architect, especially considering the brevity of his life, Schermerhorn declared on his Philadelphia Chapter, AIA, application that he had designed 297 private residences, 28 stores and office buildings, 16 manufacturing buildings, 12 hotels and cafes, 17 public schools and hospital buildings, 34 stables, 20 public and private garages, and eight club buildings, tenements, etc. He was a consummate marketer at a time when marketing was considered a somewhat unprofessional activity for the architect. In 1905, he, Reinhold and Emile G. Perrot of Ballinger & Perrot were chastised by the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA for publishing monographs featuring their architectural designs. The Chapter interpreted these publications as advertising, and thus unprofessional; however, Schermerhorn continued his activities in the national American Institute of Architects, serving on its Fire Prevention Committee during 1921/22. Although cautioned by the Chapter for his aggressive publishing activities, Schermerhorn consistently appeared in the public arena, informing home builders of the services available to them from an architect and not only writing articles for general magazines and newspapers, but also broadcasting on radio programs. According to the obituary written by Watson K. Phillips for the Journal of the American Institute of Architects, "He was one of the first architects to broadcast talks on architectural and building subjects. His brochure, Services of an Architect, was sent from over thirty radio stations throughout the country and was published in many architectural, trade and home magazines."
Schermerhorn was also a descendant of James Jacob Schermerhorn, who came to New York in 1636. Proud of his colonial heritage, he maintained membership in several heritage organizations, including the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution and the Colonial Society of Pennsylvania.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Sons of the Revolution
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- T-Square Club
- Union League of Philadelphia
- Colonial Society of Pennsylvania
- Second Troop Philadelphia City Calvalry
- Riverton Yacht Club
- American Federation of Arts
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