Benjamin Loxley was a prominent master builder who, according to his obituary, was
conspicuous for talents, ingenuity and industry; as a citizen, distinguished for active participation and usefulness; and as a man, for integrity and the faithful discharge of the various duties of social life. . . . His disinterested services, aided by his skill and ingenuity in casting of cannon, and conducting the public laboratory in the early stages of the revolution, when the knowledge of those arts were confined to a few, were of the highest importance to our country. Born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, England, the son of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Pullen) Loxley, he came to Pennsylvania in 1734 to live with his maternal uncle who placed him as an apprentice to W. Joseph Watkins to learn the "Carpenter's, Joiner's and plain Cabinet making trades," according to Loxley's autobiographical manuscript. Free of his articles in 1742, Loxley promptly married his former master's sister, and armed with--as he later recalled--"a choice chest of tools, books of architecture, a bible and Psalm book..., I went on right well and got plenty of work and good pay."
Although Loxley briefly joined in a partnership with carpenter William Henderson, a timely inheritance and successful investments gradually made Loxley prosperous (he would later claim losses of $60,000 from the British occupation of Philadelphia), and like Joseph Fox, Robert Smith, and Thomas Nevell, he became one of the leading members of The Carpenters' Company which he served on committees or as an officer through the years prior to the Revolution.
No structures can specifically be associated with Loxley. Like most senior members of The Carpenters' Company, he realized the bulk of his income from dealing in lumber, speculative building, and measurings the work of other craftsmen. Most of the surviving documents refer to these business activities. In 1768 Loxley, Nevell, and Robert Smith were appointed a committee to acquire the lot on which Carpenters' Hall (Chestnut below Fourth Street) would ultimately be erected to Smith's design. That same year, Loxley and Smith were jointly proposed for membership in the American Society but were not elected, "being members of the American Philosophical Society." Loxley was an "encourager" to the Philadelphia edition of Abraham Swan, The British Architect (Printed by R. Bell for J. Norman, 1775), the first book on architecture published in America, and he subscribed for two copies (the only other person to take two was Robert Allison).
Like most of his fellow master builders, Loxley actively supported the Revolution. During both the French and Indian War and the Revolution, he served as an officer of artillery and recruited heavily for the American cause among the building trades.
Roger W. Moss, and
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- American Philosophical Society
- Carpenters' Company of Philadelphia
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