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Born to Edwin Gilbert and Ellen Caroline Gilbert in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, Edwin Gilbert began his career as an architect, but later became a contractor and headed a successful firm in that capacity for a number of years. Gilbert apparently served his apprenticeship with Addison Hutton, for whom he worked at least from 1892 to 1896 in the office at 400 Chestnut Street. Gilbert joined the T-Square Club in 1893. Following this experience, Gilbert launched his own firm in offices at 1201 Crozer Building at 1420 Chestnut Street.

In 1898, when the competition for the First Baptist Church on South 17th Street was beginning, Gilbert wrote to Albert Hill, asking his permission to be included in the competition. At that time he stated: "Having been associated with some of the largest works in Phila. in recent years, amongst others, the Crozer Building, for which I refer you to the members of the building committee . . ., I hope to be able to show you the best plan if I am allowed to enter this competition."

He was joined by William L. Reid in the short-lived partnership of Gilbert & Reid from 1900 to around 1903; but following that experience Gilbert initiated a successful contracting firm, Edwin Gilbert & Co., which held offices in the Land Title Building in 1905 and 1906, but moved to the Weightman Building from 1907 to 1909. Their work included services as a general contractor for the Hotel Blenheim and the Marlborough Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. After 1907, Edwin Gilbert & Co. was later responsible for a major repair and renovation to the Treasury Building. Shortly after their selection as the contractor for the Treasury Department renovation, however, the company went into receivership.

Written by Eli Pousson, and Sandra L. Tatman.

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