Caricature of William Hewitt
(Charles Bell, c. 1906)
Philadelphia In Cartoons, as Seen by Philadelphia Newspaper Cartoonists (s.l.: s.n., 1906),
William D. Hewitt was born in Burlington, NJ, the younger brother of architect George Watson Hewitt. Like his brother, William D. Hewitt attended Burlington College, but he then went on to study mechanical engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Philadelphia, receiving his degree in 1865 and immediately joining troops bound for the Civil War. Following the War, Hewitt spent six months traveling in Europe and then returned to work with his brother in the firm of Fraser, Furness & Hewitt, later Furness & Hewitt. It was not until 1878 that W. D. Hewitt's name was officially added to the firm; he would remain in an office with his older brother until George Hewitt retired in 1907.
Following his brother's retirement, William D. Hewitt began a surprisingly quick succession of associations with other architects, resulting in several firm names. In 1907 Hewitt became senior partner in Hewitt, Stevens & Paist (along with Benjamin R. Stevens and Phineas E. Paist). Both Stevens and Paist had been in the G. W. and W. D. Hewitt firm. After two years, Stevens left the firm; and Hewitt & Paist continued until December, 1910, when Alfred Granger, formerly of the Chicago office of Frost & Granger, joined the partnership, revising the name to Hewitt, Granger & Paist. In 1914 Paist officially left the firm, leaving Hewitt & Granger; but by the end of 1916 Hewitt was practicing alone. Percy Ash joined Hewitt in 1917, creating Hewitt & Ash, an alliance which would endure until Hewitt's death in 1924.
It, therefore, fell to Percy Ash to write Hewitt's obituary for the Architectural Record; he gave a warmly personal turn to the biography, noting that "There was nothing small about William D. Hewitt; large and strong physically, his work too was robust and free from mannerisms and bespoke a grasp of the problem which ignoring unnecessary frills reached for the solid essentials . . . indeed to me he always seemed to have some of the qualities of Lincoln, big hearted, generous, self-effacing, with a keen sense of humor and a fund of anecdote."
Throughout his career, W. D. Hewitt maintained his close ties with the American Institute of Architects. He became a junior member of the local chapter in 1870, progressing to professional membership in 1876, and national membership in 1901. In 1909 he achieved fellowship in the Institute. He had served as president of the local chapter fron 1909 until 1911, and he represented Philadelphia at the AIA conventions of 1909 and 1911.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- Philadephia Polytechnic College
- Burlington College (NJ)
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