David Evans is unfortunately a common eighteenth-century Philadelphia name; the lives of three house carpenters and one cabinetmaker overlap, making it difficult to separate documentary references. Nonetheless, two master builders have been identified. David Evans, Sr. was the son of Evan and Elizabeth (Musgrave) Evans. Apprenticed to a carpenter, he married Letitia Thomas in 1755, shortly after becoming free of his articles. By 1761 he was living on Pear (now Chancellor) Street and donated a lot of ground next to his home for the erection of the Union Library Company's building that he may also have designed and built. Evans (or his cousin of the same name who died in 1783) was a member of Benjamin Franklin's Library Company to which he presented a set of Abraham Swan's Collection of Designs in Architecture (London, 1757) in 1764, and a few years later he was an "encourager" of the Philadelphia edition of Swan's The British Architect (1774), the first book on architecture published in America. In 1769 he became a member of both The Carpenters' Company and the American Philosophical Society, although he resigned from the latter in 1770 and was never too regular in his attendance at meetings of the former.
In 1770 Evans worked with Thomas Nevell on the Second Street house of John Cadwalader, and the next year served as "superintendent" for John Dickinson's "Fairhill" in Germantown and his town house on Chestnut Street; he continued to provide building services for Dickinson over the next thirty years. Following the Revolution, Evans and his son, David Evans, Jr., worked together to complete the Pennsylvania Hospital. The elder Evans offered a design for Library Hall in 1789, but William Thornton won the commission. That same year Evans became a Common Councilman, a position he held until 1791, and was appointed to a committee to prepare a plan and estimate for the new city hall. Payments made to Evans in 1792-93 have generally been taken as proof that he designed and supervised contruction of the structure now known as the Supreme Count Building on Independence Square. From 1794 through 1809 he was a director of the Philadelphia Contributionship.
Roger W. Moss.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Library Co.
- American Philosophical Society
- Carpenters' Company of Philadelphia
- Harmony Fire Company
- Philadelphia Contributionship
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