George R. Stearns was born in Bridgeton, NJ, the son of George W. and Sarah A. Stearns. After an education in the Philadelphia public schools, he attended the University of Pennsylvania for one year in the Class of 1887 and also studied engineering and construction at Drexel Institute, supplementing this study with a course in drawing at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art. By 1887 he had begun his apprenticeship in the office of G. W. & W. D. Hewitt, with whom he remained until 1889. There followed two years spent with A. J. Boyden and four years with the Wilson Brothers. In 1894 he joined Horace Castor, who had formerly operated an independent practice in the Frankford section of Philadelphia, in establishing the partnership of Stearns & Castor. It is for the work of this office that Stearns is primarily known although following the dissolution of the firm in 1917, he established a partnership with Charles E. Woodnutt (Stearns, Woodnutt & Schmohl in 1917-1918; Stearns & Woodnutt from 1919 to 1930). During his association with Castor, Stearns also held the position of Director of Public Works for the City of Philadelphia from 1907 to 1911 with the administration of Mayor Reyburn.
Certainly the offices with which Stearns was associated benefitted from his expertise in structural engineering and included a number of industrial projects, as well as hospitals, churches and residences. As Director of Public Works Stearns travelled to Europe in 1908 in order to study methods of sewage disposal, and he is credited with designing the sewage disposal system for Baltimore, MD.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Engineers Club
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- Union League of Philadelphia
- University of Pennsylvania
- Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art
- Drexel Institute
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