Biography

MASTER BUILDER
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Born: c. 1735, Died: 1794

Joseph was one of the most prominent master builders of the years immediately before and after the Revolution. The son of Joseph and Elizabeth Fox Rakestraw, he had become important in Carpenters' Company affairs by the 1760s, although his date of election is unknown due to the loss of all Company records prior to that time. He served as Warden from 1768 and Assistant from 1774; as senior Assistant, he automatically became President of The Company in 1779. Throughout these years, Rakestraw served on the crucial Committee Regulating the Rules of Measuring which established the prices of most carpentry work in Philadelphia. He was a Director of the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire, 1777-1794, having previously held the contract for supplying and mounting Contributionship fire marks after 1758. In the 1780s, Rakestraw is known to have surveyed and leveled the bed for the canal between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers (1785), supplied a weathervane for George Washington's use at Mount Vernon (1787), undertaken extensive repairs at the State House (Independence Hall), 1788-1789, and participated in the construction of Library Hall (1789-1790) and the Presidents' House (1791). He died intestate during the yellow fever epidemic of 1794.

Written by Roger W. Moss.

Clubs and Membership Organizations

  • Carpenters' Company of Philadelphia
  • Philadelphia Contributionship

 

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