Frank Wills was an English-born architect and member of the Exeter Architectural Society who came to Philadelphia to lecture in 1848. Wills had originally emigrated from England in 1845 with the Right Reverend John Medley, the First Bishop of New Brunswick, Canada. In New Brunswick, with the support of Medley, Wills designed Christ Church Cathedral, Fredericton, and, in fact, in the words of Phoebe Stanton, "Wills was more competent as a Gothic revival architect in 1845 than John Notman, whose Chapel of the Holy Innocents in Burlington was begun in the year that the cornerstone of Christ Church Cathedral and St. Anne's Chapel begun." (Stanton 148)
By 1848, however, he appears in New York City directories, first at 156 Broadway (1848-1849), then at 298 Broadway (1850-51). In 1851/52 he entered into a brief partnership with Henry Dudley and maintained an office at 157 Broadway. By 1854 Wills was again listed alone at 637 Broadway, and he disappears from the New York directories after 1856. In New York Wills became firmly associated with the New York Ecclesiological Society, and his articles often appeared in its journal. His association with Philadelphia was cemented by his marriage in November 1853 to Philadelphian Almy Warne Casey (1827-1910), daughter of the Philadelphia iron merchant James Casey. He was also the designer of the Burd Family Monument in St. Stephen Church and proposed a design for St. Peter Church in Philadelphia which was never used. (This design is reproduced in Stanton's book, cited below, p. 297.)
Frank Wills was the author of Ancient Ecclesiastical Architecture and Its Principles, Applied to the Wants of the Church at the Present Day (New York: Stanford & Swords, 1850). Wills died in Montreal, where he was working on Christ Church Cathedral. The Wills's son, Charles James Wills, entered the University of Pennsylvania Class of 1874 but did not graduate.
Roger W. Moss, and
Sandra L. Tatman.
- University of Pennsylvania
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