Early Homes of the Society
From the birth of the Society at the home of Thomas Wharton in 1824 until the purchase of the Patterson mansion in 1883, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania occupied rented rooms at many important Philadelphia societies and organizations.
Above: Early homes of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Society Print Collection
The Picture House/Pennsylvania Hospital
The Picture House was the home of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania from 1872 through 1882. The building was specially constructed for Benjamin West’s painting, Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple. West, who was born in the Philadelphia area, moved to London in the 1760s where he remained the rest of his life, acting as the historical painter to King George III and as co-founder of the Royal Academy of Art. In 1800 the Pennsylvania Hospital asked West to contribute a painting for the first hospital in America. West painted Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple, but he was pressured into selling that painting to the National Gallery in London. West executed another painting of Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple, which was delivered to Philadelphia in 1817.
Built by Robert Smith, Carpenters’ Hall was the headquarters for the Carpenters Company, which was founded in Philadelphia in 1724 for the purpose of sharing information on of the art of building. The home of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for a short while in the 1820s, Carpenters’ Hall rented space to many other institutions including the First Bank of the United States, the Bank of the State of Pennsylvania, United States Custom House, Franklin Institute, Society of Friends, the United States Law Office, the Apprentice’s Free Library, the Second Bank of the United States, and the Philadelphia Auction Market.
Founded in 1814, the Athenaeum’s history is a decade longer than that of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The collections of the Athenaeum focus on architectural and interior design history of the area primarily from 1800 to 1945. This first-rate library has important schematics that include Independence Hall and early plans of the Capitol Building among its vast collections. Positioned on Washington Square, the Athenaeum was designed in 1845 by architect John Notman. This building housed its own collections and that of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for a period of 25 years from 1847 to 1872.
The American Philosophical Society
Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 as a society for thinkers about nature, machines, industry, and governance, the APS is the oldest surviving learned organization in the country. Before a permanent hall was built in 1789, the APS met at several different sites including Christ Church School and Carpenters' Hall. The organization attracted many of the leading minds in colonial America including Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Adams, and Rush. The APS was the home of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for 19 years from 1825 to 1844.