The Building of West Philadelphia: An Historical Survey of Suburban Architecture

Exhibit by Matthew Grubel, 2008

The transformation of West Philadelphia from a collection of rural estates and small industrial villages into a suburban development took place largely from the 1850s through the 1920s. This exhibit was created to help residents understand their houses. At the time, its focus was on the area covered by the University of Pennsylvania's Community Housing Program, and more generally the area now covered by the University City District. The exhibit has three broad categories that can be explored; a history of the area, an overview of the architecture, and research tools.

Suburban Development

Between 1850 and the 1920s West Philadelphia transformed from a sparsely populated region to a densely populated one. In spite of some existing industrial and trade centers, West Philadelphia's relative isolation from the city also made it an excellent location for other purposes.

Introduction to the Historic Residential Architecture

For the purposes herein, most of the surviving housing stock in older areas of West Philadelphia is historic. They are without a doubt, of the past. They were made with methods and materials no longer used or readily available. They incorporated styles, designs and spaces of a past society. They are a part of the story of these neighborhoods and the region. In all these ways these buildings are historic.

Reference Materials

This exhibit is primarily intended to provide information to a wide audience. Recognizing that many people will wish to delve further, there is a page of suggested print media and a page of internet links. The bibliographic material includes items that will be of more interest to the researcher alongside those which are readily accessible.