Look Up! 19th Century Luxe Life on Locust Street

“Look Up” is a PlanPhilly feature that encourages appreciation of our architectural and historical environment. Each week, the photo essay will focus on a different Philadelphia area neighborhood and its distinctive building styles and details, all of which make up the physical fabric of the city and region.

Now a busy pedestrian corridor for commuters, clients and diners, the 1600 block of Locust Street was home to some of the city’s most affluent citizens in the mid to late 1900s. And the region’s preeminent architects designed the mansions along the once residential street.

The firm of Horace Trumbauer is most often linked to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but Trumbauer was best known in his time for the Gilded Age houses he designed, including the castle-like Grey Towers on what is now the Arcadia College campus and the mansions for the Elkins and Wideners families in Montgomery County. At 1629 Locust, he built the elegant Beaux Arts building of white limestone. 

Next door, at 1631 and 1633 Locust, the Georgian Revival twins were designed by Walter Cope and John Stewardson, who defined Collegiate Gothic, and other styles, on the campuses of Bryn Mawr, Penn and Princeton. On the corner of Locust and 17th Streets is the medieval-style mansion by Frank Miles Day, whose name is also associated with college architecture, including buildings at Penn State, Cornell, Yale, Wellesley, and the University of Delaware.

On the south side of the 1600 block are several houses – 1604, 1620 and 1622 — attributed to one of Philadelphia’s finest 19th century architects, John Notman, who designed the Athenaeum and St. Mark’s Church at 1625 Locust.  Much of the block is currently under construction for the expansion of the Curtis Institute of Music. But the work will preserve the façade of the unique brownstone at 1618, which features beautiful sculptural ornament by architect Wilson Eyre. 

“Look Up!: 20th Century evolution in East Falls

“Look Up!” Rural retreats in Northeast Philly

“Look Up!” Modernist lines on Haverford Ave.

“Look Up!” Chestnut Hill’s modernist gems

Contact the writer at ajaffe@planphilly.com.

“Look Up!” The Art Deco Palace of Mt. Airy
Look Up! An architect’s legacy on Spruce Street
Look Up!” The French Village in Mt. Airy
“Look Up” and check out the nouveau mansions of North Broad

“Look Up” and check out elegant Southwark
“Look Up” and check out Henry Disston’s company town
“Look Up: and check out Spruce Hill
“Look Up” and check out Green Street
“Look Up” and check out West Laurel Hill
“Look Up” and check out Parkside
“Look Up” and check out Awbury Arboretum
“Look Up” and check out Nicetown
“Look Up” and check out Overbrook Farms
“Look Up” and check out Girard Estate
“Look Up” and check out Rittenhouse/Fitler Square

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal