About the Former Divinity School Site in University City

Roberta L. Dougherty of Van Pelt Library has forwarded a document containing a concise description of the former Divinity School site* discussed above. The text is part of the block-by-block description of the neighborhood prepared for the "West Philaldelphia Streetcar Suburb Historic District" nomination for the National Register of Historic Places. Timothy Wood, Vice President of the University City Historical Society and a graduate student in American Civilization at Penn, supervised the project , which resulted in most of Spruce Hill and Cedar park being placed on the National Register in February 1998. The author is Cynthia Rose, a consultant retained by the Historical Society. After listing credits to three architectural firms involved in the site's early development, (Zantzinger, Borie & Medary; Zantzinger; and Borie & Smith), she wrote:

....Campus complex of six schist stone, Collegiate Gothic Revival buildings largely clustered on the eastern third of an otherwise open block bordered by 42nd, 43rd, Locust and Spruce Streets. The group, regarded as one of the most significant college plans in American history during its construction, consists of:

  • Two residential-scale buildings,
St. Peter's House (1924) at the southwest corner of the block (4243 Spruce St.), originally built as the deanery; and
St. Paul's house (1925), located to the west of the chapel and used for the school's administration, Dean's office, common room and dormitory rooms.
  • Four highly vertical structures forming three sides of a cloister-like courtyard, including:
The William Bacon Stevens Library (1922), housing a long reading room and stack area and designed in the Tudor Gothic style after the late Medieval great halls of England;
St. Andrew's Chapel (1926), considered the crown jewel of the group, located at the highest site on the block;
Memorial Hall (1951) with dormitory and classrooms; and
Hart Hall (1955) with a refectory (dining room) and additional living quarters.

The chapel soars 74 feet above the high ground, its steeply pitched gable roof capped by an elaborately detailed fleche. The interior features an English collegiate plan, with groups of pews parallel to the nave walls facing each other across a central aisle, and is richly decorated with D'Ascenzo stained glass, Yellin wrought iron gates, Enfield ceramic tiles, and intricately carved choir stalls, much of it executed in memory of Medary, the principal architect who died before the chapel was completed. The entire complex is sheathed in dressed schist with case stone trim, with thick slabs of slate for the roofs. Several one-story gabled roof stuccoed structures [were] added c. 1980. The open space to the west of the complex was carefully designed to preserve the unusual, major growth of mature trees that existed on the site. The complex is now owned by the University of Pennsylvania....

* CLICK HERE for map.--Ed.

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 1, July 14, 1998