Arthur Truscott, Architect
The period between 1870s to the late 1890s can be considered a transitory period in the history of Philadelphia architecture. It marked the height of late Victorian architecture, reflected in the popularity of the idiosyncratic style of Frank Furness. At the same time, it bore the inception of the Queen Ann style, started by a group of younger architects with Walter Cope, Wilson Eyre and Frank Miles Day in the forefront. Despite the obvious differences between the two styles, there exists a strong historical continuity between them. A look at the biography of a lesser known architect should provide new insights to the old theme.
Arthur Truscott did not have an extensive portfolio nor were his designs or writings widely-published. Yet his contribution to the architectural community and architectural education in Philadelphia cannot be slighted, which is reflected in the positions he had held.
Truscott was born December 4, 1858 in St. Austell, Cornwall, England. He
was the son of Samuel and Susan Cook Truscott and received his education at
Weston House School in St. Austell. His father, a saddler, had his own
Regardless of Truscott's training or education in England, it did not take him long to establish himself as a professional architect in Philadelphia. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Arthur Truscott did not receive any formal education in architecture nor were he under the tutelage of an architect.
There were three Truscott brothers who came to the U.S. in the 1870's separately from St. Austell, Cornwall, England. The oldest was J. Lynn Truscott, who became president of the Camden Fire Insurance Association. Arthur was the middle son, and the youngest was Millwood Truscott, who also worked as an officer (from 1904 to 1935) at the Camden Fire Insurance Association.
Arthur Truscott arrived in the United States in May of 1874, and by 1875 was established in the Philadelphia city directories as a clerk in offices at 150 South 4th Street, the same address as that given for Samuel Sloan. During this early period Truscott's home was in Camden, NJ, and he maintained a residence in New Jersey for the rest of his life although his office was always in Philadelphia. He appears in the Camden City Directories at 415 Cooper Street from 1887 through 1889.
Like many young architects, Truscott moved from office to office, gaining experience and design training. In the case of Truscott, the firms providing his training are among the best in late nineteenth-century Philadelphia. By 1877 he had begun work for Theophilus Parsons Chandler, with whom he remained until 1883. By 1880, Truscott was elected a junior member of the Philadelphia chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It is known that he was involved in the design of the original Linden Baptist Church in 1881. In 1883 he moved to the office of Wilson Bros. & Co., lasting there for four years before transferring to another well-known Philadelphia firm, Cope & Stewardson. These early years were fruitful ones for Truscott: he published his own residential designs in Godey's Lady's Book during 1885-86 and also won, with Walter Cope, the year's record for prizes in the T-Square Club competitions in l886.
The influence of Theophilus P. Chandler, who was well-known for his English Decorated Gothic style characterized by its historical accuracy , on Truscott is evidenced by his preference for the Gothic style throughout his career. Truscott was clearly proficient in Gothic design when he left Chandler's office to join the Wilson Brothers and Co., but the year of his leaving is unclear. While the city directories have in records the year as 1883, he was supposed to be involved in the design of the Broad Street Station, which was a project undertaken by Wilson Brothers and Co. in 1881. At that period of time, the architectural and engineering firm specialized in railroad design and engineering work, and Truscott was hired as John M. Wilson's Gothic designer. In the design of Broad Street Station, it is difficult to determine if his role as a designer was limited to designing the details of the facade or it extended to designing an asymmetrical and non-axial plan itself. However, the treatment of the interior and the exterior of Broad Street Station reveals influences of the theories of Viollet-le-duc and John Ruskin. The Gothic style was no longer simply an architectural style, it was also used as a communicative tool to express architectural space.
It is almost ironical to note Truscott's concurrent interest in the Arts and Crafts movement when he was working with Wilson Brothers and Co.. In 1883, Truscott was part of the group of architects, who were dedicated to promoting the Arts and Crafts movement in America, to have founded the T-Square Club. Other founding members included Frank Miles Day, Walter Cope and Wilson Eyre. As a means to promote its cause, the T-Square Club published catalogues and organized exhibitions and competitions . In fact, Truscott had won prizes in those competitions with Walter Cope. Truscott's commitment to the T-Square Club was further demonstrated by his appointment to the position of vice-president.
Although there is no surviving prints of his winning designs, one can safely conclude that Truscott was designing in the Queen Ann style, which was the characteristic style of the Arts and Crafts movement. This is further confirmed by the publication of his designs in the catalogue, Godey's Lady's Book. The catalogue was a source book for popular consumption, with its main focus on house designs. Since the publisher hired only one chief architect to contribute, Truscott had to be an architect of note to have been one of the contributors. When Truscott was one of its contributors, the popularity of the Queen Anne style was on the rise .
Apparently, Truscott's growing interest in domestic architecture conflicted with Wilson Brothers and Co.'s interest in industrial architecture. In 1887, Truscott joined Cope & Stewardson, which eventually became well-known for their Collegiate Gothic architecture. It was only now that Truscott received individual projects, for e.g. the construction of a public school in Camden, New Jersey, in 1886. Truscott was finally recognized as an architect in his own right when he was elected as a professional member of the American Institute of Architects in 1889.
On November 13, 1889 Arthur Truscott married Alice Emily Parry at St. Paul's Church in Camden NJ. Alice was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Parry. The Parry's lived at 227 Market Street, where Caleb Parry operated a feed store. This building later became a noted restaurant and bar in Camden, and still functions un that capacity in 2003.
Mr. and Mrs. Truscott were blessed with children, including sons Arthur Stanley Truscott, Wilson Parry Truscott, and daughters Alice "Ailsie" Truscott and Katherine Frances Truscott.
While at Cope and Stewarson, Truscott was involved in the design and building of several Camden buildings, including the New Jersey Safe and Trust Company in 1886, the Broadway public school at Broadway and Clinton Streets in 1886, and the Camden Post newspaper building at the northeast corner of Front and Federal Streets, which broke ground in 1887. He also was involved with the Girard Life Insurance Building in Philadelphia in 1887.
Truscott left Cope & Stewardson in 1890 to establish his own architecture firm, which was a short-lived attempt. Truscott established his firm and soon went to Columbia, TN, where he was engaged in the construction of an arsenal.
Upon his return, he entered practice with William Lloyd Baily under the name Baily & Truscott, with offices at 138 South 4th Street. Among his more significant projects was the Beasley Building at 1125-31, Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The law office was built in 1894, in the Gothic style. To compare this building with McKim, Mead & White's Boston Public Library (1888-95) may seem incredulous for the two buildings are built in completely different styles. But the fact that Beasley Building is atypical of Gothic architecture reveals it as an attempt to refer to something outside of historicity. Moreover, the proximity of their dates and location, and their similar Academic treatment of the styles that both buildings provide an interesting comparison.
Truscott also worked on designs for the Chester County PA courthouse in 1891 and a competitive design for the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh PA in December of 1892. Examples of Arthur Truscott's work can be found at www.brynmawr.edu/iconog/ajnls/kmag.html
Like the Boston Public Library, Truscott used smoothened, light-colored stone to give the Beasley Building a homogenous texture that cohered the building as a whole, which was the main principle in design. There is also a corresponding treatment of details in both buildings. Not only were details more sparse, they were also flatter, reinforcing the planar surface of the building. However, the twin gables of the Beasley Building is an exaggerated attempt to emphasize the planar surface. In spite of the Beasley Building's asymmetry, the central axis of the plan is betrayed by the centrally-positioned entrance. Needless to mention, it was an attempt to incorporate the Gothic asymmetry in the strong axial plan of the Boston Public Library.
Arthur Truscott designed the John Cheney houses at 538-542 Cooper Street, which were erected in 1892. He also was the architect for the William J. Read House at 514 Cooper Street, which went up in 1903.
In 1899 Arthur Truscott designed another Camden landmark, the Camden Fire Insurance Association Building on Federal Street. He was retained again in 1904 when renovations were made to the structure.
Arthur Truscott also designed a home for his brother J. Lynn Truscott, that was located on Cooper Street between Broadway & Sixth Street. This home was demolished in the 1920s to make room for the Walt Whitman Hotel.
The partnership with Baily was dissolved in 1904. Between 1904 and 1911, there was a hiatus in Truscott's career in Philadelphia. During this period, he designed the new Linden Street Baptist Church in Camden.
When he returned in 1911, he was employed as an instructor at Drexel Institute. He was the head of the School of Architecture program until 1913, and he was transferred to the Department of Engineering.
Arthur Truscott was the Supervising Architect of Camden High School during its construction (1916-18), and was the architect in 1920 when renovations were made to the Camden Fire Insurance Association Building on Federal Street which he had designed two decades earlier.
By the time of the 1920 Federal Census Arthur Truscott and his family had moved to a home he designed at 19 Springfield Avenue in Merchantville NJ.
Truscott's last appearance in the Philadelphia city directories was in 1930. The years following Truscott's Drexel stint continue to be unexplained; however, as he was a Camden resident it is evident that he was active in projects in New Jersey. His last citation in the Philadelphia city directories is in 1930, when he is noted as a draftsman in the office of Charles W. Bolton & Son, specialists in church architecture. At the time of the April 1930 Federal census, Arthur Truscott was living in a home he owned with his wife Alice P. Truscott at 19 Springfield Avenue in Merchantville NJ, which he had designed. Also living there at the time were son A. Stanley Truscott, a veteran of World War I, and daughter Alice "Ailsie" Truscott.
Described by E. D. McDonald as "a modest and kindly gentleman, an able and sensitive designer," Truscott conveyed his influence to a number of younger architects who indicate in their Philadelphia Chapter, AIA, applications that they have studied either with him or in the atelier which John Dull administered at Drexel. Although many young architects in Philadelphia would pass through the University of Pennsylvania and the hands of Paul P. Cret, others would choose either the day or evening program at Drexel. Still others would select the T-Square Club atelier or that atelier in combination with the Drexel program. Truscott's involvement with both Drexel and the T-Square Club proves both his own commitment to architectural education and Philadelphia's variety of educational paths for the would-be architect.
The lack of information is a severe limitation on the development of themes. Because there is no additional information about the circumstances surrounding his transitory appointments in various offices, one can only assume that Truscott left at his own will to set up his own firm. However, the assumption fails to take into account the economic forces. Hence, it is difficult to ascertain the impact of economic forces on the individual architect's career and on the profession. Another theme incipient in the narration of Truscott's story is the relationship between the architect and the client. Especially when the clients tended to be more educated in popular architecture, with the proliferation of domestic architecture. What is apparent is that Arthur Truscott had excellent connections to those involved in building offices and public buildings in Camden through his brother J. Lynn Truscott, long-time executive and eventual president of the Camden Fire Insurance Association.
As well as his importance in the field of architectural education, Truscott's commitment to the professional organizations of architecture deserves mention. He was one of the founding members of Philadelphia's T-Square Club in 1883 and served as vice-president for that organization in 1887. He was elected a junior member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA in 1880 and became a professional member in 1889.
Arthur Truscott passed away on September 12, 1938 in Blackwood NJ. He had taken ill in 1935, and had spent the last three years of his life hospitalized there. Arthur Truscott was survived by his wife, son Wilson Parry, daughters Ailsie Truscott and Mrs. Katharine Miller, and grand- daughter Joyce Miller. He was preceded in death by his son A. Stanley Truscott, who had died in Merchantville NJ on October 27, 1935.
The two primary sources of Arthur Truscott's biographical data are Sandra Tatman and G.K.Hall's Biographical Dictionary of Philadelphia Architects, and from the Truscott family. Other secondary sources included Theo White's Philadelphia Architecture in the Nineteenth Century, Philadelphia Architecture: A Guide to the City published by the American Institute of Architects and George Hersey's essay in the Journal Of Society of Architectural Historians (1959), titled 'Godey's Choice'; and Otto C. Wolf's Breweries And Allied or Auxiliary Buildings. Philadelphia: 1906.
Also used on-line sources via www.ancestry.com including the 1930 Federal census and Ancestry World Tee entries for Arthur Ttruscott, an article about Truscott at www.brynmawr.edu/Acads/cities/96-city255/pap2/ltpap2.html by Professor Jeffrey Cohen, and information and corrections from his grand-daughter, Joyce Miller Perry..
|Joyce Perry wrote of her grandfather and great-uncles in 2004|
This account is about three Truscott brothers, one of them my Grandfather, who came to the United States in the 1800’s. Their father was Samuel Truscott (1817-1874). Their mother was Susan Frances Matilda Cook (1834-1874), who was born in the United States. The story was that her parents were English, but she was born in New York City. She returned to England, perhaps because her parents had died. Family tradition says that she then lived with her aunt and uncle, who were the proprietors of the White Hart Inn, on the square in the heart of St. Austell, Cornwall. Samuel Truscott had a Saddler Leather shop across the street from the White Hart, and the tradition says that is how they met. Samuel and Susan had five children: James Lynn , born in 1855; Samuel Joseph, born in 1856 (he only lived for 15 months); Arthur, born in 1858 (my Grandfather); Millwood, born in 1861; and Susan Frances, born in 1863.
Samuel’s parents were George Truscott and Christina Thomas, of Tregascoe Farm, St. Stephens, Cornwall. George’s parents were John Truscott and Elizabeth Andrews, of Resugga Farm, St. Stephens, Cornwall. John’s parents were Digory Truscott and Frances Andrew, of Gwendra.
Each of the Truscott children came to the U.S. separately. The oldest, J. Lynn, eventually became head of Camden Fire Insurance Company in Camden, NJ. The following tale is copied from an out-of-print booklet about Camden Fire, “Cavalcade of Camden Fire A.D. 1844, Sixth Decade”:
. . We turn now from the story of an institution to the story of a man.
Soon, as you will see, the man and the institution become one story
– and the name of the man – J. Lynn Truscott – becomes synonymous
with that of The Camden Fire Insurance Company.
“At the age of sixteen James Lynn Truscott had completed his education in a private school at Lostwithiel, Cornwall, England. His schoolmaster, a Congregational minister named Stevens, must have fired his imagination with the tale of America – the land of opportunity for a young Englishman. The Truscott family was a substantial one residing in St. Austell, a town of about 4000 in those days, on the St. Austell Bay, which is an estuary of the English Channel. St. Austell was in the china clay district, near the beaches, which England visited in the summer, near the harbor of Falmouth where ships sailed for America. If St. Austell’s china clay could sail to America, why not St. Austell’s native son?
in October 1871 the brig “William and Anthony”, a 300-ton vessel
overloaded with china clay, and bearing a passenger named James Lynn
Truscott, left the shores of Cornwall, sailed into the English Channel and
headed for an eleven-week voyage that gave young Truscott thrills enough
to last a life-time. Years
later he could recall it vividly. ‘The
storms we passed through were so frequent and continuous that it was a
miracle that we were spared to arrive at our destination,’ wrote
Truscott in 1921. ‘The
vessel’s bulwarks and stanchions on either side, from bow to stern, were
carried away, as were also all boats, galley and cooking utensils which
were on the deck – figurehead and mainsail suffered in like manner –
the meat and water in casks on decks were made unfit by the sea for use,
and so we were left for many days with only the ship bread to eat and
dependent upon the rain for water to drink.
‘Between the gales, efforts were made to throw cargo overboard to
lighten the ship, which was much overladen, and, in addition, the ship was
leaking badly and necessitated continuous pumping day and night, which
added much to the dangers to which we were exposed, and you can imagine
there was but little hope, and I was accustomed, the only passenger, to
crawl into my bunk at night with my clothes on, with a ship biscuit in
each pocket ready for any emergency and in fact was called one night with
the word that the ship was sinking. The
vessel was an interesting wreck on arriving in Philadelphia and was
visited by many.’
the time of that momentous voyage, Truscott later recalled, the city of
Chicago was destroyed by fire – an event that it memorialized by the
Insurance Fraternity of the United States through Fire Prevention Week.
“Once in safe harbor, early in January in 1872, Truscott proceeded to Camden and joined an uncle who was agent for several insurance companies. [Note: the uncle was John W. Cheney, who was married to Mary Cook, sister of J. Lynn’s mother Susan.] Soon afterward he secured a position in the office of Brand and Cheney at 150 South Fourth Street in the heart of the Philadelphia Insurance District. Here he learned the business from the ground up and was so successful that by 1881 he was the ‘Co.’ in John W. Cheney & Co. The next step upward was a managerial position in the downtown office of the Girard and Marine Insurance Company and the title of Assistant Secretary by 1890.
The account states that by 1891 he became Vice-President and Managing Underwriter of Camden Fire. Later he became President and then Chairman of the Board. By 1910, at the age of 55 he was “the dignified executive of one of American’s leading Insurance Companies”.
After describing his work, the article tells about his personal life: “With all his tremendous tasks he found time for a full religious and family life. (He and his wife Mary C. P. Browning had 9 children, 3 of whom died young.. There were 7 grandchildren, and at last count 26 great-grandchildren, with 14 known great-great-grandchildren. ) He was a warden of St. Paul’s P.E.Church for 30 years. He was more than ordinarily proud of his large family and extremely affectionate as a father. He retired from Camden Fire in 1930 and died in 1935.
J. Lynn’s brother, Arthur (my Grandfather), came to the U.S. in 1874. He had received his education at Weston House School in St. Austell. By 1875 he was established as a clerk in an architect’s office in Philadelphia. Although he did not receive any formal education in architecture, it did not take him long to establish himself as a professional architect in that area. Over the years he worked with many architectural firms and designed many buildings in the greater Philadelphia area, as well as in Camden, NJ. These included churches, business and office buildings, schools, and residences.
was a founder of the T-Square Club in 1883, and was appointed to the
position of Vice-President of that club.
He had several designs in the prestigious Godey’s Lady’s Book
in 1885-1886. He was
elected as a professional member of the American Institute of Architects
in 1889. He designed the
second Home Office of the above mentioned Camden Fire Insurance
Association in 1899, and later an addition to the building in 1904.
He also designed an elaborate home for his brother, J. Lynn
Truscott, in Camden. He
also designed a home for his own family in Merchantville, NJ, in which I
1911 to 1913 he was an instructor at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia,
first as head of the School of Architecture and later the Department of
Engineering. He died in
1938 after an illness of several years.
He and his wife, Alice Emily Parry, had 4 children.
There were only 2 grandchildren, one died young.
There are now 3 great-grandchildren, and 10 great-great-
third Truscott brother was Millwood,
and I asked one of his grandson’s to write about him.
His account follows:
Truscott, originally from St.
Austell, Cornwall, landed in Philadelphia in March of 1876 at age 15.
He had left Liverpool on the S.S. Ohio.
He joined his brothers, J. Lynn and Arthur, who had come
previously. He married
Carolyn (Carrie) Weatherby, and their family home was on N. Second
Street in Camden, NJ, which house still stands.
He became the Assistant Secretary of the Camden Fire Insurance
Association in 1904 having gone there in 1902.
He retired in 1935. He
was a very active member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
in Camden, and wrote a history of that
parish, which was later continued by his son.
He was very conscientious and loving in the care of his wife in
her latter sickly years and was referred to as a Saint in this regard.
His children were son Millwood Joseph and daughter Carrie May.
Today there are (living) 3 grandchildren (Paul Truscott, Ryland
Hanger, and S. David Hanger), 8 great-grandchildren, and 5
This article has been about the three Truscott brothers. There was also a sister, Susan Frances Truscott. Not much is known about her. She did also come to the United States, married Freas Hill and they had a daughter, Ethel J. Hill. There are no known survivors.
|The Cheney Houses at 538, 540, and 542 Cooper Street|
In 2012 these buildings were demolished with the exceptions on the front "castle" facade. In March of 2012 construction began on a new building which is using the original "castle facade" as its north wall.
TRUSCOTT DEATH LAID TO DEFECTIVE GAS LIGHT
Failure to turn off completely a gas jet in his room caused the accidental death of Stanley Truscott, World War aviator, of 17 Springfield avenue, Merchantville, Coroner Frank Leonard decided yesterday after conducting a post-mortem.
Truscott died Sunday in Cooper Hospital five hours after he had been found overcome on the second floor of his home. He was 41.
His room, adjoining, had gas jets n it only for illumination, an investigation by Coroner Leonard disclosed. One of the jets, Coroner Leonard said, was hard to turn off, and Truscott probably went to bed without realizing it was partly open.
Truscott was employed by the Insurance Company of North America. Funeral services will be held at 11 a. m. tomorrow in the home. Burial will be in Harleigh Cemetery.
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