Lincoln Drive & West Johnson Street, Mt Airy, Philadelphia, PA, 2009 & ongoing
Edward T. Stotesbury was a wealthy Philadelphia banker. He is most commonly remembered as the owner of Whitemarsh Hall, a sprawling neoclassical compound just outside Philadelphia. Whitemarsh Hall was completed 1921 and, too grand to be sustained, was demolished in 1980.
The Stotesgury Pergolas were a gift to the City and were completed in 1901. At that time Lincoln Drive was a park-like promenade connecting Philadelphia to its northwest suburbs. Pairs of stone piers stood on each side of the drive, each pair crowned by a timber pergola, creating a symbolic gateway between the park and the neighborhood.
The pergolas were constructed in 4 layers. Each successive layer was larger than the one below, creating two rhomboidal canopies about 16’ x 28’ each. The lower 3 levels had intricate architectural carving, indicating that they were intended to be admired by pedestrians. The pergolas and the inner piers were demolished in the mid-20th century to make room for automobile traffic.
The project to re-establish the pergolas aims to (1) raise historical awareness, (2) inspire community pride, and (3) calm traffic on what has become a very busy road. The extant piers will support a new canopy with timbers of the same proportions as the original. Details of the ornament were determined by working with historic photographs. The naturalistic planting around the piers was planned in conjunction with members of the community.