In this issue:

Banner Image: A Southwestern View of Washington Square, by Frank H. Taylor, c. 1910

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Banner Image: A Southwestern View of Washington Square, by Frank H. Taylor, c. 1910


Athenaeum Used Book Sale


The Athenaeum will hold a used book sale the first week of June.  It will begin with a special members only event.


Members Only Sale and Reception

Friday June 1, 5:00-7:00PM


Contact Susan Gallo at or 215-925-2688 to RSVP for the members only event.


Regular Book Sale Hours

Saturday, June 2, 11:00AM-3:00PM

Mon-Fri, June 4-8, 10:00AM-4:00PM


Lecture and Book Signing: Robert Morris Skaler, Society Hill and Old City

In the 18th century, Society Hill was home to wealthy merchants and many members of the federal government. In Old City, artisans and workmen lived and worked in small row houses like those on Elfreth’s Alley. As Philadelphia developed, it abandoned its Colonial center. Almost forgotten by 1900, Society Hill’s once gracious houses had become run-down tenements, shops, and warehouses. Yet, at the same time, Society Hill remained Philadelphia’s banking and insurance center. Beginning in the 1960s, under the direction of city planner Edmund Bacon and the National Park Service, this neighborhood was restored. Society Hill and Old City documents how these two neighborhoods looked in the early 1900s. Robert Morris Skaler is an architect, architectural historian, and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture. He is the author of West Philadelphia: University City to 52nd Street and Philadelphia’s Broad Street: South and North. Refreshments and book signing to follow. 

When: June 7, 3:30pm

Free for Athenaeum Members. RSVP to Susan Gallo at 215-925-2688 or  All others $10.  For more information about these events or to pay online, click here.

Blue Star Museums

The Athenaeum is pleased to once again join more than 1,500 museums across America to offer free admission to military personnel and their families this summer. Memorial Day launched Blue Star Museums, a partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and Blue Star Families; the program runs through Labor Day 2012. Leadership support for this national program has been provided by the MetLife Foundation through Blue Star Families.

The complete list of participating museums is available at The free admission program is available to active-duty military and their immediate family members (military ID holder and five immediate family members). Active duty military include Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and active duty National Guard and active duty Reserve members.

Athenaeum Wins Public Service Award

The Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia presented the Athenaeum with its Public Service Award for “preservation in the public interest” at its luncheon on May 8. This recognition is testimony to the vital role that the Athenaeum plays in the preservation movement in Philadelphia, particularly through its on-line services, the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project and the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network which have a combined usage of 425+ unique users daily.

Right: Athenaeum staff at the Preservation Achievement Awards (L-R) Michael Seneca, Bruce Laverty, Denise Fox, Jim Carroll, Sandra Tatman, Walter Rice. Photo Courtesy of The Preservation Alliance.

Athenaeum Building to be Subject of ICAA Sketching Social

The Institute for Classical Architecture and Art, Philadelphia Chapter, will hold its monthly informal sketching social on Saturday June 16 from 10:30AM to 12:30 PM. The event is free for all and sketchers are invited to meet directly across 6th Street from the Athenaeum Building. Following the outdoor session the group will go to a nearby restaurant for a casual lunch/drinks. For more information consult the ICAA website or contact Laura Hattrup at, (215) 692-3012.

The Athenaeum building was designed in 1845 by the innovative architect John Notman (1810-1865). Trained in Edinburgh at the Royal Academy of Scotland and apprenticed to architect William Henry Playfair (1790-1857), Notman migrated to Philadelphia in 1831. Our building introduced the Italianate palazzo to America, and it is widely hailed as the seminal American structure in the Italianate Revival Style. Noting that this is one of the first Philadelphia buildings built of brownstone, the Public Ledger made this assessment in 1847: “Though the general introduction [of brownstone] would give a somber appearance to our city, yet as the Athenaeum occupies a position in the center of the square, the buildings on which are entirely of brick with marble fronts, a pretty effect is accomplished by the contrast. Like a staid Quaker maiden amid a group of gaily dressed damsels, the perfect taste and modesty of her mud colored attire, attracts more admiration than if the whole were clad in the same description of garb.”

Above: Sketch of the Athenaeum by Charles Chauncey Savage, 2010.

Member Critics

Claire Tomalin, Charles Dickens, A Life.  New York: Penguin, 2011.  

Having grown up in poverty certainly gave Dickens an empathic regard for the poor (how many well-heeled young authors might have written Oliver Twist!), but deprived him of no more than a most rudimentary education. Yet, not much fazed him, and in his prime Dickens managed to juggle four publishers and an adoring public. Dickens never seemed at a loss for inspiration; he almost automatically seemed to produce a best seller. Nevertheless, he was very hard-working and rarely took a vacation. On the other hand he very much enjoyed his friends and family. Reportedly, besides novels, he seems to have been a pretty good playwright.

Submitted by Dr. Harold Rashkis.


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