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Banner Image: Tin sign, c. 1870.  In the early 1870's, the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects rented a third floor room in the Athenaeum.  This tin sign directed visitors to their office.

Membership    ·    New Books    ·    Event Calendar

Banner Image: Tin sign, c. 1870.  In the early 1870's, the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects rented a third floor room in the Athenaeum.  This tin sign directed visitors to their office.

The Athenaeum will be closed on April 18th and 19th for the Easter holiday.

The 198th Annual Report for 2012/2013 is now available. Click Here

April Events

Monday, April 7, 5:30 PM - 199th Annual Meeting. (Shareholders Only)

Tuesday, April 8, 11:00 AM - Socrates Cafe Discussion Group.

Wednesday, April 9, 2:00 PM - Athenaeum Genealogy Group.

Thursday, April 17, 6:00 PM - Saturnalia Books Poetry Reading. Free.  RSVP by calling 215-925-2688 or email

Thursday, April 24, 6:00 PM - A Splendid Celebration, Athenaeum Gala Dinner.  Registration must be received by April 7.

Exhibition Opening: Useful Arts and Useful Knowledge: The Founding of the Athenaeum

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia began at the end of 1813 with a simple meeting of a group of young men, most of whom were University of Pennsylvania graduates and already or soon-to-be members of the American Philosophical Society, the Library Company, and the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture. Their goal was to establish “Reading Rooms.” On the 9th of February 1814 the group adopted the Articles of Constitution and elected a slate of Officers and a Board. William Tilghman would serve as President, with James Mease, M.D., Vice-President, and Roberts Vaux, Treasurer. The Board of Managers included, among others, Nicholas Biddle, Robert Hobart Smith, Thomas Isaac Wharton, and Benjamin Chew, Jr., all names prominent in their professions. At this February 9th meeting the organization was formally titled “The Athenaeum of Philadelphia,” using the title that had become popular for membership libraries with its connection to Athena, Greek Goddess of Wisdom. On March 7, 1814 the rooms formally opened. Employing the Athenaeum's rich archives, "Useful Arts and Useful Knowledge" focuses on the early days of the Athenaeum, its officers, and the first books and magazines purchased.

Dates: April 7 - May 17, 2014

Exploring The Athenaeum-Tips of the Iceberg: Documents of Washington Square

Though the Athenaeum didn’t move to Washington Square until 1847, its collections contain documentation of William Penn’s “South East Square” as far back as 1683.  The highlight of this talk is Frank H Taylor’s watercolor, “A Southwestern View of Washington Square,” c. 1925.  Curator Bruce Laverty will show this and other significant maps, manuscripts, architectural drawings and photographs that illustrate the fascinating history of our immediate neighborhood.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 12:00-1:00PM

Free.  RSVP to 215-925-2688 or

This event is one in a monthly series highlighting items from the Athenaeum's collections on the occasion of our 200th anniversary.

Richard Morris Hunt Symposium

Richard Morris Hunt: America’s Architect will offer a unique opportunity to examine Hunt and his influence on Newport’s landscape. A native of Brattleboro, Vermont, Hunt became America’s preeminent architect in the nineteenth century. After studying at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Hunt’s prolific career included founding the first American architectural school in New York and co-founding the American Institute of Architects. He changed the perception of architects and insisted that they be viewed as professionals along with doctors and lawyers. His work included residences, churches, public and commercial structures from New York to North Carolina to Illinois. The largest concentration of Hunt buildings are in Newport, Rhode Island, and include the Travers Block, Ochre Court, and The Breakers. In 1895, on his way from Boston to North Carolina, Hunt stopped in Newport after contracting pneumonia. He died shortly thereafter and is buried in Island Cemetery in Newport.

6 CEU credits for AIA members.

Where: International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, 194 Bellevue Ave., Newport, RI

When: May 3, 2014

For more information visit: or click the image of the program above.

Leonard Tantillo Art Exhibition

An exhibition of Leonard Tantillo's artwork has opened at the Fenimore Art Museum.  You may remember Leonard from his talk here at the Athenaeum in March 2013. The exhibition, A Moment Past: L.F. Tantillo Paints New York History will be open from April 1-December 14, 2014. Visit www.Fenimore for additional information or click the image of the opening reception invitation to the left.

This Month In 1814:  A Look Back At The Athenaeum's Founding Year

During the month of April 1814 (the second month the reading rooms were open), the managers of the Athenaeum were primarily busy making purchases. The Furnishing Committee reported that they had spent $178.37 on items such as a stove, an oil lamp and snuffers, a minute book, carpentry work and sign hanging. Meanwhile, the Purchasing Committee had spent $371.48 accumulating items for the collection. Among the purchases were eight volumes of Wilson's Ornithology, maps of New York, Connecticut and Canada, and various periodicals and newspapers. 

About two dozen new subscribers were added at the April 18th board meeting. One of the new additions was Captain Turner Camac (1751-1830). Camac was born in Lurgan, Ireland and, after attending Dublin College, served as Captain of the 2nd Battalion Infantry for the East India Company. He married into the Penn family in 1795 and made Philadelphia his home in 1804 in order to manage his wife's property. Camac Street is named for this early Athenaeum member. 

Another new subscriber that month was John Dorsey (1795-1821), a merchant and amateur architect who had designed the first home of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1805), and the "Gothic Mansion" at 1217 Chestnut Street (c.1810).

Above: Dorsey's "Gothic Mansion." From  The Casket: Flowers of Literature, Wit and Sentiment, No. 10 (October 1830), 456.


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