NEWS: May 2008

Vol. 1, No. 4

In This Issue:

Detail from King Alexander and the Stag.  Charles Robert Leslie after Benjamin West, 1814. Located on the Grand Stair of the Athenaeum.



Work has continued on the Athenaeum Strategic Plan, but we still need your help.  Please either fill out the online form below or a paper version available at Susan Gallo’s desk in the Athenaeum.  Also, please make a reservation to attend one of the last two members’ focus groups:

Wednesday, May 14th, 10:00 am

Monday, June 2nd, 5:30 pm


Remember, this is your opportunity to share ideas, questions, and suggestions about your Athenaeum.

GALLERY TALK REMINDER:  Wednesday, May 28th, 5:30 pm.  Meet John Blatteau and Sandra Tatman in the Athenaeum gallery. 

RSVP to Susan Gallo 215-925-2688 or

Banner Image: Detail from King Alexander and the Stag.  Charles Robert Leslie after Benjamin West, 1814. Located on the Grand Stair of the Athenaeum.

Athenaeum Receives Grand Jury Building Award From Preservation Alliance

The Athenaeum was named co-winner of the Preservation Alliance’s Grand Jury Award for the Cret-Yellin Gate at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital . The Award was one of eleven given by the Preservation Alliance to honor exemplary restoration projects throughout Philadelphia. Originally designed by Paul Philippe Cret for the Federal Reserve Bank building at 10th & Chestnut Streets, the iron gate was fabricated by the Samuel Yellin Iron Works.  Beginning in 2007, 20th Century Preservation, LLC used original architectural drawings in the Athenaeum’s Cret collection to ensure the accuracy of their restoration of the gate. Recognizing the importance of the archival collections, 20th Century Preservation, LLC and the Samuel Yellin Metalworkers graciously shared the award with the Athenaeum and the University of Pennsylvania Architectural Archives.  

Photo: Elevation of 10th St. gate of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, 1932. Cret Collection.

Hidden Treasure: Samuel J. Dornsife Interior Design Collection

In 1976 Dr. Samuel J. Dornsife, ASID, transferred his collection of several thousand items to The Victorian Society in America so that it could be permanently housed under the care of the Athenaeum where it is available for supervised research, exhibition, and publication.  The Samuel J. Dornsife Collection of The Victorian Society in America allows researchers a unique opportunity to access this rich collection, which represents the lifetime collecting of Dr. Dornsife, a design historian from Williamsport , PA.   The collection can be found in the Athenaeum's library catalog by typing Dornsife/VSA into the search box. This will allow you to access over 2000 records for the Dornsife Collection, including, for example, John Bullock’s The American Cottage Builder of 1854 and Edward Kemp’s How to Lay Out a Garden of 1860.

Illustration from Meubles et objets de gout, 1796-1830 : 678 documents tirés des journaux de modes et de la "Collection" de La Mésangère. Paris : Librairie des arts décoratifs, A. Calavas, editeur, 68, rue Lafayette, [ca. 1914]. Samuel J. Dornsife Collection of the Victorian Society in America at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.

Coffee Day: Monday June 2, 9:30 AM - 4:00 PM

The farewell for Ellen Rose presented us with an opportunity to have a casual, congenial day for visiting with other members and staff.  The Athenaeum now inaugurates a new tradition where one day per month, usually the first Monday,  we will offer light refreshments, coffee and tea, in the Members’ Reading Room.  Come and meet your friends here.  Make new friends.  Talk with the staff, and especially get to know Jill Lee, Ellen’s successor.  We expect this date to coincide with “new book week” so that you will already have the date on your calendar.

Photo by Jim Carroll.


Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network

The Athenaeum is host to a rapidly growing website that, like PAB before it, will forever change the way building research in Philadelphia is conducted. In 2005, with a $50,000 pilot grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Athenaeum, in cooperation with more than 30 local special-collections libraries, created the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network. GPGN makes accessible a variety of geographic research source materials that, because of their rarity and fragile nature, have up till now been extremely difficult to review in person.  These include nearly 500 large format map and atlas plates that range in date from 1858 through 1962.  Scanned at the Athenaeum’s Regional Digital Imaging Center (RDIC), these high resolution images are available in the same viewing system developed for PAB.  In addition to maps, there are nearly 3000 full-color plates from the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Hexamer General Surveys. The surveys, prepared between 1865 and 1899,  each document an industrial site in the Philadelphia area with a perspective drawing, plot plan, and detailed textual description of the products and operations of the plants.  Also available on the GeoHistory site are full text digitized versions of the 1856, 1858, 1861, and 1866 Philadelphia City Directories, which contain alphabetical listings of the city’s residents featuring address, occupation, and race. RDIC continues to scan and post geographical material to the site and expects to add at least 500 additional images, including early aerial photos of the city,  within the next year. The GeoHistory Network can be visited at

Photo: Detail from Hexamer General Survey #2628-2629, John B. Stetson Hat Factory, Map Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia.

In The Next Issue: Art Bound, our summer exhibition, opens June 16th.

The Athenaeum is open 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday-Friday.  The building is accessible to persons with disabilities.  Group tours and research visits are by appointment only. Please visit our website for more information, or call 215-925-2688.


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