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Wharton Esherick House and Studio

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1926 and later, Wharton Esherick; 1955–1956, Louis I. Kahn. 1520 Horseshoe Trail, 5 miles south of Phoenixville

A native of Philadelphia, Wharton Esherick attended the Philadelphia Museum School (now the University of the Arts; PH60) and shifted to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts ( PH52) (before its summer program began at nearby Yellow Springs; CH33) with the intention of a career in painting. In 1913, stimulated by reading Henry David Thoreau's Walden and in an effort to reject the corporate world of Philadelphia industry, Esherick purchased an abandoned house on the edge of a quarry as a workplace and home. A teaching job at the Single-Tax enclave of Fairhope, Alabama, led to connections with the local Arts and Crafts community at Rose Valley ( DE26), where he encountered Jasper Deeter, director of Rose Valley's Hedgerow Theater ( DE26.2). That experience stimulated Esherick to turn to woodworking and furniture making. He began building his hilltop studio in 1926, creating what he called an “autobiography” in wood over the next forty years when he declared it finished. As the machine aesthetic of the International Style was finding adherents, Esherick emphasized handcraft and the character of natural materials to create a building whose every detail was creatively rethought, from its handmade wood latches to its spectacular central wood stair. The stair was selected by George Howe for inclusion in the 1939 New York World's Fair and was removed from the house for the exhibition. Reinstalled, it is an important link to the ideas of George Nakashima ( BU21). It is doubtless that Howe was the bridge to Louis Kahn, whose commitment to the humanist values of architecture attracted Esherick to commission him for an addition even as his niece was commissioning a house by Kahn in Chestnut Hill ( PH189).

Writing Credits

Author: 
George E. Thomas
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Citation

George E. Thomas, "Wharton Esherick House and Studio", [Phoenixville, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/PA-02-CH38.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 2

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, George E. Thomas, with Patricia Likos Ricci, Richard J. Webster, Lawrence M. Newman, Robert Janosov, and Bruce Thomas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 254-255.

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