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Head House Square

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1745 Market shambles; 1804 headhouse; 1962 restored, G. Edwin Brumbaugh and 1993, Roland C. Davies. S. 2nd and Pine sts.
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • Head House Square. (Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)

With its surviving market shambles and a headhouse that accommodated a fire engine and offices above, this complex gives an idea of the scale of the markets that once ran along High Street. Here the households of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Charles Willson Peale and Samuel Powel shopped for food. The market is revived at various times of the year for special events. The headhouse is a fine example of the Federal style with delicately detailed marble belt course, cornices, and window heads that contrasts with the muscularity of pre-Revolutionary Georgian architecture. Brumbaugh's restoration of the market replaced the wooden shakes with fireproof and more durable slate shingles, necessitating the beefing up of the structure so that two of every three piers are modern. As originally built, the market would have been more open. A second run of stalls stretched from Lombard Street to South (formerly Cedar) Street.

Near Head House Square are large houses, many of which were part of the market in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A testament to the post-Revolutionary renewed economic vigor of the region is the John Ross house and store at 401 S. 2nd Street (1787); although its first story has been restored, its upper stories with marble belt courses and an elegant carved wooden cornice are fine examples of early Federal work.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas


What's Nearby


George E. Thomas, "Head House Square", [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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, 65-65.

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