Monday, November 8, 2010

Mellor, Meigs & Howe Architectural Offices

Contributed by Mike Gaines

In June of 1906, two former employees from the architectural firm of T.P. Chandler joined together to establish their own practice, creating one of the Philadelphia area’s most successful residential design firms in the early 20th century.

The firm of Walter Mellor (1880-1940) and Arthur Meigs (1882-1956) was first based out of the Lafayette Building at the northeast corner of 5th and Chestnut Streets. Successful from the outset, the pair quickly made a name for themselves designing club houses and private homes in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Within six years the firm was ready to expand. Selecting a site on the southeast corner of Chancellor and Juniper Streets, Mellor and Meigs hired the construction firm of Arthur H. Williams & Sons to execute their designs and convert an existing carriage house into their offices.

Visitors would have been initially mislead by the long and narrow entry hall and cozy reception room before they saw the rest of the building, which included spacious drafting rooms flooded with natural light from large banks of windows and skylights and a cavernous meeting room.

Mellor and Meigs drafting room, designed by Mellor and Meigs

On the outside, the facade was built in brick, slate on the roof, and copper for gutters and downspouts – all distinctive elements in Mellor & Meigs designs.

In 1916 the partnership was expanded to include George Howe, formerly of the firm Furness, Evans & Co., thus changing the name to Mellor, Meigs & Howe. Being that both Mellor and Meigs were locally trained architects, they hoped that the Ecole des Beaux-Arts-trained Howe would bring a European influence to the practice. Instead, Howe followed the tradition already established by Mellor and Meigs.

Juniper Street Entrance

Before Howe could leave a lasting impact, however, he was called off to serve in World War I, after which he would return to Philadelphia and the firm. In time, because of Howe, the firm’s clients would expand to include the design of banks, including the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society, an account Howe took with him when he left the firm in 1928. (Howe would later be one of the co-designers of the iconic PSFS building at 12th and Market Streets).

That same year, the firm, having gone back to the name of Mellor & Meigs, decided to expand their offices by constructing a garage with an office above to the south side of the building. The existing building and addition were connected through an existing door on the ground floor, and by a new door on the second floor office. Attic space was accessed through a trap door in the ceiling of the office.

Mitchell’s Restaurant on Juniper Street in 1973

The firm continued in the space until Mellor’s death in 1940, at which time Meigs went into semi-retirement, chiefly finishing projects begun before Mellor’s death.

In 1946 the building went through its second conversion, this time into Mitchell’s Restaurant.

In 1982, a new gay and lesbian bar named Key West opened in the location and remained in business until its closing in 2008.

The building has remained vacant since.

Mellor, Meigs & Howe Architectural Offices
Common Name: Mitchell’s Restaurant; Mellor & Meigs Atelier; Key West Bar
Architect: Mellor & Meigs (alterations)
Address: 207-07 S Juniper Street, 1322 Chancellor Street
Neighborhood: Washington Square West/Midtown Village/"Gayborhood"
Date Built: Originally built as a carriage house between 1862-1875, based on city atlases.
Alteration(s):
1912: Converted to offices for Mellor & Meigs.
1928: Garage with office and attic above added to the south side of the building.
1946: Converted into restaurant

Status: For Sale

1 comment:

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