Wow, what a building. Chinatown’s Winston Building, known to most Philadelphians as That Building In Back of the Bus Station, was once headquarters to one of the world’s most prolific publishers, the John C. Winston Company. Beautifully restored, standing proud, and still sporting its original signage, this eight story beast shines like no other.
The company started in 1884 with just one employee, its namesake, John Clark Winston. The law student-turned-publisher started his company working alone on the second story of a rowhouse at 1009 Arch Street. The fledgling publisher began by selling bound photo albums and expanded rapidly, moving offices every five years (7th and Arch in 1889, 6th and Arch in 1894), while keeping a printing house at 6th and Race. In 1899, the company consolidated its printing house and offices into a single building at 718 Arch. Everything changed for the publisher in 1900 when they purchased the entire printed stock of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which included Bibles in every language. At this point, the Winston Company became primarily known as a Bible publisher. Their “International Series” of bibles was a grand success, giving the company the inspiration to construct one massive building from which to conduct their operation.
The site chosen was 1006-1016 Arch, the site of a demolished church that was directly across the street from the original rowhouse location. On this half acre of land, the eight story, 135,000 square foot publishing mega-center would be constructed in 1903-04 by the Lewis Havens & Sons Construction Company based on designs from architect William C. Pritchett. The new building would employ the latest in steel frame technology and would be billed as “semi-fireproof.” The company opened in their new headquarters in summer, 1904. The structure would cost $125,000, but the the entire operation of moving the company and installing newly-purchased equipment would add up to an investment totaling $1.5 million, about $38 million today. That investment proved prudent… Winston acquired the Henry T. Coates publishing company in 1905 and the massive William Collins & Sons, Limited in 1907, adding thousands of books and magazines to their repertoire and filling all the extra space in the new building. By the time John C. Winston died in 1920, the John C. Winston Company was printing over 2,000 individual titles and almost 600 different forms of the Bible. They offered books at every price point, from large format leather-bound books to small paper comic books. All the while, they still printed the same old photo albums the company has started with in 1884. They produced their own brand of reference books, most notably a dictionary and a loose-leaf encyclopedia that was designed to have pages added every year. The company opened branch offices/printing houses in Chicago and Toronto and delivered to every inhabited continent–Winston was one of the first truly global publishing enterprises.
Over the next few decades, Winston concentrated less on bibles and more on their catalog of young adult novels (most of which they acquired from the Coates company). In 1952, they started publishing a ground-breaking line of science fiction novels, known for their fancifully decorated covers. These classics gave the company its last boost in business and are still highly desirable collectibles today. In 1960, Winston merged with some other publishers and became Holt, Reinhardt, and Winston. The newly formed publisher slowly phased itself out of the Winston Building, leasing floors to other companies until they were completely moved out. For the next four decades, the building would be occupied by numerous concerns, including some small publishers and binders that used the old Winston equipment. By 2003, the building was only about 25% occupied by commercial tenants, all on the first three floors. It was converted to luxury loft condos in 2004 and has been known as the Lofts at the Winston ever since. The Winston company still (sort of) exists, but as a very (very) small part of Holt McDougal, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Today, the building stands as a beacon on an already exciting block. Its restored white facade is one of the most beautiful in the city and, unlike most buildings from its time period, has retained its beautiful green cornice. The Winston Building stands as a great example of how adaptive reuse can save a great building. If only others like it had the same fate.
the green cornice is probably copper
Thank you for this fine write-up of the restoration we conducted @1010. Bigdog it is copper.
Question: I am looking for a publication date for the John C. Winston Co. issue of Charles Kingsley’s novel _Yeast_ (originally written 1848, but see above that the J.C.Winston publishing company didn’t start until 1884. –The preface Kingsley wrote in the volume I have sounds like what journalist Bill Moyers and others were saying in Chautauqua, NY early in July 2017. It’s not the same preface Kingsley wrote for later editions; the later preface (found on-line) had to to with improvements on the issues Kingsley cared about. My question, to sum up: is it possible to find the publication date of the copy of _Yeast_ I have described?
I have a copy of David Hume’s “The History of England” Volume 3 ; published by The John Winston Co., but the title page has no publishing date. Does anyone know what year this was published?
A close examination of the facade reveals the original drive in and drive ovt(six) portals since converted to doorways….too narrow for any vehicle now, likely perfect for Model T trucks built in the 1910-20s
Thanks so much for sharing this bit of Philadelphia’s manufacturing history. Facinating!
I appreciate your information. I’d love to see the building as it looks today. I have a PreciousPromises New Testament printed in 1913, I just located in my things. It’s been very interesting to find history of who printed this precious New Testament many years ago.
A 1906 add for a “Gold Girl”, Wanted, experienced girls to lay on gold or metal; best wages and steady work. Apply John C. Winston Co., 1006 Arch street. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/64446298/gold-girls-john-c-winston-co/
John C. Winston&Co. published The Memorial Story of America 1492 – 1892 by Hamilton W. Mabie. My copy states it was printed in 1894. This copy’s cover is red leather and printed in gold reads: Story of America. I have found later editions of this book bound in Teal cloth. Can anyone give me any information about this book?
I have an old Family Bible published by John C Winston & Co., 1009 Arch St., Philadelphia, Pa. I found the date Dec. 25, 1884. I cherish this old Bible, it has some of my Moore Family, births, marriages, and deaths, which all took place in Southampton County, Va. My Great Great Grandfather, John Moore was born in Philadelphia in 1773, and came to Virginia around 1800, and probably brought the Bible with him.
I found a small book called Grace Before Meals Brief Prayers Arranged For Each Day in the Year.
Complied by A. William Nyce and Hubert Bunyea
Copyright 1939by The John C.Winston Co. then it says copr.,1911 The J.C.W.Co. On the bottom of that page it says D648 It’s in really good shape . Wish I could find out more about it.