Cassatt House

Address: 1320 Locust Street
Neighborhood: Center City
Year Built: 1883
Architectural Style: Late Victorian and Classical Revival
Architect: Frank Furness
Philadelphia Register of Historic Places: 1990
National Register of Historic Places: No
Current Use:  Residence

Historical Background
The Cassatt House is a five-story townhouse designed by Frank Furness in 1883 with some interior alterations made by Joseph Huston in 1901. Currently a haven for scholars of American history, the house is a well-preserved survivor of the era. It was built for the financier J. Gardner Cassatt, the brother of the artist Mary Cassatt and of Alexander J. Cassatt, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. J. Gardner. The front parlor has been restored to reflect Huston’s changes while other first floor spaces reflect Furness’s original design. The exterior is equally endowed with period architectural details including decorative glass and ironwork in the windows. In 1967, the house was acquired by the Library Company of Philadelphia, which is next door.  It is currently used as a living and working space for visiting scholars in the Library Company Fellows program.  The house also contains the offices of the Journal of the Early Republic and the Library Company’s development department.

The Library Company of Philadelphia is world-renowned as a research library for early American history. It was founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin as a subscription library for artisans unable to afford their own libraries. As such, it is the oldest cultural institution in America. When the US government was in Philadelphia, it served as the library of congress. Until the 1850s, it was also the largest public library in the country.  The Library Company has rare books on a wide range of topics, from culinary history to folk medicine. Materials from early American publishers, (pre-1801) are well represented, with over 17,000 items.  This early Americana runs the gamut from bibles to erotic novels. Other holdings, which span the 17th to 19th centuries, include periodicals, ephemera, prints, maps, and photographs. Their newspaper holdings encompass the whole country, but are especially rich in early Philadelphia newspapers. The collections as a whole are especially rich in materials related to African Americans, the Civil War and visual culture.

Some Community Stakeholders
Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Kimmel Center, Tony Goldman, Goldman Properties, Valerie Safran and Marcie Tuney, 13th Street Restaurant Row, Steve Duross and James Langel, Langel and Ross, Jose Garces,  Garces Restaurant Group

Possible Artistic Uses & Limitations
The Cassatt House provides opportunities for proposals that relate to the Library Company’s holdings. This could take the form of archival intervention, alternative histories or even curating a selection of works. Only the first floor of the house is available for use and possibly only reproductions of original materials from the Library Company’s collection will be available for use in the Cassatt House.

Hidden City Philadelphia has secured provisional interest and commitment to participate from the owners or stewards of prospective sites for the 2013 festival. We cannot guarantee final festival participation for any site, as many are subject to transitional forces, such as changes in ownership or stewardship, development, hazmat remediation, public-private jurisdiction, access restrictions and, in some cases, continued physical deterioration.

With that said, we have secured interest and willingness from site owners and stewards to engage in a discovery process with artists, partner organizations, and other stakeholders concerning creative projects and public engagement. The realization of any artistic project for the festival will be the result of a collaborative process with, and eventual collective approval of, Hidden City staff, advisors, community stakeholders, and site owners.