by Kevin Dalton
I recently attended the opening reception for Feats of Clay: Philadelphia Brick and Terra Cotta, an exhibition on the legacy of Philadelphia’s brick and terra cotta industry at the Harvey and Irwin Kroiz Gallery, The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, curated by Frank Matero.
The exhibit included artifacts from now demolished buildings designed by Philadelphia architects Frank Furness and Cope and Stewardson, brick from works by Louis Kahn as well as examples of some of the cities most underappreciated residential works such as Edgar V. Seeler’s Conkling and Armstrong House in the city’s Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood and the Morris Fleisher Residence designed by Willis G. Hale and located in the Fairmount section of the city.
Featured alongside the architectural works were interesting catalogs, brick samples and maps of past and present Philadelphia area brick and terra cotta manufactories such O.W. Ketchum, Sayre & Fisher Brick Company, McAvoy Brick (which still operates in Phoenixville, PA) and some wonderful examples of the ornamental clay products produced by Peerless Brick Company.
Having trained as a bricklayer since the age of 18, I spent several years working out of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union (Local 1 PA/DE) in Philadelphia and have grown to love the wonderful brickwork that is ubiquitous in Philadelphia. This exhibit focuses on the city’s long and storied history of brick manufacturing and the architectural masterpieces that resulted and also serves as a stark reminder of the treasures that we have lost.
For those of you who are brick enthusiasts like me, you can find some of these amazing brick and terra cotta remnants of the past for purchase at several architectural salvage stores in and around Philadelphia such as: Provenance Old Soul Architectural Salvage, Philadelphia Salvage Company and Harry Bambi Supplies.
Gallery hours are 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday-Friday. The exhibit runs through October 9, 2015.