Benjamin Latrobe and William Strickland are generally credited with being the first two
professional architects to work in the Philadelphia region. We know Strickland's father worked
for Latrobe as a carpenter and later William was apprenticed to Latrobe for two years but left
architecture to become a painter. He obviously kept an interest in architecture, because at the
age of 27, in 1815, he entered and won the competition to design the Second Bank of the
United States. The building, as a first major effort by a young architect, is nothing short of
The front and rear elevations are clearly based on archeological information like that found in the
Antiquities of Athens The sides of the buildings are without columns or other decoration but are
almost modern flat slabs pierced with windows. (Strickland does pull off a great architectural
slight-of-hand - see the Second Bank entry).
After the Second Bank, Strickland created a series of buildings along the Schuylkill in his 1827
United States Naval Asylum by almost lifting the whole temple fronts out of Stuart and Revett's
work. You can see the growing confidence in Strickland's work with the Merchants Exchange of
1832 where, instead of copying any particular building, he combines different classical elements
freely to create a large scale building for commerce.
Strickland left the Philadelphia in 1837 for Nashville, Tennessee and was hired to create the
Tennessee State House - one of his largest and most sophisticated buildings. Strickland was
not however just a Greek revival architect. He designed several buildings in the gothic style and
even went back to the Georgian Style to redesign Independence Hall's tower, which is the one
we see today.
Portrait of Strickland standing before the Second Bank of
the United States, Philadelphia. John Neagle, 1829, Yale
University Art Gallery