Girard College, Perspective View

Girard Ave. and Corinthian Ave.

Philadelphia, PA

1835

Established by a bequest of Stephen Girard to the City of Philadelphia , Girard College for Orphans was the single most expensive American building project before the Civil War. Walter, strongly influenced by building committee chairman, Nicholas Biddle, spent nearly two million dollars and fifteen years creating this “perfect, chaste specimen of Grecian Architecture.”

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Girard College

Exterior Order of the Main Building

Girard Ave. and Corinthian Ave.

Philadelphia, PA

c. 1841

Nowhere at Girard College is the archaeological fidelity to Greek forms more evident than in the execution of the portico columns. Based on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, but at a scale more than five times greater than the original, the 34 Corinthian columns cost nearly $13,000 each, making their total cost nearly a half million dollars. Between 1833 and 1847, one out of every four dollars spent on College construction was invested in these columns. Their beauty, but more importantly their cost, made them a target in the controversy over the design for the College, particularly by those who interpreted literally the phrase of Stephen Girard’s will, “avoiding needless ornament.”

Stephen Girard Collection, Girard College

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Girard College

Details of Entablature, Main Building

Girard Ave. and Corinthian Ave.

Philadelphia, PA

c. 1841

This drawing shows the remarkable engineering of brick vaulting, cast iron tie rods and lead gutter pipes that are hidden behind the Grecian marble facade of the portico entablature.

  Stephen Girard Collection, Girard College

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