John McArthur Jr.

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John McArthur Jr. (1823–1890)

John McArthur Jr. (1823–1890) was a prominent American architect based in Philadelphia. Best remembered as the architect of the landmark Philadelphia City Hall, McArthur also designed some of the city's most ambitious buildings of the Civil War era. Few of his buildings survive.

Philadelphia City Hall (built 1874-1901). When completed, this was the tallest occupied building in the world, surpassed in height only by the Washington Monument (7 feet / 2.1 meters taller) and the Eiffel Tower (515 feet / 157 meters taller). It remains the world's tallest all-masonry occupied building.


John McArthur Jr. was born in Bladenock, Scotland, on 13 May 1823,[1] and came to the United States with his family when he was ten years old. Much of his mature style was characterized by Italianate and Second Empire forms and several of his best-known buildings feature mansard roofs, which he helped to introduce and popularize in the United States. During the American Civil War, McArthur planned 24 temporary war hospitals, including Fort Delaware's 600-bed hospital on Pea Patch Island.[2]

Philadelphia has looked up to McArthur’s architecture for more than a century. The 250-foot-tall tower-and-spire of his Tenth Presbyterian Church (1854) was the tallest structure in the city when built. (Its 150-foot wooden spire was removed in 1912.) Later, this was surpassed by the tower of City Hall (1874–1901), whose 548 feet (167 meters) made it the tallest occupied building in the world when completed. Until the late 20th century, an unwritten agreement among Philadelphia architects kept all buildings shorter than the top of the statue of William Penn atop McArthur’s tower.[citation needed]

A Presbyterian and a member of Tenth Church, McArthur was married to Matilda Prevost; they had two sons and two daughters.

McArthur died in Philadelphia on January 8, 1890.

Architectural work[edit]

This is a partial list.

Wagner Free Institute of Science, Philadelphia (1859-65)
First National Bank building, now Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia
"Residence for John McArthur Jr. West Philadelphia, Pa." (1881, demolished).
Plan for U.S. Army Hospital, Fort Delaware, Pea Patch Island, DE (1863, demolished). This 600-bed hospital served the garrison, Confederate prisoners, and civilians.

Philadelphia buildings[edit]

Demolished Philadelphia buildings[edit]

  • Assembly Building, 10th & Chestnut Sts. Philadelphia (1851, rebuilt 1852 possibly by McArthur, demolished)
  • Girard House Hotel, n. side of Chestnut St. at 9th St., Philadelphia (1852, demolished)
  • La Pierre House, South Broad St., Philadelphia (1856, demolished)
  • Continental Hotel, SE corner 9th & Chestnut Sts., Philadelphia (1857–1860, demolished)[4]
  • American Sunday School Union building, 316-320 Chestnut St., Philadelphia (1858, demolished)
  • Franklin Farmers' Market, 100 block of Market St., Philadelphia (1859, demolished)
  • Mikveh Israel Synagogue, 117 N. 7th St., Philadelphia (1860, demolished)[5]
  • Mower Hospital (temporary Civil War hospital), Wyndmoor, Philadelphia (1863, demolished)
  • Residence for Dr. David Jayne, 19th & Chestnut Sts., Philadelphia (1865, demolished)
  • Public Ledger Building, SW corner 6th & Chestnut Sts., Philadelphia (1867, demolished)
  • John McArthur Jr. Residence, 4203 Walnut St., Philadelphia (1881, demolished).
  • Children’s Ward, Presbyterian Hospital, 39th & Filbert Sts., Philadelphia (1881–88, demolished).
  • Entrance, The Woodlands, Philadelphia (1936, demolished)[6]

Buildings elsewhere[edit]



A descendant, David Paul McArthur, works as an architect out of the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.[citation needed]


  1. ^ . JSTOR 988539.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ The Annual Report of the Library Company of Philadelphia, by Library Company of Philadelphia, page 52
  3. ^ Our History & Architecture | Tenth Presbyterian Church
  4. ^ Untitled Document
  5. ^ Congregation Mikveh Israel
  6. ^ "Woodlands Cemetery. Main Entrance". The Library Company of Philadelphia. World Digital Library. Retrieved 3 January 2014. 
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-10-14. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  8. ^ Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress, Millard Fillmore, 1853, p 738
  9. ^ Mare Island is a National Register historic district #75002103, and also a National Historic Landmark.
  10. ^ Danville State Hospital
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-23. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  12. ^ Source: The Architect’s and Builders Pocket-Book, by Frank Eugene Kidder, 1908, page 1546
  13. ^ Warren State Hospital * Asylum Architecture, History, Preservation * Kirkbride Buildings