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Second Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, DE

January 14, 2014


Two prolific Philadelphia architects made significant contributions to the body of Akron-Auditorium churches: Charles W. Bolton and today’s featured practitioner Isaac Pursell [1853-1910]. The Presbyterian denomination has had its offices in Philly for many years; its historical archives are located there today. So it should be no surprise that Philly architects were well positioned for commission.

Pursell’s design for Second Presbyterian in nearby Wilmington, Delaware is a type he used more than once. It features an octagonal tent-like roof over the sanctuary, with gabled dormers on the principal sides. Sunday School facilities were in the adjacent rectangle. Most of his work is in the Gothic Revival idiom, which worked equally well for these complex A-A buildings as well as for more traditional longitudinal plans. I don’t own this postcard, but presume that it represents Pursell’s own watercolor presentation drawing—what was shown to the client to clinch the deal.

The building survives in Wilmington today a few blocks west of I-95 and now serving an African-American denomination—”Mother African Union Church”—of which I know nothing.

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