If Theophilus P. Chandler were of this generation, he would be what we call “a game-changer.” Unfortunately, he died in 1928. But as founder and president of the American Institute of Architect’s Philadelphia chapter and founder and director of the University of Penn’s Department of Architecture, Chandler was a significant force who elevated the role of architecture in the city’s psyche during the late 1800s.
Built in 1760 by onetime Philadelphia mayor Henry Harrison, this Old City home was actually one of a trio of Harrison Houses on Cuthbert Street, then known as Coombes Alley. Sarah Apelquist, the home’s current owner, says merchant Harrison was also a local real estate developer. Harrison only briefly resided in the house, after which the property became a rental for newcomers just off the docks. The immigrant families lived in close quarters — every level of the house was occupied, with the kitchen as a common area.
In the early 1960s, the Harrison House at 116 almost met its end due to expansion plans for I-95, where there was talk of its being demolished along with several other homes in the area. Apelquist credits a neighbor and the Philadelphia Historical Commission for having played a key role in saving the home, which is on the city’s Register of Historic Places.