One of the founders of the T-Square Club in Philadelphia, Walter Smedley was born in Middletown, PA, to Thomas and Philena Y. Smedley. He attended the Franklin Institute Drawing School in 1880/81, at the same time apprenticing in the office of builders Balderston & Hutton, continuing with the office until the partnership dissolved in 1882 and then remaining with Addison Hutton until 1890. In 1890 Smedley struck out with an independent career in architecture, but he retained his connection to Hutton, often borrowing draftsmen and occupying an office in the Stephen Girard Building near that of Hutton. Like Hutton, Smedley's ties to the Quaker community influenced the projects which he undertook, but he was also active in the development of Wynnefield as a prosperous suburb of Philadelphia and was himself one of the managers of the Wynnefield Avenue Improvement Company. By 1891 Smedley's independent projects are listed in the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide. In that first year he signalled his desire for ambitious commissions by entering two competitions: the Carnegie Library competition (Pittsburgh, PA) and a hospital competition based in Nashville, TN, where he won second prize. By the next year he was undertaking a project for the "Pennsylvania School for Feeble-Minded Children" in Elwyn, PA, as well as a small structure for the Friends School on 12th Street below Market Street in Philadelphia. In 1893 he added a bank to his repertoire with the Northern National Bank on Germantown Avenue. He also established his credentials in industrial architecture in 1892 by designing a warehouse for the Yarnall Paint Company at 1028 Race Street. Smedley's practice truly presented a general scope because in addition to the great number of residences associated with his office, he maintained a hand in institutional, commercial, and industrial architecture. By 1912 he had acquired the lucrative Abbotts Alderney Dairy contracts, and in succeeding years he continued with that enterprise, adding dairy buildings, an ice cream building, a stable, and other structures to the company's holdings in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Smedley joined the AIA in 1899. He retired from active practice in 1932.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- T-Square Club
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