U.S. Naval Asylum


The main building of the U.S. Naval Asylum (Biddle Hall) was designed by William Strickland (1787–1854) in 1826 and completed in 1833. Strickland was one of the first architects of the Greek Revival style in the United States and also a civil engineer. The columns on the asylum’s balconies were an innovative use of cast-iron as a building material. The U.S. Navy commissioned the building to house officers and seamen who had been disabled on duty as well as elderly and impoverished naval personnel. This print by John Caspar Wild (circa 1804−46) shows Biddle Hall, to the sides of which in 1844 Strickland added residences for the asylum’s governor and the hospital’s surgeon. Wild was a Swiss-born artist and lithographer, who arrived in Philadelphia from Paris in 1832. He produced paintings and prints of Philadelphia and other American cities, including Cincinnati, Saint Louis, and Davenport, Iowa. His works are important historical records of these cities before the era of large-scale industrialization and rapid urban growth. This image first appeared in 1838 as Plate 7 in Wild’s “Views of Philadelphia,” published by the partnership of J.C. Wild & J.B. Chevalier. John T. Bowen, the prominent Philadelphia lithographer and publisher, bought out Wild & Chevalier in 1838, including rights to the views, which he reissued later that year, and again in 1848 with hand coloring.

Last updated: February 26, 2014