Alms House. Philadelphia


This 1840s print shows the Blockley Alms House in Philadelphia, as seen from the east bank of the Schuylkill River. It includes the Market Street Bridge, Beck’s shot tower (a city landmark since 1808) and, in the far distance, the Eastern State Penitentiary. William Strickland (1788–1854), a founder of Greek Revival architecture in the United States, designed the quadrangle of four large buildings that formed the almshouse. The original Philadelphia Alms House was constructed in the early 1730s and was the first multifunctional government-sponsored institution for the care of the poor in America. In addition to housing and feeding the poor, it offered an infirmary and hospital for the sick and the insane, a workhouse, and an orphanage. When the original almshouse became overcrowded, the authorities chose a sizable undeveloped parcel of land in Blockley, west of the city center, for the new structure, which was completed in 1833. The illustration is by John Caspar Wild (circa 1804–46), 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.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

J.T. Bowen, Philadelphia


Type of Item

Physical Description

1 print : lithograph, hand-colored ; 16.5 x 18 centimeters


  • Originally published as plate 8 in Views of Philadelphia, and Its Vicinity (Philadelphia: Published by J.C. Wild & J.B. Chevalier, Lithographers, 72 Dock Street, 1838). The lithographic stones for the views were acquired by John T. Bowen, who later reissued them with hand coloring. He copyrighted this view in 1840.
  • Digital catalog number: POS 14.4

Last updated: January 8, 2018