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'Beautifully situated on the River Schuylkill'
Views of the U.S. Naval Asylum and Hospital, Philadelphia
from materials in PACSCL member collections

Copy of a communication from William Strickland, Esq. to the Commissioners of the Naval Hospital Fund.

Philadelphia, December 1st, 1829.

Gentlemen--Agreeably to your request, I have the honor to submit for your consideration, a report of the progress made in the building of the United States' Naval Asylum, at Philadelphia, together with an estimate of the whole amount of funds necessary to its final completion. The building is situated on the river Schuylkill, a short distance below the junction of South street with the Gray's ferry road. It is 385 feet in front, including a centre building 142 feet, by 135 feet in depth, which is embellished with a marble portico of eight Ionic columns, 3 feet each in diameter.

The wings consist of a granite basement, supporting a marble superstructure, three stories in height, with piazzas or verandas on each story of the front and rear, raised on 88 cast iron columns, resting upon the granite piers. The interior of the building is vaulted throughout, and is in every respect completely fire proof. The roof of the centre is covered with copper, and that of the wings with slate. The dormitories, on the flanks of the centre building, contain 180 rooms, all of which are well lighted and ventilated, and are calculated for the reception and accommodation of about 400 men. The extremities of the wings contain a hall, workshop, operating room, and offices, all of which have a communication with the piazzas on the outside, and the passage from the centre of the building. The basement story of the centre building contains a dining room 113 feet in length, together with a kitchen, wash-house, laundry, pantries, store-room, office, and warming apparatus. This story has an immediate communication with the principal and third stories, by a flight of marble steps leading to the portico on the outside, and by a double flight of steps, of the same material, from the hall on the outside of the building. The principal story of the centre building contains in front 8 parlours, intended for officers' quarters, and a chapel in the rear 56 feet square, which receives its light from a lantern in the dome, and has a direct communication with the passages in the centre, and the piazzas on the outside of the building. The surgeon's apartment, infirmaries, apothecary's rooms, bath rooms, and closets, are adjacent to the chapel and main interior passage. The attic or third story of the centre building, includes chambers for the officers, and governor, or manager of the institution, apartments for the insane, bath rooms, closets, &c., &c.

The whole of the interior of the building will be finished in about three weeks from this date. The carpenters have but a few doors and sashes to hang; the plasterers will complete the plastering in the course of next week; and the painters have but the finishing coat to put on. The whole of the marble work of the building and portico, with the exception of a small part of the raking cornice and tympanum of the pediment, and of the flights of steps in front, leading to the portico, is finished. These parts of the work I would have completed at this day, but that I have been unable to procure, in season, from the quarriers, such blocks of stone as are necessary to their completion. Under these circumstances I have, however, deemed it expedient to close, in a few days from this time, the operations of the marble masons until the ensuing spring. The work which will remain to be done, after the end of that month, will not require of me the kind and degree of attention which I have heretofore devoted to it, and I shall therefore, with your permission, consider the arrangement for my salary as closing with the present year. The magnitude of the work, and the substantial character of the materials which have been employed in constructing the Naval Asylum, will of course be recollected, when the amount of expenditure, and the propriety of its application, shall be made the subject of consideration. Every attention has been paid to economy in the disbursement of the public funds, from the earliest commencement of the work to the present day. The contracts which were made by myself, at the laying of the corner stone of this edifice, for marble, bricks, lime, &c., were, at the time, and still remain, considerably below the market price of these articles: the work throughout has been done with the greatest fidelity, and at moderate prices; and in fact, I am not aware that, in this country or in Europe, the same quantity of labor and materials has been procured either for the government or individuals, by the expenditure of so small an amount of money. The actual expenditure on account of the building is, at this date, $198,000.

The amount due on the building may be estimated as follows:

For marble,


Marble masons and laborer's wages,




Lime and sand,


Painting and glaizing ,


Carpenters' work,




Plasterers' wages and materials,


Ironmongery and blacksmiths' work,






The amount required to complete the building is as follows:

For marble now contracted for, and workmanship of the pediment and steps of the portico,


Marble mantels throughout the building, contracted for, and part executed,


Iron railing in front of the piazzas, contracted for, and part executed,


Plumber's work in fitting up baths, water closes, contracted for, and part executed


Fencing round the premises,


Regulating ground and planting trees,


The introduction of the Schuylkill water into the building, including annual rent,




Making the total cost of the building and appurtenances, when completed, about


Respectfully submitted, by your obedient servant,

The Hon.  






Commissioners of the Navy Hospital Fund, Washington.

Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania, Vol. X, November 1832, pp. 284-285. Reproduced courtesy the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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