Architectural Significance – a “new and exciting building”
The exterior of 1616 Latimer Street is the work of a highly regarded designer in Philadelphia in the early 20th-Century, architect Edmund Beaman Gilchrist. The building is significant because it contains design and detail elements of the Art Deco style built on a residential scale. The style markedly contrasts with near neighbors, many of which are Colonial Revival buildings evoking an historical outlook. The modern young women who founded the Cosmopolitan Club favored a style focused on the future.
By March 1928, founding members all agreed “there was no building at the time in Philadelphia that was new enough and exciting enough” for their purposes. They engaged Edmund Gilchrist who was concurrently working on the nearby Art Deco skyscraper, the Lewis Tower (now Aria).
Since the founders were planning a “new and exciting building,” they also wanted a modern interior, something with “fine, distinguished lines and proportions, nothing crazy or jumbled, together with bright and interesting color.” Attracted to the modern decorating they had seen on several excursions to New York, the founders determined to hire Jules Bouy, touted as an “interior architect,” who was known for his work in the modern style.
Money was raised to finance the property, building, and furnishings as one, a feat encompassing the interior and exterior in a single design. This was, again, an exciting and bold endeavor that illustrates the singularity of the founders’ aspirations and achievement.
Historic and Cultural Significance – a “cosmopolitan” gathering place
The Cosmopolitan Club speaks to the forward-looking aspirations of Philadelphia women who came into their own in what had been a man’s world. American women had achieved the vote less than a decade before. During the 1920’s, the number of women working outside of their homes grew by 50% (Source: “Women in the Early to Mid-20th Century, 1900-1960.” Encyclopedia.com).
The Cosmopolitan Club attracted members with the brains and outlook to propel them to make great strides in their chosen fields. From the beginning, the Club counted among its members musicians, artists, philanthropists, scientists, doctors, sculptors, decorators, writers, poets, and educators. (Source: Jean Markle, “At 1616 Latimer, then and now: An informal history of the Cosmopolitan Club of Philadelphia,” 1975.) At 1616 Latimer Street, these women were in charge. Here they were able to enjoy the company of other stimulating women, share their challenges and concerns, and enlarge their horizons. To see elements of the original and existing design, go to Learn and See More The Club Today and Photo Archive.