- Historic Sites
The Lewis Albums
December 1962 | Volume 14, Issue 1
In 1841, with the Second Street neighborhood becoming commercial, the Lewises sold No. 148 and moved to a house at the corner of Walnut and Sixteenth Streets, which was “furnished newly and handsomely, with decorations in the latest style.” Atop the coachhouse stood a three-foot-high carved wooden weathervane (right) representing a Prussian dragoon, whose paddles indicated the direction and force of the wind. It was in the Walnut Street house that Albert Lewis began married life, for in 1851 he wed Anne Larcombe, a clergyman’s daughter, and for four years they lived in the third-floor front room (above). It was a happy time for them, for they had glorious afternoons boating on the Schuylkill (opposite), and in 1854 their first child, Alberta, was born (“during an eclipse of the moon!”). But the 1850’s were also a time of change for the Lewises. The China trade had been dwindling, and in 1856 the family firm closed down; Albert Lewis went into banking. His father died in 1858, and later that year the Walnut Street house was sold. Meanwhile, Albert and Anne had moved to their own home.
The house at 325 South Eighteenth Street to which Albert and Anne Lewis moved in 1855 is described in the Lewis album that was written by Anne herself. “Here twenty years of our life were to be passed,” she wrote, “but we thought little of the future then, the present was enough for us…Our new home was of moderate size and plainly built, yet we made it very pretty with but small expenditure.” For her volume, her husband did a painting of the parlor (opposite), also including a piece of the handsome green damask that they used for the curtains, for the furniture coverings, and for inlaid panels below the windows. Anne tells of the birth of their second child, Hermann; of the excitement and anxiety of the Civil War and the sorrow at Lincoln’s death (below); and of the fun the whole family had in the wintertime going out on the horse-drawn trolley cars to ice skate at Eastwick Park. The family lived on Eighteenth Street until 1874.
Late in 1874 the Lewises bought their final home, at Number 1834 Delancey Place. Their children married and moved away, and presently there were grandchildren—for whom these albums were prepared. Anne died in 1898; Albert (below) lived on until 1915. One grandchild, Hildegarde Allen, shown at right in the small photograph, today owns one of the Lewis albums. The little boy beside her, her brother “Fritz,” grew up to cover the family with national distinction. As the great Harper’s Magazine editor, author, and popular historian Frederick Lewis Allen, he wrote about the hectic America of the 1930’s and 40’s (in such famous social histories as Only Yesterday and The Big Change ), much as his grandparents had done about a happy private family in quiet Philadelphia long ago.