Carstairs, Thomas



Carstairs, Thomas

Member Number


Last Name


First Name


Birth Date


Where Born

Largo, County Fife, Scotland

Deceased Date


Spouse Name

Sarah Hood Carstairs

Date Elected


Business Address

Lombard bet. 2nd & Front (1785, 1794) Prime


"The Castle" on Delaware near Andalusia for State of
See "references" South side Jewelers' Row
Sansom St. between 7th and 8th Sts.
(Sheet of plans at Library Company)


Tatman & Moss Bio Dictionary Phila. Architects pages 131-132. Was an "Architect and House-Carpenter from Largo, County Fife, Scotland, first noted in Philadelphia when he announced in the "Pennsylvania Packet" (February 5, 1784) that he had "lately arrived in this city from London, (and) begs leave to inform the Public, that he intends to follow his profession in all its various branches. Being regularly bred to it, and well acquainted with all its modern improvements, he flatters himself he will give satisfaction to such gentlemen as please to employ him." That same year -- in what must have been viewed as a considerable breach of etiquette -- he petitioned the Carpenters' Company for membership, but he was not elected until 1788; he then ignored the invitation. In 1789 he received the second prize of five pounds in the Library Hall competition won by William Thornton (q.v.) The only commission that can be firmly attributed to Carstairs is a block of 22 speculative row houses designed for William Sansom and erected on the south side of the newly developed Sansom St. between 7th and 8th Sts., c. 1800-1802, for which a single sheet plan and elevation is preserved at the Library Company of Philadelphia. ("Philadelphia Preserved" page 53.) Carstairs, together with William Williams (q.v.) may be an important link to British neoclassicism in Philadelphia. How quickly Carstairs established himself in Philadelphia is shown in 1793 when Stephen Hallet (q.v.) and James Hoban attacked William Thornton's design for the United States Capitol. President Washington, at his wits' end over the bickering between these three, sent Hallet and Hoban to Philadelphia to meet with Samuel Blodget (q.v.), Superintendent of Public Buildings, and Thornton. Since Blodget also thought Thornton's plan "impracticable," Thornton arrived at the meeting with William Williams and Thomas Carstairs as his advisors. The amateur architect Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson presided over this extraordinary meeting that resulted in some changes in the Thornton plan. Carstairs is listed in the Philadelphia city directories as a house carpenter, 1796-1807, and as a house carpenter and "draugtsman" at 76 S. 8th St. from 1809 to 1819. In 1804 he was elected to the Carpenters' Company and this time signed the articles on January 21, 1805. ----------------------------- In photo file are copies of portraits of Mr. & Mrs. Carstairs provided through the courtesy of the Chester County Historical Society, in West Chester, PA. Both portraits are hanging there. Letter in file dated 1981 from Charles Peterson. Ellen E. Endslowe is the Society's curator and director. ------------------------------ City Directory - 1805 - Thomas, carpenter, 76 South 8th. 1810, 14, 20 - Thomas, carpenter and draughtsman, 76 S. 8th. ----------------------------- Dissertation by Donna J. Rilling, Chapter 4, page 6 In 1815 John Bonsall (who carried on a conveyancing practice) assisted house carpenter Thomas Carstairs in procuring a mortgage of $1,000 for which, in addition to the expense of drawing up the appropriate documents, Carstairs paid the conveyancer nearly $17. page 17 Salesmanship also entered into a house carpenter's (or architect's) visual representations. Thomas Carstairs might have produced his plan for William Sansom's row houses on Sansom Street to impress the merchant with his architectural skills. ----------------------------- "Historian Emeritus Corner" by Charles E. Peterson, July 2, 1997 Maria Thompson, our research assistant for the Robert Smith Project, while working on the records of the ancient State in Schuylkill, the rural men's dinner club, discovered that "The Castle" on the Delaware River near Andalusia was designed by Carstairs. Reproduced here is an engraving from Thompson Westscott, "The Historic Mansions and Buildings of Philadelphia and Some of Their Owners and Occupants," Philadelphia, 1877. We have previously reported that Carstairs, was consulted (along with our better known member Col. William Williams) by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson on the design of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Carstairs had previously designed a house on Market St. for Jefferson -- complete with solarium and an alcove bed that appeared later at his Monticello in Virginia. Carstairs had already won second place in the competition for Library Hall on Fifth St. across from Old City Hall. ------------------------- City Records D.S.B. book #335; filed December 24, 1811; no record of having been satisfied ThomasCarstairs vs. Vincent Ducomb. Claim for $964.21 filed against a certain three story brick house No. 55 Walnut St. between Second & Dock streets in the City of Philadelphia. (for lumber found and provided and labour and services rendered.) ------------------------- Donna Rilling's speech to Carpenters' Company Mention of Carstairs putting up bail money to keep Robert Allison out of debtors' prison, but was eventually unsuccessful. (A tragic end for the man who saved the Liberty Bell from the British army - CGK) ------------------------ Letter from Charles Peterson to Mr. Roach (May 1, 1981) Portraits of Thomas Carstairs and his wife are hanging in the West Chester (PA) Historical Society. ----------------------- City Directory - 1830 - Thomas Carstairs, 31 Lombard St. ------------------------ Managing Committee Minutes-1784-3-68 Petition of Thomas Carstairs to be admitted as a member of the Company. Managing Committee Minutes-1785-3-86 The consideration of Thomas Carstairs applicant caused a debate that ended in a question: At what time shall foreigners be eligible to be chosen as members of this Company? Managing Committee Minutes-1790-4-44 Thomas Carstairs not considered a member. Managing Committee Minutes-1789-4-36 Matthias Sadler is desired to acquaint Thomas Carstairs that unless he pays his entrance money and signs our articles before the next meeting he will not be considered a member. Managing Committee Minutes-1790-4-44 Thomas Carstairs not considered a member. Managing Committee Minutes-1804-9-70 William Roberts proposed Thomas Carstairs

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