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Philadelphia architectural firm that originally
             designed and built The Williams Cottage Inn......

Architects and Engineers
Wilson Brothers & Company (fl. 1876-1902)

Established during the Centennial Exposition efforts by Joseph Wilson, John A. Wilson and Frederick Thorn, Wilson Bros. & Co. developed an illustrious practice which combined architectural and engineering projects. Although chiefly remembered for their institutional and commercial projects, Wilson Bros. actually designed all building types, including residences, churches, and resort hotels. Reorganized in 1899 to add younger brother Henry W. Wilson, John McArthur Harris and Howard S. Richards, after Joseph Wilson died in 1902, the firm was succeeded by Wilson, Harris & Richards, later to be Harris & Richards.

Click here for a listing of 278 Wilson Brothers & Company projects

Click here to see a catalogue of works executed

Joseph M. Wilson
Born:  6/20/1838 -  Died:  11/14/1902

Engineer and architect, Joseph M. Wilson  began his career with considerable work for the Pennsylvania Railroad, in whose employ he remained from 1860 to 1876. Wilson had been born in Phoenixville, PA, the son of civil engineer William Hasell Wilson and Jane (Miller) Wilson. He received his education in civil engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, graduating in 1858 and, following a two-year special course in analytical chemistry, began working for the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1876 Wilson's career was irrevocably changed when he was chosen to oversee the design and construction of the main exhibition building and Memorial Hall for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.

Spurred by the recognition and promise of further work, Wilson, his brother John Allston Wilson and Frederick Thorn established the firm of Wilson Bros. & Co. In this endeavor, they were joined by younger brother Henry W. Wilson in 1886. The office continued the railroad design and engineering work in which all three brothers had experience and expanded the building types with which they dealt to include residences, commercial structures, and medical facilities. With the patronage of the Drexel family in Philadelphia, the firm designed not only office buildings, but also the Drexel Institute at 32nd and Market streets in Philadelphia.

Joseph M. Wilson served as president of the Franklin Institute from 1887 to 1893 and wrote numerous articles on scientific and engineering topics.

John A. Wilson
Born:  4/27/1837 - Died:  1/19/1896
One of the founding members of the eminent architectural and engineering firm Wilson Bros. & Co., John A. Wilson was born in Phoenixville, PA, the son of civil engineer William Hasell Wilson. Like his brothers, he graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, and immediately after graduating in 1856 began a distinguished career as an engineer by serving as topographer on the surveys executed for the Honduras Inter-Oceanic Railway in Central America. In 1859 he returned to the United States and began work for the Pennsylvania Railroad Co., also serving as chief engineer for the Junction Railway in Philadelphia from 1861 to 1864. There followed a number of engineering positions with railroad companies. In 1876 he and his brother Joseph established the firm of Wilson Bros. & Co., with which he remained until his death. Throughout his many years with the firm, he worked primarily as an engineer, particularly for those projects related to railroad companies.

Wilson belonged to a number of engineering societies, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of Mining Engineers, and the Engineers' Club of Philadelphia. In addition, he held memberships in the Franklin Institute, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the St. Andrew's Society of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Art Club. He was also a vestryman at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in West Philadelphia.

Henry W. Wilson
Engineer Henry W. Wilson, trained as a civil engineer, was the brother of Joseph and John A. Wilson. He joined the firm of Wilson Bros & Co. as a full partner in 1888.  Henry had graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1864 and then embarked on 10 years as an engineer for several railroad companies, including the Pennsylvania Railroad and the West Pennsylvania Railroad.  In 1876 when Wilson Bros. & Co. was organized, Henry Wilson became a junior partner in the firm, later attaining full partnership.  After his older brother Joseph's death in 1902, Henry continued the firm under the name of John McArthur and Howard S. Richards.  In 1910 Henry W. Wilson withdrew from this firm, but it continued under the aegis of the other two partners.

Henry W. Wilson was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Examples of Wilson Brothers Company Work

Baldwin Hotel
Beach Haven, Ocean County, NJ

Williams Cottage, 1886
Beach Haven, Ocean County, NJ
Client: Dr. Edward H. Williams

Independence National Bank, 1899
430 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA

Iron Bridge Over Susquehanna River

Passenger Station, Pennsylvania Railroad
Ardmore, PA

Memorial Chapel
Beach Haven, Ocean County, NJ

Sea Side Cottage
Beach Haven, Ocean County, NJ

Sea Side Cottage
Beach Haven, Ocean County, NJ

Private Residence
Staten Island, NY

Interior Decoration of Private Residence
Staten Island, NY

Interior Decoration of Private Residence
Staten Island, NY

Stockton Bath Houses
Cape May, NJ

Sagamore Hotel
Green Island, Lake George, NY

Bryn Mawr Hotel
Bryn Mawr, PA

Williams Cottage Inn · 506 South Atlantic Avenue · Beach Haven, NJ 08008
Phone 609 492 7272 · · e-mail: