Architect John Haviland Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia Pennsylvania
John Haviland was born on 12 December 1792 at Gudenham Manor, near Taunton in Somerset, England. At the age of nineteen, he was apprenticed to London architect James Elmes (1782-1862), for whom he assisted in the preparation of designs for the St. John the Evangelist Chapel in Chichester, Sussex, England. In his dissertation on Haviland, Matthew Baigell suggests that the apprentice probably learned from the elder architect about issues of professionalism, currents in continental design, solving engineering problems, and "integrating the motifs and details of the period styles with the needs of contemporary society." Elmes had constructed an Egyptian-style courthouse with attached prison block on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, and by so doing probably introduced Haviland to trends in prison design. Elmes later distinguished himself as a critic and scholar with such publications as Hints for the Improvement of Prisons (1817).
In 1815, Haviland left England for Russia to visit his aunt and her husband the Count Mordunioff. The young architect hoped his uncle, a minister of the imperial government, could secure him a post in the Corps of Imperial Engineers. Importantly, the Count had befriended eminent prison reformer John Howard during Howard's last visit to Russia in 1790. Albert Van Eyck Gardner suggests that Haviland "doubtless heard from him [the Count] about the famous John Howard whose life had been dedicated to awakening the world to the terrible state of the prisons in Europe." During his visit to Russia, Haviland designed a monument to Howard to be erected in Kherson, the Crimea, where Howard had died while on a tour of area prisons and hospitals. Also in Russia, Haviland met two men who probably convince him to open his practice in Philadelphia: Sir George Von Sontagg and John Quincy Adams (then ambassador to England). Equipped with letters of introduction from both men, Haviland arrived in Philadelphia in September 1816. He established himself as an architect at 26 N. 5th Street and within a year married Mary Von Sontagg Wells, who was Sir George's widowed sister.
1818 was a busy year for John Haviland. He published the first of three volumes of The Builder's assistant, containing the five orders of architecture . .. This work is considered "a landmark event in American neo-classical architecture" as the first American publication to provide a detailed presentation of both Greek and Roman orders. Not only did the Builder's assistant help launch the Greek Revival in America, but it provided practical advice on innovative construction methods like the use of cast iron. Also during this year, Haviland further demonstrated his commitment to professionalism by founding an architectural drawing academy at 7th and Chestnut Streets. Finally, 1818 was the year of his first new construction projects in Philadelphia: a residence for in-law Charles Sontagg and the Cridland Villa in Roxborough.
No doubt the strong reception of The Builder's assistant, his marriage into the Von Sontagg family, and his European training all contributed to Haviland's success. Soon he was competing with architects of national prominence like William Strickland, Robert Mills, and T.U. Walter. In the early 1820's, his designs won a series of significant commissions in Philadelphia: the First Presbyterian Church (1820); Eastern State Penitentiary (1822); St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (1822), now St. George's Greek Orthodox Cathedral); Pennsylvania Institute for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb (1825), now the University of the Arts); and the Franklin Institute (1825), now the Atwater Kent Museum. His designs arranged idealized geometrical forms in symmetrical plans to provide rational answers to contemporary needs. To appeal to American preferences for historic and foreign motifs, the versatile architect often cloaked his designs in the popular styles. His scholarly interpretations of Greek, Roman, Gothic, Egyptian, and Chinese architecture were highly regarded.
Haviland's career took a turn for the worse when he decided to speculate on a few of his own projects at the same time that he was overseeing the construction of his design for the U.S. Naval Hospital in Norfolk, VA. Of special interest among these projects was the impractical Chinese pagoda and Labyrinthine Garden (1828), an amusement park erected at 24th Street and Fairmount Avenue; just three blocks from Eastern State Penitentiary. Haviland erected another example of the architecture of control, this time as a pleasure garden. In two instances of poor judgment, the financially overextended architect was caught substituting cheaper materials (than specified) for the construction of the Philadelphia Arcade and skimming $3000 of federal funds from the Naval Hospital contract. Declaring bankruptcy, Haviland was removed from his post in Norfolk and failed to win any additional federal commissions. His Philadelphia reputation suffered, and he was also removed from several projects in the city (such as the Philadelphia County Prison).
Despite this unfortunate financial episode, Haviland did manage to win several more important commissions in Philadelphia, such as Colonnade Row (1830) and alterations to the Walnut Street Theatre (1827) and State House (1829), now Independence Hall. He was most respected as an architect of prisons. As the battle raged between various penological philosophies in the first half of the 19th century, Haviland's design for Eastern State and the Trenton Penitentiary (1833) gained international attention. His radial plan became synonymous with the "Pennsylvania System" of solitary confinement. Haviland built city, county, and state penitentiaries such as Rhode Island Penitentiary (1834); New York's Halls of Justice and jail, also known as "The Tombs" (1835); and Arkansas Penitentiary (1838). He also entered design competitions for prisons in Canada, Russia, England, and France.
John Haviland died on 28 March 1852 and was buried at St. Andrew's in Philadelphia. He was dedicated to the architectural profession; among his many accomplishments, he was a founder of the Institute of American Architects (forerunner of the American Institute of Architects) in 1835. The Royal Institute of British Architects made him an honorary member, and the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons counted him as one of its members as of May 1835. His publications, in addition to the popular Builder's Assistant, include an 1833 revised edition of Owen Biddle's Young Carpenter's Assistant. In addition to the tremendous publication of his designs and the thousands of international representatives that visited his prisons, Haviland was further immortalized by the construction of prisons on his plan throughout the world.