Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Manor House (Phi Sigma Sigma House)

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Institution Name: Widener University
Original/Historic Place Name: "The Louise" Residence of Jonathan Edwards Woodbridge Family
Location on Campus: 1325 Potter St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1887original construction Woodbridge, Jonathan Edwards
Designer: Jonathan Edwards Woodbridge
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: stone
Walls: brick
Roof: standard shingle (originally slate)
 
Function:
ca. 1887-1970private residence
ca. 1970residence hall (women)
ca. 2004-present (2006)Greek letter society (Phi Sigma Sigma sorority house)
 

Narrative:
Designed and built in 1888 by Jonathan Edwards Woodbridge, a naval architect and hero in the Confederate Army, "The Louise" was a wedding gift to his wife, Louise DeShong Woodbridge. It became their residence and one of the most notable in the area. Modeled after the late nineteenth-century English country manor, the building was unusual in that it was constructed entirely of hand-made brick, unlike many local dwellings which were mostly made of stone. Its combination of both leaded-glass and stained-glass windows, numerous fireplaces, and Tiffany chandeliers generated much interest and curiosity among the city's social elite at the turn of the century.

Louise DeShong Woodbridge was the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Chester's history. She was in her own right a philanthropist whose lifelong mission was to make Chester a cultural flower that would rival Philadelphia. She succeeded by introducing theatres, opera houses, museums, and various clubs and organizations to bring the arts and culture to her beloved community. Her husband was a very successful and highly productive naval architect who had come to Chester from Richmond, Virginia, after the end of the "War of Northern Aggression." He had served under General "Stonewall" Jackson, having been recruited from Virginia Military Institute. Woodbridge was later made an honorary President of VMI in his later years. It is also said that he rescued the Confederate flag and restored it to its glorious place in Richmond. He worked for the John Roach Shipyard designing iron-clad ships for the United States Navy as well as for other countries. Chester was known as the shipbuilding capital of the United States for nearly one hundred years spanning the 19th and 20th centuries. The social and business history of Chester is rich in part because of the Woodbridge family.

"The Louise" was eventually given to the city as a home for young women. During the 1970s Widener University purchased the property and has used it as a student residence since. Today, it is the home of the Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority.
 

References:

Ashmead, Henry Graham. History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, PA: L. H. Evans and Company, 1884.

Who's Who in Delaware County. Pennsylvania: [s.n.?], 1926.

Chester (PA) Times (Delaware County Daily Times).

 

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Last update: November 2006