Helping our old neighbor, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church

Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

PAFA's Second Building, circa 1850s
PAFA’s Second Building

Many people may not know that PAFA was originally located in another section of Philadelphia. More specifically, in Philadelphia’s Market East neighborhood on Chestnut St. between 10th and 11th streets.

The neighborhood has dramatically changed since the early-mid 19th century but one of our neighbors remains to this day. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was founded in 1823 and still stands at 19 S. 10th Street Philadelphia, PA 19105.

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Recently, the church’s historian/curator Suzanne L. stumbled upon a large painting in the church with a PAFA label on the back. Naturally, she contacted me to facilitate research assistance.

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We didn’t have a lot of information to work from but two historians, Suzanne and I, are better than one! We knew PAFA’s Annual Exhibition (1811-1969) would be the first place to begin our research. The label suggests the painting was at PAFA in April, the month the Annual Exhibitions were usually held.

The painting in question included a baptismal font that was created circa 1856-1857 and donated to the church a few years later in 1859-1860. We were able to date the painting using these details. The painting was not signed so there was no name to search. It did include a monogram but it was a bit difficult to decipher.

We knew the image was an interior of the church, so the title of the painting should include the name of the church, St. Stephen’s. We browsed the Annual Exhibition catalogs and painting registers. After sifting through hundreds of names, titles, and donors, we finally located information that would verify the paintings provenance!

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Just from this one item in the archives’ collection, we were able to verify a number of facts:

  • Titled, Oil Painting, Interior of St. Stephen’s Church, Philadelphia
  • A. Zeno Shindler, artist
  • The painting was registered number 170
  • Annual Exhibition catalog number was 364
  • Painting was for sale for $250, but did not sell and returned to the artist

Armed with this newfound information, Suzanne knew her work was not complete. The next phase of her research was to conduct more research on the artist and figure out how the painting eventually made it to the church since it was never sold at the exhibition.

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