Two 9.5-foot tall decorative urns that were once at Whitemarsh Hall, a former Springfield Township estate known as “the Versailles of America,” were moved from the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Sept. 19 to the entrance of the Free Library of Springfield Township, Hawthorne Lane and Paper Mill Road in Wyndmoor. The museum deaccessioned the urns as part of the renovation and expansion of its West Entrance.
The urns became the property of the Springfield Township Historical Society, which coordinated the fundraising and relocation in partnership with Springfield Township. The township designed and constructed new reinforced concrete foundations for each of the urns at the new Municipal Campus. The urns were moved under the guidance of STHS President Scott Kreilick, and with the assistance of Ambrose Rigging of Montgomeryville. Kreilick Conservation, LLC, is donating its services to conserve the urns. Conservation will include cleaning, consolidation, repairs, documentation of the relocation and design of the winter covers.
According to Kreilick, “Returning the Whitemarsh Hall urns to Springfield Township has been a true community partnership. Many people have contributed to the success of this effort, including PMA staff, township commissioners and staff, and the dedicated volunteers and friends of the Springfield Township Historical Society who raised the funds for this project. I would particularly like to thank Wayne C. Willcox and Ed Zwicker IV for their early involvement and continued support.”
The Georgian estate was located in Wyndmoor. The property included a mansion (completed in 1921) which was designed by architect Horace Trumbauer and landscaped gardens designed by Jacques Greber. The mansion was demolished in 1980. Eva Stotesbury donated a portion of the Whitemarsh Hall sculpture collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art following the death of her husband in 1938.
The donation of 18th-century French sculpture, included the two large urns that were subsequently placed inside the West Entrance of the Museum. It is possible the urns were produced in the workshop of Jules-Édouard Visseaux (1854-1934), whose work was introduced to the Stotesburys by English art dealer Sir Joseph Duveen. Visseaux and his artisans operated out of a studio in the Saint-Ouen district on the northern outskirts of Paris, producing urns, statues and fountains of terra cotta, stone and lead.
Each of the urns is a composite of carved limestone and a cast cementitious material. The decorative frieze of one urn depicts the Greek god Apollo, while the other urn shows marine deities.