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View of the Schuylkill River


Watercolor on paper drawing of "View of the Schuylkill River", August 31, 1799, from the Latrobe Sketchbooks, by Benjamin Henry Latrobe. In 1798, Latrobe moved from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His first project was designing the Bank of Philadelphia. Following a series of Yellow Fever epidemics in Philadelphia in the late-1700s, the city sought to improve the quality of the water supply, which at the time was considered the source of the disease. In 1799, he was hired to design the Center Square Waterworks to bring in fresh water from the Schuylkill River into Philadelphia. The system suffered problems and was replaced with another by 1812. The artist described his view in this drawing: "View of the Schuylkill River...looking up the river from a spot on the East shore, a little below the falls. The house on the left hand, behind the lombardy poplar is Mr. Dallas's. That on the back ground on the hill, has just been finished by Mr. Dorsey. The houses on the shore belong to Governor Mifflin's farm [Thomas Mifflin (1744-1800]. To the right of them, a little up the hill, is a hexangular tower, built by Mr. Smith, of Canal eminence. It is called Smith's folly. The Schuylkill River falls over part of a ledge of rocks, reaching quite across the river, which rocks, are the most distant ledge in the drawing. The fall is only of a few feet, and when the river is full, may be easily passed by the boats coming from the upper country.




Watercolor on paper


10.5 x 7 inches

Object ID


Resource ID



Sketchbook 5

Digital Publisher

Digital resource provided by the Maryland Center for History and Culture


This digital image is made available here for private study, scholarship, and research. Commercial and other uses are prohibited without the permission of the Maryland Center for History and Culture. For more information, visit the MCHC’s Reproductions and Permissions web page.