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West Chester historic structure makes Top Ten in national challenge

This Place MattersAugust 1, 2011

Washington, DC -- The Lincoln Building, 28 West Market Street, made the Top Ten in THIS PLACE MATTERS 2011 National Challenge sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Thousands of votes were cast in support of this historic downtown structure which brought a great amount of positive attention to the structure.

About the Image
The photograph at right is the Lincoln Building with some of its supporters displaying a This Place Matters sign. It's a requirement if a community is to be considered for the final cut of the challenge. Many thanks to Karen Simmons and Lisa Slawinski at the Chester County Community Foundation for quickly organizing the photo shoot and all the people who posed. Photo by Josh Barker.  

About The Lincoln Building
A Federal-style structure built of brick set in Flemish bond, the Lincoln Building is the only structure in West Chester associated with a United States president. It retains mosts of its original architectural integrity both inside and outside including original bead board and pressed tin ceilings. The upper levels have most of their original wood flooring, stair cases, and one-over-one window casings that still work. Perhaps most important, the Lincoln Building connects us with our heritage of social justice, freedom and unity.

It was built in 1833 by William Everhart (1785-1868), a former Congressman, philanthropist and prominent West Chester resident. Everhart was born in West Vincent Township, the son of a Revolutionary War soldier. He fathered eight children and served as chief burgess (equivalent to mayor) and justice of the peace in West Chester.

Most historians believe that the Lincoln Building was West Chester's first completely commercial office building and one of its tallest, constructed specifically to be rented as offices without residential units.

The Lincoln Connection
In 1860 the building was being rented by The Chester County Times, a weekly Republican newspaper. It was owned by Joseph J. Lewis and Samuel Downing who were strong abolitionists. Early that year they were provided with a three-page handwritten biographical sketch from Abraham Lincoln, which he had prepared at the urging of one of his advisors, Jesse Fell, who was a native of Chester County. Fell had realized Lincoln's need for publicity to introduce himself on the east coast as a prospective presidential candidate and urged him to submit a biographical sketch to the West Chester newspaper.

Lincoln's short humble sketch was used by Joseph Lewis as a basis for the first biography of Lincoln and ran in the Times on February 11, 1860. It was soon republished in some of the leading newspapers on the east coast and portions were used to describe Lincoln for his famous Cooper Union speech in New York City two weeks later. According to Lincoln, the Lewis biography was one of the instrumental items used in securing his nomination for the presidency on May 16 and his eventual election on November 7, 1860. Joseph Lewis was subsequently rewarded by President Lincoln by being named Director of the Internal Revenue during his administration.

The Lincoln Building was purchased by West Chester businessman David Kirby in 1977 in order to save it from proposed demolition. Kirby undertook a meticulous restoration of the building and successfully petitioned for it to be added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. In 1997, Kirby sold the building to the Chester County Community Foundation for use as their offices.

Today, the Chester County Community Foundation works hard to keep the structure is stable and healthy. Due to its age, it is regularly inspected. Today, dozens of items totaling more than $350,000 must be addressed to keep the structure safe and maintain its historic character.

About This Place Matters
This Place Matters National Challenge is sponsored by Fireman's Fund and National Trust Insurance Services. Together they are sponsoring the This Place Matters campaign to highlight the important role that historic buildings and properties play in preserving our national heritage as well as in preserving our environment.

 

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