Return to Theatre History on the Web

The Chestnut Street Theatre Reconstructed

Plan Half Plan Elevation East Wing West Wing
About the Reconstruction Accounts Iconography Studies

The construction of Philadelphia's Chestnut Street Theatre commenced in 1792 under the inspiration of Thomas Wignell, the theatre's founder. The Chestnut Street was the first theatre in the United States constructed from the ground up as a professional venue. Designed by John Inigo Richards, it owed much of its character to London's Covent Garden Theatre, which Richards evidently copied to some extent.* Capitalized at $30,000, the building was carried to completion under architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1805.

Minor renovations, repair and maintenance to the building took place almost every summer for the next ten years. Then, during the summer of 1816, work was undertaken to install gas lighting in the theatre. It seems likely that the extant plan and elevation of the theatre, drawn by John Nisbet* and John Clarendon Darley*, were executed at this time, as the plan includes the gas generator as well as the gasometers (gas storage containers.)

Late in 1820, the theatre burned to the ground, perhaps because of arson.


Bear in mind while examining the drawings in this study that the theatre stood at the north west corner of 6th and Chestnut Streets. Thus, when looking at the facade of the building, the viewer is facing north.

To help avoid becoming lost in the computer model of the Chestnut Street Theatre, especially as it appears fragmented on the Web, reference to the plan, a half plan, the elevation and two 3-dimensional sectional views of the building is available as a tool bar at the top of drawing sheets. Use your Web Browser's "BACK" button to return from the reference drawings to the previous page. Otherwise, use the "HOME" button at the upper right corner of the monitor to return to the page you are on now.

Last updated: 03/10/04

© 2004 John R. Wolcott
This site is hosted by VideOccasions, Bellevue WA.