Thomas Procter and the City Tavern
by Charles E. Peterson, FAIA FAPT FSAH, Carpenters' Company Historian Emeritus
As Philadelphia prepared for the Revolutionary War, three buildings were erected for the reception and convenience of out-of-towners: Carpenters' Hall, the City Tavern and the Walnut Street Jail. Two of those were designed by the leading architect-builder, Robert Smith (1722-1777). The City Tavern was constructed by Thomas Procter (footnote) (1739-1806). Both were members of the Carpenters' Company.
Procter was born in Ireland, immigrating to Philadelphia some years before the War. He was apprenticed to architect-builder Thomas Nevell (1721-1797) and was elected to membership in the Carpenters' Company in 1772. National Park Service Architect Penelope Hartshorne Batcheler in her Historic Structure Report (1973) relates how the site for the Tavern was acquired from Samuel Powel in 1771 and the building itself erected under the direction of a group of seven trustees — all prominent Philadelphia citizens. Procter had experience with Nevell the designer and builder of the elegant country seat Mount Pleasant on the Schuylkill River and therefore seems qualified to work on the fine new City Tavern.
On the outbreak of War Procter was commissioned a captain of artillery and served on the heroic defense of Mud Island (later Fort Mifflin). Through the years he rose to the rank of Major General. Finally in 1785 to Philadelphia County Sheriff and City Lieutenant in 1790. He died March 16, 1806 and was buried with military and masonic honors at St. Paul's Episcopal Church at Third Street below Walnut.
John Adams, a delegate from Massachusetts to the First Continental Congress, called the City Tavern "the most genteel one in America." In its Long Room on the second floor Congress celebrated the Fourth of July.
The present structure was modeled on a William Russell Birch engraving following a detailed report by Penelope Hartshorne Batcheler who prepared restoration design drawings. Working drawings came from the office of John Dickey FAIA of Media. Furnishing plans were devised by Constance V. Hershey.
The Tavern was opened to the public in 1981 and continues to offer food and drink in the Colonial style under a concession from the Independence National Historical Park.
Footnote: Procters' name is often spelled Proctor but we have taken it from his signature.