Clarence Howard Clark, Sr.

Clarence Howard Clark, Sr.

Clarence Howard Clark, Sr. (April 19, 1833 – 1906) was an influential banker, land owner, and developer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[1] In 1916, ten years after his death, the New York Times called him one of the city's "most prominent men of his day."[2]



Clark was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on April 19, 1833, to Sarah Crawford Dodge and Enoch White Clark. The family moved to Boston that same year, where Enoch, a financier, incurred substantial debts. They then moved to Philadelphia in January 1837, where Enoch and his brother-in-law, Edward Dodge, founded the banking firm E. W. Clark & Co. later that year.[3]

That firm did well, earning enough to pay off the debts in seven years, then to propel the Clarks to a place among the city's wealthiest families.[4] The firm opened branches in New York, St. Louis, and New Orleans, and made considerable money performing domestic exchanges in the wake of the 1836 revocation of the charter of the Second Bank of the United States and the Panic of 1837. The elder Clark died in 1856 of complications of nicotine poisoning.[5] The firm went on to control many public utility and railroad properties.[6]

In 1854, Clarence Clark joined the family firm. The firm was dissolved on December 31, 1857, and reformed the following day with these partners: Clark, his older brother Edward White Clark, Frederick J. Kimball, and H. H. Wainwright.[7]

Clark was instrumental in developing West Philadelphia,[1] which was transformed over the 19th century from an area of farmland and light industry to a streetcar suburb. Clark bought land from various sellers, including Nathaniel Browne, a lawyer and landowner who had developed West Philly's first residential blocks in the 1850s.[8] Among his partners in development were William S. Kimball and a man named McKlosky.[1] At one point, he owned "the ground from 42nd to 43rd Street, Walnut to Pine".[9]

He moved to West Philly in the early 1860s, and built a mansion named Chestnutwold at 4200 Locust Street. It occupied a full city block on the southwest corner of 42nd Street, with parklike grounds open to the public and a private art gallery. He built up a large library, and had it meticulously catalogued in two volumes.[10][11]

His was not the only millionaire's house set among what one historian called a "crazy quilt of farms and estates, crisscrossed by free-running creeks"; the Drexels owned several houses at 39th and Locust and the Potts family had a brick mansion at 3905 Spruce.[12]

As a developer, Clark took the rowhouse form that was becoming the standard dwelling and altered it by moving the buildings some 20 feet back from the street on their lots. His first example is the 4000 block of Locust Street.[13]

In 1862, Clark helped found the Union League of Philadelphia, a patriotic society that survives today as a city club.[14]

By the end of the American Civil War, Clark was president of the chartered First National Bank. In 1867, he had John McArthur design a new building for this bank.

In 1876, Clark helped found the Centennial National Bank,[10] chartered on January 19 to be the “financial agent of the board at the Centennial Exhibition, receiving and accounting for daily receipts, changing foreign moneys into current funds, etc.", according to a January 22 piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The bank commissioned architect Frank Furness to design its headquarters building, which opened in April on the southeast corner of Market Street and 32nd Street, across from the Pennsylvania Railroad station. A branch office operated during the Centennial on the fairgrounds.[15] Among other activities, the bank financed various West Philly development efforts.[1]

In 1881, Clark helped E.W. Clark and Co. acquire the 11-year-old Atlantic, Mississippi & Ohio Railroad, renaming it the Norfolk & Western Railway and taking a seat on the board of directors.

He was an active Unitarian, 14th president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and a member of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania.

He donated several acres of land that became West Philadelphia's Clark Park, and land for the Walnut Street West branch of the Philadelphia Free Library.[1]

Clark died on March 6, 1906.


Clark married Amie Hampton Wescott and they had at least one son, Clarence Howard Clark, Jr.; Amie died in 1870 during childbirth. In 1873, he married Marie Motley Davis and they had a son, Charles.

Clarence Jr. followed his father into his grandfather's business, hiring on as a clerk with E.W. Clark & Co. in 1879 and becoming a partner in 1885. He was admitted to the Philadelphia Stock Exchange in 1888 and served for 10 years as president of the Centennial National Bank.[6] Clark Jr. built his own West Philly mansion near his father's house, at 4220 Spruce Street, on the southwest corner of 42nd Street.

He died of "a stroke of apoplexy" on January 10, 1916, at the Pineland Country Club in Mullins, South Carolina[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e Grubel, Matthew (2008). [ "The Building of West Philadelphia: An Historical Survey of Suburban Architecture: Who's Who"]. West Philadelphia Community History Center. University Archives of the University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2010-09-23. 
  2. ^ a b "C. Howard Clark Dead. Philadelphia Banker and Yachtsman Expires at the Pipeland Club". New York Times. January 11, 1916. Retrieved 2010-09-23. "C. Howard Clark, banker, hunter, and yachtsman, died at the Pineland Club in Garnett, S.C. last night of a stroke of apoplexy. Mr. Clark, vho was 54 years old, lived in Devon. He was a member of the banking firm of E. W. Clark & Co. ..." 
  3. ^ "Enoch W. Clark". The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Retrieved 2010-12-08. "Clark, Enoch W., banker, was born in East Hampton, Mass., Nov. 16, 1802, a descendant of Capt. William Clark, who came from England in 1630, and removed to the town of East Hampton in 1639. At the age of sixteen our subject removed to Philadelphia, and entered the office of S.tfc M. Allen, one of the leading financial houses, with main offices in Philadelphia and New York, and branches in Charleston, Louisville, Albany, and other cities. ..." 
  4. ^ Vitiello, Dominic; George E. Thomas (2010). The Philadelphia Stock Exchange and the City It Made. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 93. Retrieved December 8, 2010. 
  5. ^ History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884, Volume 3
  6. ^ a b "Obituary". Electric railway journal. 1916. "Clarence Howard Clark, Jr., president of the Centennial National Bank, Philadelphia, Pa., and a member of the firm of E. W. Clark & Company of that city, bankers, died near Garnett, S. C, on Jan. 9. Mr. Clark was fifty-four years old. He entered the employ of E. W. Clark & Company in 1879, who control many public utility properties, as a clerk and became partner in 1885. For ten years he had served as president of the Centennial National Bank." 
  7. ^ Memorial history of the city of Philadelphia, from its first settlement to year 1895
  8. ^
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ Pinsker on Spruce Hill. Chestnutwold was torn down to make room for the Episcopal Divinity School, which was built in 1926.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Spruce Hill Historic District: Statement of Significance
  14. ^ Chronicle of the Union league of Philadelphia. 1862-1902
  15. ^ Centennial National Bank

External links

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