Of the Dorseys of Woodstock and Waverly; Born on the Old Frederick Road, near Woodstock, Anne Arundel County, Maryland. A prominent architect in Philadelphia and Baltimore, John Dorsey was the son of Nathan and Sophia (Owings) Dorsey, and the grandson of Col. John and Honor (Elder) Dorsey originally of St. Paul’s Parish, Baltimore County, Maryland, born ca. 1755. His father was also an accomplished builder, constructing the “main part of the Waverly Mansion (finished 1864),” later the home of 1788 Maryland Governor John Eager Howard. The mansion is currently listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Sometime prior to 1790, Dorsey moved to Philadelphia with his physician brother, Nathan II, and became a notable architect, house builder, and merchant. He served as a member of the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1805. Dorsey was a merchant and “Floorcloth” manufacturer and auctioneer; President of the Philadelphia Premium Society, a group established in 1808, to promote Philadelphia textile manufacturing; a member of the American Philosophical Society; and owner of the “Sugar House” refinery 1792-1803. Elected to the state Senate in October 1804, he was reelected in 1808, but resigned one year into his second term, during fall recess, 1809. He pursued business and construction interests after public service and died on August 24, 1821.
Poulsen’s Daily American Adverser
Above is the 90.15 Schlatter-Messchert Mansion
1222 Chestnut St.
[c.1810; Attributed to John Dorsey, architect.]
Mr. Mills designed the block of buildings running from Walnut Street to Locust, and from Ninth to Tenth, which was called " Washington Square." He was the architect of the First Philadelphia Bank, at the southwest corner of Fourth and Chestnut Streets. It is supposed that he designed the Gothic mansion in Chestnut Street, between Twelfth and Thirteenth, once occupied by Dorsey. (Now attributed to Dorsey)
A2. Gothic Mansion, Chesnut Street, 1217 Chestnut Street (built 1809-10, John Dorsey, architect).
Wood engraving by George Gilbert, from The Casket (Philadelphia) 5, no. 10 (October, 1830).
Library Company of Philadelphia.
In 1805, designed the first museum for the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, for Charles Willson Peale and William Rush PAFA: The first building opened to the public in the spring of 1806. Designed by John Dorsey, an amateur architect and a member of PAFA’s board, the building had a domed rotunda about fifty feet in diameter. Over the doorway was a wooden American eagle almost certainly carved by William Rush. This structure was enlarged in 1810 with a north gallery for expanded exhibition space. By 1823 a library and a statue gallery had been added. This structure was almost completely destroyed in a fire in 1845.