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La Salle Local History

Mary & Frances Wister House


A large stone house stands on the corner lot at the end of Clarkson Street, east of Wister Street. This house was built in 1868. The property was home to two prominent Victorian women who would make important marks in the fields of historic preservation, women's voting rights, and education. The property was acquired by La Salle College, now La Salle University, and christened the "Mary and Frances Wister Studio" in 1994. 

William Rotch Wister

William Rotch Wister (1827-1911), first born son of Sarah Logan Fisher and William Wister, built a house on Clarkson Avenue in 1868, the year of his marriage to Mary Eustis (1844-1944). The family lived in this home ("The  Mary and Frances Wister Studio") until 1876, when they moved across the street to a new, larger house that would come to be known as "Wister."  The Wisters' second house, 'Wister,' was built in 1876 on the side of Clarkson Avenue opposite from the Arts Studio; 'Wister' was donated to Fairmount Park in 1949 and demolished in 1956.

William Rotch Wister, a very successful businessman, was active in the Philadelphia social scene, and is widely cited as the "Father of American Cricket."  William's and Mary's daughters, Mary Channing and Frances Anne, were born in Germantown and raised at the first property ("The  Mary and Frances Wister Studio"). Both would become prominent women activists in Philadelphia. 

Read an essay on William Rotch Wister in La Salle's Digital Commons

The lives of the Wister family are chronicled in Reminiscences of a Victorian Child, by William and Mary's third daughter, Ella Wister Haines (1879-1969).

Mary Channing Wister

Mary Channing Wister (1870-1913) daughter of William Rotch and Mary Eustis Wister, married second cousin Owen Wister (1860-1938) of "Butler Place" in 1898. She was President of Philadelphia's Equal Franchise Society and the first woman to serve on the Philadelphia School Board.

Read an essay on Mary Channing Wister in La Salle's Digital Commons. 

Frances Anne Wister

Frances Anne Wister (1874-1956), daughter of William Rotch Wister and Mary Eustis, was one of the founders of the Philadelphia Orchestra. She was honored with a Gimbel Award as the Outstanding Woman of Philadelphia, for her founding of the Society for the Preservation of Landmarks.

Read an essay about Frances Anne Wister in La Salle's Digital Commons.