Robert Smith: Philly’s Foremost Master Builder

Whether you call Robert Smith a master builder, architect or just a magnificent carpenter, one thing is clear…

If you removed his many stunning Philadelphia buildings – including 8 churches – our city would be far less beautiful and impressive.

As it is, this Scottish immigrant from a family of masons has been called the most important builder/architect in the colonies. But possibly because his last name is so common, he’s simply not that well known today.

Among the 52 projects he created in his 29-year work history, though, are some of Philadelphia’s most important buildings.

Captain Gustavus Conyngham, USN, King George III’s Worst Nightmare

This daring Errol-Flynn-type character terrorized English ships, capturing more vessels than Commodore John Barry and Captain John Paul Jones combined

In my youth, when my family drove to upstate Pennsylvania on summer vacations, I remember noticing the name “Conyngham” on road signs along Route 80 near Luzerne County.

I always wondered about the origin of this strange name. Little did I know it belonged to one of the most important – and now least-known heroes of the Revolutionary War.

Gustavus Conyngham (or Cunningham as some spell it), started the war as a privateer, bringing needed supplies back to the colonies. On March 1, 1777, he received a commission from Benjamin Franklin in Paris signed by John Hancock.