Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Notman
Born: 22 July 1810
Died: 3 March 1865
Bio Notes: John Notman was born on 22 July 1810 at Fernieside, Edinburgh (?Liberton), the son of David Notman, variously described as a builder, stonemason, and quarrymaster. He was a nephew of the clerk-of-works of the same name and the cousin of the Leith architect William Notman. According to a manuscript biography which is now lost Notman studied at 'The School of Arts' probably the Watt Institution one since there is no record of him in the Trustees' Academy Records. While the same biography does not mention Playfair by name, it records that Notman was engaged on 'erecting a castle in the Highlands of Scotland, and afterward… a similar work in the north of Ireland' indicating that he was in the employment of William Henry Playfair as the latter can only refer to Drumbanagher built in 1829-30. Notman and his sister Margaret sailed for America from London in 1831 and arrived in Philadelphia in the autumn. He appears to have been employed as a carpenter at that point, and on 8 February 1832 he applied for American citizenship. He returned to Edinburgh in 1833 or 1834 to bring back his mother, his brother Peter and his sisters Mary and Jane. He was still a carpenter in the Philadelphia directory of 1841 although he had in fact commenced architectural practice designing the Library Company of Philadelphia building and Laurel Hill Cemetery in 1835. In 1841 he married Martha Pullin and moved the family house at 184 South 11th Street to 1430 Spruce Street, which was to be their home until their deaths.

Notman's work in the USA has a markedly Playfair-inspired character. Echoes of Playfair's work at Edinburgh University and of Drumbanagher will be found in his scheme for the Philadelphia Athenaeum; Dunphail in the drawing for a closely similar unidentified villa and in the pyramid roofs of the New Jersey Asylum; and of Donaldson's Hospital in his scheme for the Smithsonian Institute. Other Italianate domestic designs such as Ellarslie relates to such models as Playfair's Dalcrue and his Tudor Gothic design for the Henry Pratt McKean House at Germantown to Playfair's Lurgan.

Notham died in Philadelphia on 3 March 1865 and was buried at Laurel Hill. His wife Martha died in October 1870.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3Fernieside, Liberton?, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate22 July 1810Before 1831Place of birth
Item 2 of 3184, South 11th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of AmericaPrivateAfter 18311841 
Item 3 of 31430, Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of AmericaPrivate1841  

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1William Henry Playfair1829 * Assistant 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Buildings and Designs

This was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 9 Ellarslie  Pennsylvania?United States of America 
Item 2 of 9 Henry Pratt McKean HouseGermantown PennsylvaniaUnited States of America 
Item 3 of 9 New Jersey Asylum  New JerseyUnited States of America 
Item 4 of 9 Philadelphia AthenaeumPhiladelphia PennsylvaniaUnited States of AmericaDesign
Item 5 of 9 Smithsonian Institute  Washington, DCUnited States of AmericaScheme echoing Playfair's Donaldson's Hospital
Item 6 of 9 Unidentified VillaPhiladelphia PennsylvaniaUnited States of America 
Item 7 of 91829Drumbanagher House  County ArmaghNorthern IrelandAssisted Playfair
Item 8 of 91835Laurel Hill CemeteryPhiladelphia PennsylvaniaUnited States of America 
Item 9 of 91835Library Company of Philadelphia Company BuildingPhiladelphia PennsylvaniaUnited States of America 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this :
Item 1 of 1Grieff, Constance M1979John Notman Architect Philadelphia, 1979