"Contosta evinces in this book a genuine and unforced affection for his subjects, which comes through in the pages of this well-illustrated and informative volume."—Pennsylvania Magazine of History and BiographyThree generations of the Houston-Woodward family, one of the wealthiest and most influential in Philadelphia, have been leaders in politics, diplomacy, suburban planning, housing reform, land conservation, and historic preservation.
In A Philadelphia Family, David Contosta analyzes the impact the Houstons and Woodwards have had economically, politically, and demographically on Philadelphia, a city known for its reserved and private leading families. The story of the Houston and Woodward families' continuing public service offers a unique perspective on Philadelphia history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Family founder Henry Howard Houston (1820-1895) was one of America's greatest post-Civil War entrepreneurs, a top executive of the Pennsylvania Railroad as well as a leading speculator in oil, mining, and other railroad ventures. Houston created a unique, planned suburb in Chestnut Hill, which his son Samuel and son-in-law George Woodward maintained and expanded in the twentieth century. Woodward, in particular, became an energetic crusader for housing reform.
Other family members have distinguished themselves in government service and charitable work. Stanley Woodward served in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, George Woodward was a state senator for 30 years, and Lawrence M. C. Smith was founder and owner of a prominent classical music station in Philadelphia.
David R. Contosta is Professor and Chair in the Department of History at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. He is the author of America in the Twentieth Century and Henry Adams and the American Experiment.