Built in 1898, the Victorian twin house was designed by former Philadelphia architect Horace W. Castor. It is one of the oldest and most significant buildings in Northeast Philadelphia. On March 14, 2017, this property was designated as Historical by the Historical Commission of Philadelphia and was listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.
A New Beginning
The former Castor House now has a new story to tell.
As its existence spans almost the entire history of Chinese American immigrants, the historical house becomes an ideal place to carry the history and culture of the Chinese American people.
Being an important part of the “Philadelphia Second Chinatown” plan, the establishment of the American Chinese museum not only demonstrates the determination of the Chinese residents of Philadelphia to pursue their cultural, social, and economic advancement, but also reflects their will and dedication to connect, share, inspire and, build America, together with other American people.
Philadelphia Architect Horace William Castor (1870–1966)
The Castor family’s roots in America can be traced back to 1736 when their ancestor Hans Gerster (changed to Castor) immigrated from Switzerland to Philadelphia.
Multiple generations of the Castor family have played an important role in Philadelphia affairs and Horace William Castor, standing out as a famous architect, also contributed prominently to the life of the city of Philadelphia.
In 1890, Mr. Castor established the architectural firm of Sterns & Castor in the Frankford section of Philadelphia, with partner George Robinson Sterns, who was then Director of public works for the city of Philadelphia. Their firm subsequently came to Philadelphia establishing offices in The Bourse, and later in the Stephen Girard Building. After their partnership dissolved in 1916, Mr. Castor stayed in the same building and continued to practice as an architect under his own name.
In 1930, he moved to the Architects Building where he started to have his own professional offices.
Mr. Castor has designed numerous schools, more than forty churches, including
- Churches in China and Mexico City;
- Institutional buildings for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania;
- The Administration Building for the city of Philadelphia, at the Municipal Airport;
- The Hackenburg and Fridenberg Memorial Buildings at the Jewish Hospital;
- Groups of buildings for the Methodist Hospital;
- The Baptist Home of Philadelphia;
- And many classes of buildings for The Autocar Company in fourteen different states and twenty cities.
Aside from his position of leadership in the architectural profession, Mr. Castor was interested in public affairs, as he served for about six years as a public school director in the Thirty-fifth Ward of the city.
Mr. Castor himself was also active in a large number of professional, cultural, and beneficial societies, among them
- the Union League,
- the Manufacturers Golf and Country Club,
- the American Institute of Architects,
- trustee of the Pennington School for Boys in Pennington, New Jersey;
- director of the Cedar Hill Cemetery Company, of Frankford;
- vice-president of the Historical Society of Frankford;
- member of the membership committee of the Pennsylvania Society Sons of the Revolution;
- chairman of the publication committee of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society.
Along with all his other activities, Mr. Castor took a deep interest in fraternal affairs, being associated with all branches of the Free and Accepted Masons. Including
- Radiant Star Lodge, No. 606, in which he had been a member since 1897;
- Melita Chapter, No. 84, Royal Arch Masons;
- Mary Commandery, No. 36, Knights Templar;
- Philadelphia Consistory, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, in which he held the thirty-second degree;
- Lu Lu Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine;
- he was also a member of Oxford Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, since 1891.
- he was a member of the Methodist Church.
“Horace William Castor family papers”, The Philadelphia Area Archives Research Portal (PAARP), December 17, 2021.