(b Dalkeith, Lothian, Scotland, 1722; d Philadelphia, PA, 11 Feb 1777), architect of Scottish birth. Arriving in Philadelphia c. 1749, with a house carpenter's training possibly acquired under William Adam (1689–1748) at Dalkeith Park, Smith soon became the leading craftsman–architect in the city, where in 1752–4, as principal carpenter, his first major work was the construction of the spire of Christ Church (freely modeled on the spire of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, by James Gibbs (1682–1754)). From 1758 to 1761 he was in charge, as “City house carpenter,” of the construction of St Peter's, Philadelphia, and in 1766 of the construction of the Zion Lutheran Church there (destr. 1869), apparently one of the largest churches in North America at the time. Smith's secular works included Nassau Hall (1754–6), Princeton, which was designed in collaboration with Dr. William Shippen; Carpenters' Hall (designed 1768, executed 1770–73), Philadelphia; the Public Hospital for the Insane (1770–3; destr.), Williamsburg, VA, which he designed but did not build; and the Walnut Street Prison (1773–6; destr. 1836), Philadelphia, which was his biggest commission and which he both designed and built. In 1764 Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) was his client for a house (destr. 1812) off Market Street, Philadelphia. In 1776, working as a military engineer, he designed chevaux-de-frise for obstructing the navigation of the Delaware River. With his sound Scottish training, supplemented by the “Sundrey Books of Architecture” that he is recorded as owning at his death, Smith represented the late Colonial craftsman–architect at his scarcely original, but extremely competent best.
From The Grove Encyclopedia of American Art in Oxford Reference.