The house at 1920 Spruce Street was part of the development of the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood that began in the 1840s.
1920 Spruce Street is a historically certified structure on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. A French Second Empire style home, it was built ca. 1868-69 by developer Ebenezer Burgess Warren, a director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and a vice president of Hahnemann College.
In 1902-03, G. W. and W. D. Hewitt were hired by third owner Horace Brock to make changes including the addition of the music room, which today serves as The Academy’s theater. The theater features bas-relief on themes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a mosaic inlaid fireplace, carved wooden beams, and seven oil-on-canvas paintings by Ellen Day Hale and Gabrielle de Veaux Clements, students of William Morris Hunt at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
AVA has made its own modifications, the most significant of which was
replacing a makeshift stage, installed in 1938, with a more modern
professional theatre named in honor of AVA’s founder and first
president, Helen Corning Warden. Those renovations, done in 1982-83 by
Otto Sperr Associates,
restored the room to its original dimensions and provided a versatile
chamber theater with good stage lighting, comfortable seating, and
room for a 30-piece orchestra.