100 Years Ago Today: Remembering Architect Frank Furness

 

The Furness-designed Fisher Fine Arts Library at the University of Pennsylvania | Photo: Steve Minicola

Today is the 100th anniversary of the passing of one of America’s great architects, Frank Furness.

Architect Frank Furness

“Furness was one of America’s most original architects, the mentor to young Louis Sullivan, and the only architect of note to win the Congressional Medal of Honor — as a cavalry captain in Rush’s Lancers,” wrote Michael J. Lewis, the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art at Williams College, who reminded us of this significant date.

Lewis continued:

“The Furness centenary will be marked with a series of programs this fall, beginning with the dedication of a Pennsylvania State Historic Marker at his birthplace at 1426 Pine Street, Philadelphia. There will be exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, where there will be a two-day symposium on November 30-December 1.

I attach below two poignant obituaries of Furness, who died of bronchitis.

Frank Furness is Dead

Frank Furness, a member of the firm of Furness Evans and Company architects, of Philadelphia died at his home Idlewild Cottage, Media, about 11 o’clock last evening. Mr. Furness was an aged man and had been ill some time. He has resided at the Idlewild Cottage for the last twenty one years and was well known in Philadelphia and Media. He is survived by his widow and several sons. Mr Furness was a veteran of the Civil War. (Chester Times, June 28, 1912, p. 1)

“. . . my younger brother, Frank, died after a tedious wearisome illness so distressing that his release was a blessing. He left a noble record. He served in the cavalry throughout our great civil war, and received the highest honor a soldier in this country can attain to: – a medal from the U. S. Congress at Washington for “distinguished bravery.” Very, very few have ever received it. It stamped him as the bravest of the brave. I am now the last survivor of my father’s family—an unhappy isolation.” Horace Howard Furness, June 29, 1912

Furness designed more than 600 buildings, including banks, office buildings, churches, and synagogues, in his 40 year career. Among his most iconic remaining buildings are the Fisher Fine Arts Library at the University of Pennsylvania and the landmark building at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Facade of the Furness Hewitt Historic Landmark Building at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts | Photo: Dominic Mercier

Click here for some Hidden City stories about Furness.

You may recall that in November, we ran a “Week of Furness” to commemorate the architect’s 172nd birthday. Hidden City contributor GroJLart posted an entertaining rant about Furness and the houses he built for privileged Philadelphians. Nathaniel Popkin unearthed a photo of Furness’s man cave, which was decorated with pelts. Peter Woodall wrote about the most endangered Furness building in the city, 19th Street Baptist Church in South Philadelphia. Paul VanMeter persuaded us that Furness’s buildings are “sexy-ugly”

Furness’s favorite drink was reportedly chilled brandy. Raise a glass tonight in memory of this great architect.

About the author

Hidden City Daily contributing editor Meredith Broussard has written for Harper's, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Slate.com, The Chicago Reader, The Philadelphia City Paper, and Philadelphia magazine. A former features editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, she teaches creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania. Meredith holds a BA from Harvard University and an MFA from Columbia University. Visit her website at meredithbroussard.com.



Comments are closed.

Recent Posts
Taking Back Taney: All-Star Little Leaguers Make Good A Sullied Name

Taking Back Taney: All-Star Little Leaguers Make Good A Sullied Name

August 20, 2014  |  Vantage

Taney Dragon fever is boiling red hot and we couldn't be prouder. Ryan Briggs looks into the name behind the team behind the street behind the gang behind the man. > more

Stay Of Execution For Furness Church On 47th

Stay Of Execution For Furness Church On 47th

August 20, 2014  |  Buzz

The West Philadelphia Church, designed by the firm of Frank Furness, was feared lost this June. But a concerted effort to save it has paid off, sources say > more

Smokin' Joe Almost Ready For Bronzin'

Smokin’ Joe Almost Ready For Bronzin’

August 20, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Boxing champion's memorial statue to be ready for April unveiling, partial building collapse in Queen Village, Roxborough residents question the viability of a Wendy's on Ridge Ave, and a talk tonight on neon signs in Philly > more

In Loft District, Upcoming Restaurant Aims To Bolster A Sense Of Community

In Loft District, Upcoming Restaurant Aims To Bolster A Sense Of Community

August 19, 2014  |  Morning Blend

The Brick & Mortar of a neighborhood, former leaders talk about closed transitional living program, expert says housing boom imminent, Convention Center labor agreement doing the trick, and inside Think Brownstone’s new Center City office > more

Saddle Up! Lacey & Phillips Building May Ride Again

Saddle Up! Lacey & Phillips Building May Ride Again

August 18, 2014  |  The Shadow Knows

The Lacey & Phillips building has sat vacant for the last eight years. With a new owner taking the reigns, there may still be another life in it yet. The Shadow gives us the history; whips, bits, spurs and all. > more

Church’s Commercial Replacement Cheats West Philly Of Appropriate Scale

Church’s Commercial Replacement Cheats West Philly Of Appropriate Scale

August 18, 2014  |  Morning Blend

The design of a one-story commercial development adds insult to injury, Blatstein preparing to demolish McIlhenny facade and dome, the history of the KYW Building, gleaning data in the Wissahickon, and the 12th Financial Empowerment Center opens > more