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
Design And Density Problems Plague Boyd Project

Design And Density Problems Plague Boyd Project

May 29, 2015  |  Developing Challenges, Vantage

Pearl Properties' latest plans for 1900 Chestnut Street and the Boyd Theater were unanimously voted down on Tuesday by the Architecture Committee of the Philadelphia Historical Commission amid a room full of applause. Contributor and in-house urbanist Stephen Stofka takes a look at the unsavory design and where the firm keeps getting it wrong > more

Papal Visit To Be Commemorated With North Philly Mural

Papal Visit To Be Commemorated With North Philly Mural

May 29, 2015  |  Morning Blend

Mural Arts Program teams up with the World Meeting of Families, Germantown preservationists reach settlement in Wissahickon Playground case, SEPTA announces major purchase, and scenes from the N3RD St Farmers Market > more

Demolition Of Tourison's Hall In Mt. Airy Begins

Demolition Of Tourison’s Hall In Mt. Airy Begins

May 28, 2015  |  Morning Blend

Century-old building in Mt. Airy being replaced with mixed use, Historical Commission committee stands for retention of neon lighting for PSFS Building, and advocating for more solar energy > more

Social Entrepreneurs Wake Up Lower Walnut Street With Social Design Cafe

Social Entrepreneurs Wake Up Lower Walnut Street With Social Design Cafe

May 27, 2015  |  Walk the Walk

FRIEDA for generations, a socially-minded startup company, is carving out a home inside the long vacant Maryland Casualty Company office at Walnut Place in Society Hill. Joseph Brin profiles the organization's forthcoming cafe that aims to combine coffee talk, intergenerational networking, and local design > more

Mutually Beneficial Rivalry Coming To East Market Street

Mutually Beneficial Rivalry Coming To East Market Street

May 27, 2015  |  Morning Blend

The Gallery and East Market as more than the sum of their competing parts, the history of Ridge Ave, undercounting the transit constituency, and tracking a half-century of intra-Commonwealth migration > more

The Lost Backstreet Of The Bellevue Court Building

The Lost Backstreet Of The Bellevue Court Building

May 26, 2015  |  The Shadow Knows

The Bellevue Court Building on Walnut Street takes its namesake from a street that was erased in the 1990s by the construction of the Tiffany's & Co. jewelry store. The Shadow takes a walk down the forgotten thoroughfare with the building's beginnings and background > more