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Sep 20 2012

Philadelphia Marks 100th Anniversary Of Frank Furness' Death With Four-Month Celebration Of Architect's Life

“Revolutionary Philly: Making Buildings Out Of His Head” Exhibitions Document Many Aspects Of Visionary’s Life & Career

To mark the 100-year anniversary of famed Philadelphia architect Frank Furness’ death, museums and institutions throughout the city are debuting special exhibitions and events that document many aspects of the visionary architect’s life and career. All part of Revolutionary Philly: Making Buildings Out of His Head, the four-month celebration focuses on Furness’ accomplishments, his influence on other architects, his role in shaping Philadelphia’s streetscapes and his vision behind the design of more than 600 buildings around the nation. Fans of Furness can also admire the architect’s work at some of his landmark buildings still in use throughout Philadelphia and The Countryside®.

Here’s a look at where Furness’ devotees can celebrate the architect’s life this fall or anytime of year:

Exciting Exhibitions:

  • Frank Furness in Uniform 1861-1865 recounts Furness’ career as a military hero. Among the artifacts on display at the Frankford Historical Society is one of the battle lances that Furness’ unit carried into battle in the Civil War and which were later memorialized in Furness’ monument to his regiment at Gettysburg. September 11-October 30. 1507 Orthodox Street, (215) 743-6030,
  • From the archives of the Library Company of Philadelphia, private collectors and other Philadelphia institutions come never-before-exhibited drawings and objects from Furness’ work on railroad stations. Frank Furness: Working on the Railroads traces the architect’s role in molding the identity of the railroad corporations that were shaping the nation and includes artifacts from his design for the Broad Street Station. September 17-April 13. 1314 Locust Street, (215) 546-3181,
  • Furness’ commercial designs are on display in Bank with Frank: The Commercial Architecture of Frank Furness, a digital presentation showcasing one of the architect’s best preserved and most brilliant buildings, the former Centennial Bank, which now serves as headquarters for Drexel University’s alumni offices. September 24-December 17, Mondays between 3:00-7:00 p.m. The Paul Peck Center of Drexel University, 3142 Market Street, (215) 895-2586,
  • As part of an exhibition that compares decades of house designs, rare Wells & Hope plates from Suburban Philadelphia will be the highlight of Frank Furness in Space: The Suburban Architecture at Bryn Mawr College’s Canaday Library. October-mid-December. 101 N. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr, (610) 526-5276,
  • For the first time ever, the complete collection of original drawings created in the design of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) will be on display at PAFA itself. Building a Masterpiece: Frank Furness’ Factory for Art shows original designs by Furness and his partner George Hewitt and traces how they changed and adapted the design throughout the project. September 29-December 30. 118-128 N. Broad Street, (215) 972-7600,
  • Citing an architect’s ability to communicate ideas and values through the creation of buildings, Frank Furness’ father, a minister at the First Unitarian Church, likened his son’s profession to that of a “street preacher.” Still Standing: Frank Furness as Street Preacher uses images of the original Furness-designed First Unitarian Church, as well as some of the leaded glass and furniture Furness designed for the church, one of the most personal projects of his career. October 5-December 14, Wednesdays and Fridays, 1:00-4:00 p.m. or by appointment. 2125 Chestnut Street, (215) 518-8978,
  • Assembled from the collection of The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Frank Furness: Making a Modern Library gives an overview of six Furness libraries on view in his 1891 University of Pennsylvania library. The exhibition traces the evolution of libraries from the 18th century to the present. October 5-January 18. Kroiz Gallery/Architecture Archives, Lower Level, Fisher Fine Arts Library, 220 S. 34th Street, lower level, (215) 898-8323,
  • Influenced by Furness, architect Louis Sullivan brought many of his mentor’s design concepts to Chicago. The Philadelphia Museum of Art recounts that influence in Learning from Frank Furness: Louis Sullivan in 1873, an exhibition that includes drawings and furniture, including an ornamental desk designed by Furness. October 6-December 30. 26th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100,

Furness' Permanent Mark In Philly:

  • Although Furness’ designs were opulent, his grave at Laurel Hill Cemetery is remarkably modest and low-key. The architect’s headstone recounts his military career and Congressional Medal of Honor with scarcely a nod to his status as a legendary architect. 3822 Ridge Avenue, (215) 228-8200,
  • Commissioned by the University of Pennsylvania to design its first library, Furness added many of his signature flourishes to the Fisher Fine Arts Library. Eagle-eyed visitors will note window mottoes and other inscriptions throughout the building, which were chosen by Frank’s older brother Horace Howard, a Shakespearean scholar and prominent member of Penn’s faculty. Guests may visit the library with a valid photo ID, Monday through Friday. 220 S. 34th Street, (215) 898-8325,
  • One of the finest surviving examples of Victorian Gothic architecture in America, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is one of Furness’ masterworks. Outside, the red-and- black-brick-patterned façade is adorned with floral motifs and a bas-relief frieze depicting famous artists of the past. Inside, Furness’ Gothic arches are accented with gold-rosette studded walls and dramatically tiled walls and floors. 118-128 N. Broad Street, (215) 972-7600,
  • In response to a request by family friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frank Furness designed the First Unitarian Church and Parish House, where his father, Reverend William Henry Furness, had served as a minister. Furness included in the design the first Tiffany window in the city and a rust-red hammer-beam ceiling stenciled with gold-leaf daffodils. Exterior viewing any time; interior viewing only during church services and October 5-December 14, Wednesdays and Fridays, 1:00-4:00 p.m. or by appointment. 2125 Chestnut Street, (215) 518-8978,
  • Even among the picturesque buildings along Boathouse Row, the Undine Barge Club stands out, thanks to Furness’ bold shapes and practical function. #13 Boathouse Row along Kelly Drive. Three miles upriver, Furness’ one-and-a-half story Castle Ringstetten serves as the Undine Club House. Marked by its wrap-around porch and leaded glass windows, the building’s main room has been in constant monthly use for club dinners since 1876. (215) 765-9244,
  • Located in the Fox Chase section of Northeast Philadelphia, the three-story Knowlton Mansion, also known as the Rhawn Residence, was designed by Furness for William Rhawn, a Philadelphia banker. After undergoing extensive restoration, this 19th-century country estate is a stunning event space for Conroy Catering. Open by appointment. 8001 Veree Road, (215) 722-8082,
  • One of the few Furness bank buildings still standing, the Centennial Bank was restored by Drexel University and was rededicated as the Paul Peck Alumni Center, complete with a small art gallery. Although the interior has undergone several iterations, the building still boasts Furness’ squat columns, pointed windows and decorative brick patterns. 3142 Market Street, (215) 895-2586
  • The Girard Trust Company Building, now The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia, still includes the elegant lounge designed by Furness. Inside, the stunning 106-year-old dome remains, and outside—inspired by the Parthenon with its traditional classic columns and rounded dome—is a drastic departure from Furness’ usual ornate embellishments. Nine thousand tons of Georgia Marble were used to create the striking 375-foot-tall building. Broad & Chestnut Streets, (215) 523-8000,
  • Built at the height of the Victorian age, the Philadelphia Zoological Gardens, America’s first zoo, welcomes visitors through historic gatehouses designed by Frank Furness. 3400 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 243-1100,
  • In Center City Philadelphia, two private residences are unmistakably Furness. The architect delved deeply into designing the Hockley House, a corner home featuring a two-story shingled conical tower; half timbered and stuccoed bay windows; wrought-iron railings; elaborately shaped chimneys; gabled-roofed dormers; and unconventional brick patterns. 235 S. 21st Street
  • In designing the Horace Jayne House, Furness created an asymmetrical façade and different window designs to delineate the building’s dual purpose with a physician’s office on one side and living quarters on the other. Other notable details include terra-cotta swags and a large oval window with elaborate ornamentation. 318-22 S.19th Street
  • The Furness legacy still thrives throughout the Philadelphia’s suburbs. Built in 1896, All Hallows Church displays Furness’ flair for Gothic architectural elements. 262 Bent Road, Wyncote, (215) 885-1641, Completed in 1897, Merion Cricket Club merges Victorian architecture with Colonial Revival flourishes. 325 Montgomery Avenue, Haverford, (610) 642-5800, Originally built as the Bryn Mawr Hotel, Furness’ five-story chateau-style building has been home to the prestigious Baldwin School for more than 100 years. 701 Montgomery Avenue, Bryn Mawr, (610) 525-2700, Constructed in 1902, the Upper School of the equally renowned Haverford School is also located in a building designed by the firm of Furness, Evans & Co. 450 Lancaster Avenue, Haverford, (610) 642-3020,

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