Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Philadelphia's Frank Furness 100 Years after His Death

Frank Furness, Philadelphia's greatest architect, died 100 years ago today, on 27 June 1912. During a career lasting more than 40 years, Furness designed more than 600 buildings — banks, churches, office building, and private residences — all in his idiosyncratic high Victorian Gothic style: apparently out-of-proportion elements, variegated materials and color, and unmistakenly Furness. Yet at the time of his death, his work was viewed as hopelessly out of style, and today the vast majority of his works have unceremoniously met the wrecking ball.

I, for one, have always admired Furness's work. Indeed, one of Philadelphia's distinctives as America's greatest architectural city is its remaining collection of Furness works, all of which are unique in style to the City of Brotherly Love. In tribute to Furness, I will leave you with a collection of my own photographs of his work as well as pictures of a number of his most lamented lost structures.

Furness's Masterpiece, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,
built 1871-76 (photo by the author)

The Academy in 1900
(Library of Congress Photograph,

Fisher Fine Arts Library, University of Pennsylvania
(1888-91; photos by the author)

Thomas Hockley House, built 1875
(photos by the author)

The Baldwin School, Bryn Mawr, built 1890-91
(photos by author)

The Undine Barge Club, built 1883
(photo by author)

Merion Cricket Club, Haverford, built 1892-96
(photo by author)

Gravers Lane Station, built 1879
(photo by author)

The First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, built 1883-85
(photo by author)

Broad Street Station, expanded 1892-94
(photo @

Provident Life and Trust Company (b. 1879) in 1959,
shortly before its demolition (photo from

National Bank of the Republic, built 1883-84 (demolished)
(photo @

Guarantee Trust and Safe Deposit Company, 1875 (demolished)
(photos @; and

B&O Station, built 1886-88 (demolished)
(photo @

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