Furness Finale: A Tribute After 100 Years

Furness Finale: A Tribute After 100 Years

Dolobran (Courtesy Lower Merion Historical Society)
Dolobran, 1881 (Courtesy Lower Merion Historical Society)

The Friends of Frank Furness Facebook page is lit with tributes to the Philadelphia architect who died 100 years ago today. Furness diehards made the trek to his grave last Sunday. The remains of the civil war veteran and architect were lost until a group seeking to pay tribute to Medal of Honor recipients got in touch with Laurel Hill Cemetery to find him fifteen years ago. A modest military headstone marks the final resting place, but far more impressive monuments, in the form of his masterworks, dot the streetscape of Center City, Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1878 (Courtesy ilovemyarchitect.com)
The fifteen-year-old marker. (Friends of Frank Furness)

But given the choice, what building by Furness would be his greatest monument? Is it the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts? The Venturi-restored Fisher Fine Arts Library at Penn? Or, perhaps one his multi gabled-grand homes, like Dolobran? Or would it be one of the dozens of small, but fanciful homes that animate downtown, or a modest church in South Philly? In one online video, Venturi pantomimes the prayerful bow he makes each time he passes the Academy. Amen.

Fisher Library, 1890 (Courtesy UPenn)