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Frank H. Furness
Personal Information
Born: November 12, 1839(1839-11-12)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: June 27, 1912 (aged 72)
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
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Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
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Branch: United States Army
Union Army
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Rank: Captain
Service number : {{{servicenumber}}}
Unit: 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry
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Battles: Civil War
Battle of Brandy Station
Battle of Gettysburg
Battle of Trevilian Station
Awards: Medal of Honor
Relations: {{{relations}}}
Other work: {{{otherwork}}}

Frank Heyling Furness (1839–1912) was an acclaimed American architect of the Victorian era. He designed more than 600 buildings, most in the Philadelphia area, and is remembered for his eclectic, muscular, often idiosyncratically-scaled buildings, and for his influence on the Chicago architect Louis Sullivan. Furness was also a Medal of Honor recipient for his bravery during the Civil War.

File:Furness Library 1900 (cropped).jpg

University of Pennsylvania Library, Philadelphia (1891), now the Fisher Fine Arts Library. Photo: 1900.


Reading Room of the Fisher Fine Arts Library, University of Pennsylvania (1891).

Toward the end of his life, his bold style fell out of fashion, and many of his significant works were demolished in the 20th century. Among his most important surviving buildings are the University of Pennsylvania Library (now the Fisher Fine Arts Library), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, all in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Furness was born in Philadelphia on November 12, 1839. His father, William Henry Furness, was a prominent Unitarian minister and abolitionist, and his brother, Horace Howard Furness, became America's outstanding Shakespeare scholar. Frank, however, did not attend a university and apparently did not travel to Europe. He began his architectural training in the office of John Fraser, Philadelphia, in the 1850s. He attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts-inspired atelier of Richard Morris Hunt in New York from 1859 to 1861, and again in 1865, following his military service. Furness considered himself Hunt's apprentice and was influenced by Hunt's dynamic personality and accomplished, elegant buildings. He was also influenced by the architectural concepts of the French engineer Viollet-le-Duc and the British critic John Ruskin.

File:PAFA 1900 from Library of Congress (cropped).jpg

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia (1871-76), Furness & Hewitt.


Exhibition gallery of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1876).

Furness's first commission, Germantown Unitarian Church (1866–67, demolished ca. 1928), was a solo effort, but in 1867 he formed a partnership with Fraser, his former teacher, and George Hewitt, who had worked in the office of John Notman. The trio lasted less than five years, and its major commissions were Rodef Shalom Synagogue (1868–69, demolished) and the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion (1870–75, demolished). Following Fraser's move to Washington, D.C., to become supervising architect for the U.S. Treasury Department, the two younger men formed a partnership in 1871, and soon won the design competition for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1871–76). Louis Sullivan worked briefly as a draftsman for Furness & Hewitt (June - November 1873), and his later use of organic decorative motifs can be traced, at least in part, to Furness. By the beginning of 1876, Furness had broken with Hewitt, and the firm carried only his name. Hewitt and his brother William formed their own firm, G.W. & W.D. Hewitt, and became Furness's biggest competitor. In 1881, Furness promoted his chief draftsman, Allen Evans, to partner (Furness & Evans), and, in 1886, did the same for four other long-time employees.[1] The firm continued under the name Furness, Evans & Company as late as 1932, two decades after its founder's death.[2]


Broad Street Station (Philadelphia) (1892-93, demolished 1953). Furness greatly expanded the Wilson Brothers & Company's 1881 station (right), and designed the Pennsylvania Railroad offices (center). When it opened, this was the world's largest passenger railroad terminal.


The "Chinese Wall", the station's stone viaduct, carried the PRR tracks 10 blocks from Broad Street to the Schuylkill River. Shown is the section beneath the train shed, from 15th to 16th Street. The terra cotta relief sculptures were by Karl Bitter.

Over his 45-year career, Furness designed more than 600 buildings, including banks, office buildings, churches, and synagogues. As chief architect of the Reading Railroad, he designed about 130 stations and industrial buildings. For the Pennsylvania Railroad, he designed the great Broad Street Station (demolished 1953) at Broad and Market Streets in Philadelphia, and, for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the ingenious 24th Street Station (demolished 1963) alongside the Chestnut Street Bridge. He was one of the most highly paid architects of his era, and a founder of the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. His residential buildings included numerous mansions in Philadelphia and its suburbs (especially the Main Line), as well as commissioned houses at the New Jersey seashore, Newport, Rhode Island, Bar Harbor, Maine, Washington, D.C., New York state, and Chicago, Illinois.

Furness designed custom interiors and furniture in collaboration with Philadelphia cabinetmaker Daniel Pabst. Examples are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. Mark-Lee Kirk's set designs for Orson Welles's 1942 film The Magnificent Ambersons seem to be based on Furness's ornate Neo-Grec interiors of the 1870s.[3] A fictional desk designed by Furness is featured in the John Bellairs novel The Mansion in the Mist.

Furness broke from dogmatic adherence to European trends, and juxtaposed styles and elements in a forceful manner. His strong architectural will is seen in the unorthodox way he combined materials: stone, iron, glass, terra cotta, and brick. And his straightforward use of these materials, often in innovative or technologically-advanced ways, reflected Philadelphia's industrial-realist culture of the post–Civil War period.

Furness's independence and modernist Victorian-Gothic style inspired 20th-century architects Louis Kahn and Robert Venturi. Living in Philadelphia and teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, they often visited Furness's Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts—built for the 1876 Centennial—and his University of Pennsylvania Library.

Furness married Fanny Fassit in 1866, and they had four children: Radclyffe, Theodore, James, and Annis Lee. Furness died on June 27, 1912, and is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Military service[]

File:Furness grave.jpg

Furness's grave.

During the Civil War, Furness served as Captain and commander of Company F, 6th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry ("Rush's Lancers"). He received the Medal of Honor for his gallantry at the Battle of Trevilian Station, Virginia, on June 12, 1864, becoming the only American architect to receive this honor.[citation needed] Twenty-five years after fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg, he designed the monument to his regiment on South Cavalry Field:

"In design it is a simple granite block, as massive as a dolmen, but surrounded by a corona of bronze lances that are models of the original lances. ... [T]hey are depicted in a resting position, as if waiting to be seized at any instant and brought into battle. The sense of suspended action before the moment of the battle is all the more potent because it is rendered in stone and metal, making it perpetual. Of the hundreds of monuments at Gettysburg, Furness's is among the most haunting."[4]

Medal of Honor citation[]

Rank and organization: Captain, Company F, 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Place and date: At Trevilian Station, Va., June 12, 1864. Entered service at: Philadelphia, Pa. Birth:------. Date of issue: October 20, 1899.


Voluntarily carried a box of ammunition across an open space swept by the enemy's fire to the relief of an outpost whose ammunition had become almost exhausted, but which was thus enabled to hold its important position.[5]



Provident Life & Trust Company, Philadelphia (1879, demolished 1959-60)

Following decades of neglect, during which many of Furness's most important buildings were demolished, there was a revival of interest in his work in the mid-20th century. The critic Lewis Mumford, tracing the creative forces that had influenced Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, wrote in The Brown Decades (1931): "Frank Furness was the designer of a bold, unabashed, ugly, and yet somehow healthily pregnant architecture."[6]

The architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock, in his comprehensive survey Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (revised 1963), saw beauty in that ugliness:

"[O]f the highest quality, is the intensely personal work of Frank Furness (1839-1912) in Philadelphia. His building for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Broad Street was erected in 1872-76 in preparation for the Centennial Exposition. The exterior has a largeness of scale and a vigor in the detailing that would be notable anywhere, and the galleries are top-lit with exceptional efficiency. Still more original and impressive were his banks, even though they lay quite off the main line of development of commercial architecture in this period. The most extraordinary of these, and Furness's masterpiece, was the Provident Institution in Walnut [sic Chestnut] Street, built as late as 1879. This was most unfortunately demolished in the Philadelphia urban renewal campaign several years ago, but the gigantic and forceful scale of the granite membering alone should have justified its respectful preservation.

No small part of Furness's historical significance lies in the fact that the young Louis Sullivan picked this office - then known as Furness & Hewitt - to work in for a short period after he left Ware's School in Boston. As Sullivan's Autobiography of an Idea testifies, the vitality and originality of Furness meant more to him than what he was taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or later at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris."[7]

File:Furness National Bank of the Republic.jpg

National Bank of the Republic (later Philadelphia Clearing House), Philadelphia (1883-84, demolished).


Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station, Philadelphia (1886-88, demolished 1963). Passengers entered from the Chestnut Street Bridge, 30 feet above grade level, and proceeded down to the B&O's tracks along the Schuylkill River.

Architect and critic Robert Venturi in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966) wrote, not unadmiringly, of the National Bank of the Republic (later the Philadelphia Clearing House):

"The city street facade can provide a type of juxtaposed contradiction that is essentially two-dimensional. Frank Furness' Clearing House, now demolished like many of his best works in Philadelphia, contained an array of violent pressures within a rigid frame. The half-segmental arch, blocked by the submerged tower which, in turn, bisects the facade into a near duality, and the violent adjacencies of rectangles, squares, lunettes, and diagonals of contrasting sizes, compose a building seemingly held up by the buildings next door: it is an almost insane short story of a castle on a city street."[8]

On the occasion of its centennial in 1969, the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects memorialized Furness as its great architect of the past:

"For designing original and bold buildings free of the prevalent Victorian academicism and imitation, buildings of such vigor that the flood of classical traditionalism could not overwhelm them, or him, or his clients ...

For shaping iron and concrete with a sensitive understanding of their particular characteristics that was unique for his time ...

For his significance as innovator-architect along with his contemporaries John Root, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright ...

For his masterworks, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Provident Trust Company, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station, and the University of Pennsylvania Library (now renamed the Furness Building) ...

For his outstanding abilities as draftsman, teacher and inventor ...

For being a founder of the Philadelphia Chapter and of the John Stewardson Memorial Scholarship in Architecture ...

And above all, for creating architecture of imagination, decisive self-reliance, courage, and often great beauty, an architecture which to our eyes and spirits still expresses the unusual personal character, spirit and courage for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery on a Civil War battlefield."[9]

In 1973, the Philadelphia Museum of Art mounted the first retrospective of Furness's work, curated by James F. O'Gorman, George E. Thomas and Hyman Myers. Thomas, Jeffrey A. Cohen and Michael J. Lewis authored Frank Furness: The Complete Works (1991, revised 1996), with an introduction by Robert Venturi. Lewis wrote the first biography: Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind (2001).

Selected architectural works[]


Reliance Insurance Company of Philadelphia (1881-82, demolished 1960).


Emlen Physick house, Cape May, NJ (1879), now Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC).


French Street Station, Wilmington, DE (1908).

Philadelphia buildings[]

  • Northern Savings Fund Society Building, 1871-72.[10]
  • Thomas Hockley house, 1875.
  • Gatehouses, Philadelphia Zoological Gardens, 1875-76.[11]
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1876.
  • Centennial National Bank, 1876 (now Paul Peck Alumni Center, Drexel University).
  • Kensington National Bank, 1877.[12]
  • Knowlton (William H. Rhawn mansion), 1881.
  • Undine Barge Club, 1882-83.[13]
  • First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, 1885.
  • University of Pennsylvania Library, 1891 (now the Anne and Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library).
  • Mortuary Chapel, Mount Sinai Cemetery (Frankford), 1891-92.
  • Horace Jayne house, 1895.[14]
  • Girard Trust Company Building, 1907 (now the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia).[15][16]

Demolished Philadelphia buildings[]

  • Germantown Unitarian Church, 1866-67[17]
  • Rodef Shalom Synagogue, 1868-69.[18]
  • Thomas and H. Pratt McKean townhouses, 1923-25 Walnut St., 1869, demolished 1897 and 1920s.
  • Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, 1870-75.[19]
  • Guarantee Trust and Safe Deposit Company, 1875.[20]
  • Brazilian Section, Main Exhibition Building, Centennial Exposition (1876).
  • Church of the Redeemer for Seamen and their Families, 1878.[21]
  • Provident Life & Trust Company, 1879.[22]
  • Library Company of Philadelphia Building, 1879-80.[23]
  • Reliance Insurance Company Building, 1881-82.[24]
  • National Bank of the Republic (later Philadelphia Clearing House), 1883-84.[25]
  • Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station (24th Street Station), 1886-88.[26]
  • Alexander J. Cassatt townhouse, 202 West Rittenhouse Square, c. 1888.
  • Broad Street Station, Pennsylvania Railroad, 1892-93.[27]
  • Arcade Building and pedestrian bridge to Broad Street Station, 1901-02.[28]

Buildings elsewhere[]

  • Lindenshade (Horace Howard Furness house), Wallingford, PA, 1873 (demolished 1940).[29][30]
  • Fairholme (Fairman Rogers mansion) Carriage House, Newport, Rhode Island, 1874-1875 (now Jean and David W. Wallace Hall, Salve Regina University).[31]
  • J. F. Fryer cottage, Cape May, New Jersey, 1878-79.[32]
  • Emlen Physick house, Cape May, New Jersey, 1879.[33]
  • Wallingford Station, Wallingford, Pennsylvania, c. 1880.
  • Dolobran (Clement A. Griscom mansion), Haverford, Pennsylvania, 1881.[34]
  • St. Michael's Protestant Episcopal Church, Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, 1884-85.[35]
  • Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry (Rush's Lancers) Monument, Gettysburg Battlefield, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1888.[36]
  • Idlewild (Frank Furness house), Idlewild Lane, Media, PA (c. 1888)
  • Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, Elwyn, Pennsylvania, 1889-90.[37]
  • Baldwin School (built as the second Bryn Mawr Hotel), Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, 1890.[38]
  • Church of Our Father, Hull's Cove, Mount Desert Island, Maine, 1890-91.[39]
  • Recitation Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, 1891.[40]
  • New Castle Public Library, New Castle, Delaware, 1892 (now Old Library Museum, New Castle Historical Society).[41]
  • Merion Cricket Club, Haverford, Pennsylvania (Allen Evans, Furness's partner, is credited with the design), 1896-97.[42]
  • All Hallows Church, Wyncote, Pennsylvania, 1897.
  • Haverford School, Haverford, Pennsylvania, 1902.[43]

Three adjacent buildings in Wilmington, Delaware[]

Reputed to be the largest grouping of Furness-designed railroad buildings.

  • Water Street Station, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, ca. 1887.[44]
  • Pennsylvania Railroad Building, 1905.[45]
  • French Street Station (Wilmington Station), Pennsylvania Railroad (now Amtrak), 1908.[46]


See also[]

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[[File:Template:Portal/Images/Default|32x28px|alt=]] Philadelphia portal
  • List of American Civil War Medal of Honor recipients: A–F


  • Lewis, Michael J., Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind, 2001.
  • O'Gorman, James F., et al., The Architecture of Frank Furness. Philadelphia Museum of Art; 1973.
  • Thayer, Preston, The Railroad Designs of Frank Furness: Architecture and Corporate Imagery in the Late Nineteenth Century, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Ph.D. dissertation), 1993.
  • Thomas, George E., Jeffrey A. Cohen & Michael J. Lewis, Frank Furness: The Complete Works. Princeton Architectural Press, revised edition 1996.
  • Venturi, Robert, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. The Museum of Modern Art; 1966.
  • Eric J. Wittenberg (2000). "Captain Frank Furness: Brilliant Architect and Medal of Honor Winner". The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, "Rush's Lancers". Retrieved 2007-05-12. 


  1. James F. O'Gorman, George E. Thomas & Hyman Myers, The Architecture of Frank Furness (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973), pp. 200-03.
  2. Michael J. Lewis, Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 2001), p. 251.
  3. Lewis, p. 108.
  4. Lewis, p. 44.
  5. Wittenberg, 2000.
  6. Lewis Mumford, The Brown Decades: A Study of Arts in America 1865-1895 (New York: 1931), p. 144.
  7. Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1958, revised 1963), pp. 194-95.
  8. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (New York: Museum of Modern Art Papers on Architecture, 1966), pp. 56-57.
  9. Louis I. Kahn was saluted as the Chapter's great architect of the present. AIA 100: Centennial Yearbook (Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, 1970), pp. 12-13.
  10. Northern Savings Fund Society Building at the Historic American Buildings Survey
  11. Philadelphia Zoo Gatehouses at Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
  12. Kensington National Bank at the Historic American Buildings Survey
  13. Undine Barge Club
  14. Horace Jayne house from Flickr
  15. The concept for this building was Furness's, but it was designed by his partner, Allen Evans, along with the New York firm of McKim, Mead and White. George E. Thomas, Jeffrey A. Cohen & Michael J. Lewis, Frank Furness: The Complete Works (Princeton Architectural Press, revised edition 1996), pp. 338-39.
  16. Girard Trust Company at the Historic American Buildings Survey
  17. Unitarian Society of Germantown
  18. Rodef Shalom at National Museum of American Jewish History.
  19. Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion at Bryn Mawr College.
  20. Guarantee Trust Company at Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
  21. Seamen's Church of the Redeemer at the Historic American Buildings Survey
  22. Provident Life & Trust Co. at the Historic American Buildings Survey
  23. Library Company of Philadelphia at Bryn Mawr College.
  24. Reliance Insurance Company Building at the Historic American Buildings Survey
  25. National Bank of the Republic at Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
  26. Baltimore & Ohio Terminal at the Historic American Building Survey
  27. Broad Street Station at the Historic American Buildings Survey
  28. Arcade Building at the Historic American Buildings Survey
  29. Lindenshade at the Historic American Buildings Survey.
  30. Lindenshade after 1885 at Bryn Mawr College.
  31. Jean and David W. Wallace Hall at the Historic Campus Architecture Project
  32. Fryer's Cottage at the Historic American Buildings Survey.
  33. Emlen Physick Estate at the Historic American Buildings Survey
  34. Dolobran at the Historic American Buildings Survey
  35. St. Michael's interior at Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania
  36. 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry Monument from Flickr
  37. Williamson Free School Main Building
  38. Baldwin School at Bryn Mawr College.
  39. Church of Our Father
  40. Recitation Hall from Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
  41. New Castle Library
  42. Merion Cricket Club at the Historic American Buildings Survey.
  43. Haverford School from Township of Lower Merion
  44. B&O Water Street Station at Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
  45. Pennsylvania Building at Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
  46. Wilmington Station at Philadelphia Architects and Buildings

External links[]

fa:فرانک فورنس fr:Frank Furness