With that mustache, he’d fit right in in Fishtown
This year marks 100 years since the death of famous Philadelphia architect Frank Furness. Furness’ designs were bold and eccentric during his life, and have since become revered not only in Philadelphia, but wherever his designs were produced. He was greatly influenced by the industrial designers of his day, often combining materials in new ways and designing on a scale meant to dazzle and break with the norm. Other famous architects like Louis Sullivan, who studied under Furness, and Frank Lloyd Wright were strongly influenced by his designs. Many of his important buildings, like the University of Pennsylvania Fisher Library and Drexel’s Paul Peck Center, still stand throughout Philadelphia–some housing popular restaurants.
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Vedge, the great savior of the city’s vegans (and carnivores alike), is housed in the historic Tiger Building, a Frank Furness creation on 12th and Locust streets. Underdogs is also housed in the bottom of a Furness building, the Caroline Rogers Houses on South 17th Street, which was built in 1887 but has since been altered. Rex 1516, though not housed in a Furness building, has incorporated paneling and columns from the old Furness Rittenhouse Club into its bar as part of the restaurant’s “faded Southern mansion” motif. An original Furness pot rack from the Rittenhouse Club hangs in the Rex 1516 kitchen.
To celebrate this anniversary exhibits and events are being held all over the city, many organized by Furness scholar George E. Thomas.
On October 27 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. the University of Pennsylvania will be opening its exhibit “Frank Furness: Making a Modern Library” with a gallery talk with Furness and architecture experts in the Fisher Fine Arts Library Reading Room.
November 7 at noon Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, which houses multiple Furness designs, will host “The Poetry of the Present: Undestanding Frank Furness” where George E. Thomas, a Furness scholar, will discuss what about the cultural context allowed Furness to move his designs into the modern world designs we see today. This event will be held in PAFA’s auditorium at 118 N. Broad Street.
The next day, November 8, George E. Thomas will speak again at the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr in a presentation called “Baldwin School’s Frank Furness Masterpiece: Making Architecture in the Age of the Great Machines.”
Honor this great architect by exploring his many creations like the Undine Barge Club on Boathouse Row, the gatehouses at the Philadelphia Zoo, or the First Unitarian Church. Or try channeling your inner designer by eating around Furness designs. Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to build something…or maybe just eat dessert.