Did Frank Furness Really Design This Center City Home?

It’s a beautiful — and colorful! — house. Does it matter if he didn’t?

2201 St James St

A sizable four-bedroom townhome on 22nd Street between Walnut and Locust has been listed for $1.85 million, and one highlighted feature is the architect: Frank Furness. Well, to be precise, the house was “attributed to Frank Furness,” according to the listing. But did Furness design it?

The association makes sense. The house sits directly across the street from the definitely Furness-designed Morton Henry house. But we didn’t find any documentation confirming that Furness also designed this one, even in “Frank Furness: The Complete Works.” So we asked George E. Thomas, the book’s lead author and an architectural historian who teaches at Penn, about it.


“My sense is that this is in the manner of Furness but a bit too fussy,” he wrote via email. “It has long been attributed but on very flimsy evidence and none of the big details or ideas look right.”

All that aside, the house has windows on three sides, a library, five fireplaces, central air, oak and pine floors, and a redone kitchen. The street is beautiful, and the neighborhood’s great. The rooms are brightly painted. There is a lower level with a separate entrance that offers an additional 1,884 square feet.

And while the new owners may not live in a Frank Furness house, they can always look out the window at the one right across the street.

THE FINE PRINT
Beds: 4
Baths: 2 full, 2 partial
Square feet: 4,842
Price: $1.85 million



Listing:  2201 Saint James St., Philadelphia, PA 19103 

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  • GroJlart Rhaandarite

    That house was built for Charles J. Stille, a historian who was once provost of UPenn, instrumental to the move of the university to what is now University City. He was friends with Frank Furness’ brother, Horace Howard Furness, maybe that’s why the place is attributed to him.

    More about Stille: http://www.archives.upenn.edu/histy/genlhistory/pa_album/ch5.pdf

    He also knew architect Thomas W. Richards, so that might be the designer. Richards designed the first UCity UPenn buildings. He also designed some of the buildings near this house so it just might be one of his.

    • Liz Spikol

      Thanks for the information. Very interesting.