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Frank Furness

Frank Heyling Furness (1839 - 1912) was a noted American architect.

Furness was born in Philadelphia. His father, William Furness, was a prominent Unitarian minister, and his brother, Horace Furness, was an outstanding Shakespeare scholar; Furness, however, did not attend a university and apparently did not travel to Europe. He is remembered for his eclectic, often idiosyncratically scaled buildings and for his influence on Louis Sullivan.

Furness began his architectural training in the office of John Fraser, Philadelphia, in the 1850s. He participated in the Beaux-Arts-inspired atelier of Richard Morris Hunt, New York, from 1859 to 1861 and again in 1865. During the Civil War he served as a cavalry officer, receiving a Congressional Medal of Honor—the only American architect to receive this honor.

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 Viollet-le-Duc and John Ruskin. Louis Sullivan worked briefly as a draftsman in Furness’s office, and his use of decorative organic motifs can be traced, at least in part, to Furness.

Following decades of neglect, in which many of his most important buildings were destroyed, there was a revival of interest in Furness’s work in mid-twentieth century. Robert Venturi in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture wrote, not unadmiringly, of the Philadelphia Clearing House: “... it is an almost insane short story of a castle on a city street.”

Some buildings by Furness, all located in Philadelphia: