Monday, September 10, 2012

Celebrating Frank Furness

On September 17, the Library Company will open its newest exhibition Frank Furness: Working on the Railroads.  The exhibition is funded by the William Penn Foundation as part of a citywide festival celebrating the legacy and innovation of Philadelphia’s most famous architect on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death. 

Furness produced some 1,000 projects and shaped students who would join him in transforming American architecture, such as Louis Sullivan, William Price, and George Howe, whose works would define the skylines of Chicago, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City for the next century.  The methods Furness used have continued to influence the most innovative Philadelphia architects, from Louis Kahn in the 20th century to Robert Venturi at the dawn of the 21st. Close to home, the firm of Furness & Evans served as architect for the Library Company’s Cassatt House, owned by a brother of Mary Cassatt, at 1320 Locust Street.  

Working on the Railroads includes a wide variety of objects from both private and institutional collections. Guest curated by Furness scholar George Thomas, the exhibition brings together architectural drawings, artifacts, original art, and photographs to tell the story of the work Furness undertook for three of the nation’s major railroads, the Philadelphia & Reading, the Baltimore & Ohio, and the Pennsylvania. Thomas and Library Company staff explored nearly 200 commissions.
In these projects Furness began with an understanding of purpose and created imaginative designs that captured the energy of the Industrial Age. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see a model of Philadelphia’s Broad Street Station, salvaged architectural pieces from that station, original plans for other stations designed by Furness, and photographs of many Furness-designed stations that are no longer in existence. 

 “Working on the Railroads” is on view from Monday, September 17, through Friday, April 19, 2013. Join us for our exhibition opening and lecture on Monday, September 24, at 6:00 p.m. George Thomas, architectural and cultural historian, will speak on “Inventing Modern—The Railroad Architecture of Frank Furness.” Please RSVP by visiting or by calling 215-546-3181. Visit for more information about events throughout the city.

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