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Julian Abele / Jones-Abele-Cook Family Tree

Julian Francis Abele (1881-1950) was the last and best of America-trained beaux arts architects of the Progressive Era. He designed over 100 cut stone buildings as senior designer for the Office of Horace Trumbauer in Philadelphia. Abele considered himself a Francophile and artistê beyond racial classification the embodiment of W.E.B. DuBois’ “double consciousness an American, a Negro, two souls, two thoughts, two unconscious stirrings, two warring ideals in one dark body."

Julian was wellborn April 21, 1881 to an Olde Philadelphia family that can trace their presence in Penn’s “greene country town” back more than 200 years. Julian’s father Charles Abele fought for Emancipation, was wounded and received a coveted patronage job at Strictland’s Second Bank of the United States. Julian’s mother Adelaide Jones Abele was a milliner and collateral relative of Absalom Jones the first of his race in 1804, priested into the Episcopal Diocese of Philadelphia.

Julian was the ninth of eleven siblings. In 1893, he enrolled at the Institute for Colored Youth (ICY) the oldest, colored, preparatory school in America founded in 1852 by the Society of Friends. In 1897, Julian graduated and won the $25 prize for the senior who scored the highest on the mathematics test.

In October 1897, Julian was admitted to the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art. The museum’s industrial art school was a synthesis of a fine art museum and art school. The umbilical relationship between the museum and art school was a concept imported from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Julian graduated June 9, 1898 with a Certificate in Architectural Drawing the first of his race to do so.

In the fall of 1898, Julian was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture. The faculty taught architecture not as a science but as a fine art in l’espirit des Ėcole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Julian’s matriculation was filled with first placements in juried competitions and honors such as winning the Arthur Spayde Brooke Prize for Third Years who distinguished themselves in architectural design and in his Fourth Year being elected president of the prestigious Architectural Society. On June 18, 1902, Julian became the first of his race to graduate with a B.S. degree in Architecture and only the third in the U.S.

In the fall of 1902, Julian passed the entrance exam to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The Academy was the first in America in 1805, to offer Architectural Drawing. On May 30, 1903, Julian received a Certificate of Completion in Architectural Drawing once again becoming the first of his race to do so. Julian was now the most formally educated architect in all of America.

In the summer of 1906, Professor-In-Charge of Penn’s School of Architecture Warren Powers Laird and Julian’s mentor submitted Julian’s portfolio to Horace Trumbauer who had his own 10-person architectural office inside Philadelphia’s first high-rise, office building the Land Title Building by D.H. Burnham & Co. of Chicago. Trumbauer hired Abele as a junior architect. One year later he promoted Abele to senior designer. Abele was singularly responsible for the “look” for all cut stone buildings created by the Office of Horace Trumbauer. Atypical for senior designers Abele spent his entire career from 1906-1950 with Trumbauer’s office. His catalogue raisonnê includes over 100 buildings; 21 listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Julian Francis Abele, alone in the Rocco style parlor of his south Philadelphia townhouse was felled by a fatal heart attack on April 18, 1950 three days shy of his birthday.