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JULIAN ABELE, ARCHITECT
AND THE BEAUX ARTS




Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Advantages of Family, Color and Place
Family, color and place advantaged Julian Francis Abele (1881-1950) in his pursuit to become an architect. Julian was well-born into an Olde Philadelphia family that can trace their presence in Penn's grand, religious experiment back more than two centuries. Julian’s great uncle Absalom Jones founded the Free African Society in 1787 the colored race’s first mutual aid society and he was the first of his race ordained an Episcopal priest in 1794. Julian’s grandfather Robert Jones founded Lombard Street Presbyterian Church in 1844 the place of worship for well-to-do, light-skinned, free men of color who were disproportionately artisans. Julian's father Charles Abele fought for Emancipation was wounded and received a coveted patronage job as a clerk at the Second Bank of the United States by Wm. Strictland. Julian’s oldest brother Robert was amongst the first, three, colored graduates of Hahnemann Medical College in 1883, a leader in homeopathic medicine in Philadelphia . Julian’s second oldest brother Joseph was an engineer with the Philadelphia Electric Co. who “passed” in order to remain gainfully employed. Julian’s third oldest brother Charles was a blacksmith who owned his own shop.

Olde Philadelphians were light, bright and damn near white. Skin color thus became a vertical stratification of social class the lighter one’s complexion the higher the class. Julian’s complexion was beige which dissuaded him from attempting Joseph’s charade. Julian was, however, light-skinned enough to make assimilation in art school, university and academy easier.

Accelerated by the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition (1876) the “City of Brotherly Love” became the nation’s mecca for the mechnik arts even above the military academies.

Chapter 2 Institute for Colored Youth
In 1893, Julian followed siblings to Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth the first, public preparatory school in the U.S. for the race founded in 1866 by the Arch Street Meeting House Quakers. The ICY was the school of choice for Olde Philadelphians. Principal Fanny Jackson after addressing the Congress of Representative Women at the Chicago World’s Fair (1893) returned to the “center of Quakerism” determined that someone properly trained in the mechniks would represent the race in the City Beautiful Movement. Her ambition landed foursquare on Julian.

Chapter 3 Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art
In October 1897, Julian was admitted to the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art. The umbilical relationship between the museum and art school was a concept imported from London's Victoria and Albert Museum which was internationally admired for improving the quality of England’s arts and manufactures. A School of Industrial Art under the influence of an internationally renowned arts museum appealed to Julian--a rising Francophile. The 22nd commencement was held June 9, 1898. Julian was the proud recipient of a Certificate in Architectural Drawing the first of his race so honored.

Chapter 4 University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture
In September 1898, Professor-in-Charge Warren Powers Laird admitted Julian to the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture. Julian was drawn to the university because it was the fifth in the U.S. to adopt the techniques of l’Ėcole des Beaux Arts, Paris. At the end of his Third Year Julian was voted by faculty the winner of the Arthur Spayde Brooke Gold Medal whose entire body of work showed the highest excellence. At the beginning of his Fourth Year upperclassmen by secret ballot elected Julian president of the 22-member Architectural Society. On June 18, 1902, Julian was not amongst the Class Day graduation processional because northern de jure racism of the off-campus commencement venue prohibited Negroes. Nevertheless, Julian became the third of his race conferred a baccalaurate degree in Architecture.

Chapter 5 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Le parfait his rendering technique Julian passed the entrance exam to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The PAFA is the oldest art school in the U.S. founded in 1834 by the ridiculously eclectic Rembrandt Peale. Julian signed the Registrar’s ledger October 8, 1902 in the Academy’s 68th year. The Course in Architecture because of Julian was the first, racially integrated one. Classes met Monday-Friday from 5:00-10:00 p.m. Julian received a Certificate of Completion in Architectural Drawing conferred May 30, 1903.

Chapter 6 Philadelphia T-Square Club
Named after the architect’s most versatile instrument the Philadelphia T-Square Club was organized April 9, 1883--the second in America--by 13 esteemed architects and draughtsmen to offer training through drawing competitions and lectures on European monuments, funerary architecture, India ink, charcoal and pencil wash and water color drawing, garden design and mosaics and Saturday afternoon esquisse sessions. Julian had been the sole Negro member since his Third Year at university. Julian Francis Abele’s oeuvre was profoundly influenced by l’Ėcole des Beaux Arts, Paris graduate and America’s leading beaux arts educator and club măitre Paul Philippe Cret.

Chapter 7 North by Northwest
Coming to the financial rescue of sister Elizabeth “Bess” Abele Cook and nephews and niece; Julian stayed out west beyond Mt. McKinley in Spokane, Washington for one year long enough to design his “first” building to be constructed--a Colonial style house (1906) for “Bess”.

Chapter 8 Out of South Philadelphia
A fictional metric of early 20th century neighborhoods which produced the race’s greatest artists would rank south Philadelphia No. 1 ahead of Harlem, Bronzeville in Chicago, Shaw in Washington, D.C. and Smoketown in Pittsburgh. South Philly can lay claim not only to Julian Abele, but also Christianity portraitist Henry Ossawa Tanner, contralto Marian Anderson and sculptor Meta Warrick.

Chapter 9 Office of Horace Trumbauer
Horace Trumbauer was a non-designing architect-businessman who relied on his senior designer to create the “look” of all buildings produced by his 10-person, Philadelphia office. He recruited the crème de la crème of the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture graduates. In 1906, Trumbauer abruptly desegregated his office hiring Abele. He was the first, Negro architect in the U.S. to integrate a white-owned architectural office. One year later Trumbauer promoted Abele to senior designer responsible for the “look” of all cut-stone buildings. Atypically because of his race, Abele spent his entire career from 1906-1950 with the Office of Horace Trumbauer credited with the architectural design of over 100 buildings (26 listed on the National Register of Historic Places).

Chapter 10 Personal Azimuth
After entering the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art at age sixteen in 1897; Julian tossed away his race card while swearing fealty to become a devotee Francophile. He married late at 44 years old to a genuine mademoiselle who had been his piano teacher. Marguerite Buelle expatriated from Paris was the nominal daughter of internationally acclaimed Parisian composer/conductor/teacher Nadia Boulanger—Julian’s new mother-in-law.

Chapter 11 Pennsylvania Museum of Art
The Pennsylvania Museum of Art’s Corinthian style makes it appear as if its construction is coincident with Snowden’s Blacks in Antiquity instead of its contemporaneous construction 1925 A.D. Abele’s name has been bandied about as the architect of the art museum. However flattering it is a miss-attribution. The credit for the architectural design of the art museum will be acknowledged in this chapter.

Chapter 12 “A Great Towering Church”
From 1925 to 1942, Abele designed 39 buildings for “a new university for the Carolinas” on behalf of James Duke, President of the American Tobacco Co. and Southern Power Co. Abele’s accomplishment was more buildings than Ralph Adams Cram designed for Princeton or Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue designed for the University of Chicago or Robert Robinson Taylor designed for Tuskegee. Abele’s feat was all the more remarkable because it was sight unseen he never stepped foot on Duke University’s campus because of race prohibition. The most breath-taking building on campus is the Gothic Perpendicular style Duke University Chapel (1929) designed by Abele. For the first time the story of the Chapel will be told from the perspective of the architect.

Chapter 13 American Institute of Architects-Philadelphia Chapter
On the 36th anniversary of entering the profession in 1942, Abele begrudgingly applied for membership in the American Institute of Architects his profession’s association. His challenge notwithstanding his race was to recruit three endorsers who were dues paying, respected members and willing to endorse a Negro. The criticality of Abele’s endorsers will be examined.

Chapter 14 “In My Father’s House”
On April 23, 1950, Julian alone in his Rocco style parlor felled by a heart attack boarded the “Ship of Zion” and began his journey to discover the veritas of the Bible verse “In my Father’s house there are many mansions were it not so I would have told you”.

Chapter 15 Epilogue
Abele’s rightful place at the apex of America-trained beaux arts architects is not easily achieved despite a catalogue raisonné north of 100 buildings. He shunned personal aggrandizement and was reluctant to promote himself. Abele left behind no writings describing his oeuvre as had Louis Henri Sullivan or John Merven Carreré. In the end Abele’s extant buildings identified in Appendix B: Office of Horace Trumbauer Building List are his most providential architectural statement. Abele was the last and best of the America-trained beaux arts architects.

Endnotes

Bibliography
The first comprehensive (18 pages) bibliography of the Office of Horace Trumbauer.

Appendix A: Jones-Abele-Cook Family Tree

Appendix B: Office of Horace Trumbauer Building List
The first comprehensive Building List of one of the most prominent and prolific architectural offices of the Progressive Era. The Building List includes 622 entries categorized by Client, Address, City, State, Year Built, Building Use and Appellation (if any).

Index