Julian Francis Abele

In honor of Black History Month I want to introduce you guys to some of my favorite champions in history. Their accomplishments are great for any person regardless of their color...but lets celebrate that pioneers well ahead of their time, working hard to show the world that race does not determine your intellect, color does not determine your future, and that chains are made to be broken.

One of my favorite people in history to study is Julian Frances Abele. Last summer I visited The Philadelphia Museum of Art and was blown away by its beauty, bigness, and gilded age charm.

While there I learned a lot about its architect, Julian Frances Abele--a champion of an architecture and the chief architect on a number of impressive projects through out the United States that I also hope to visit some day. He was known among the "cadre of Gilded Age architects who favored not originality, but the interpretation of historic precedence." (Wilson, 3)

Julian F. Abele was discovered by the famous Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer of Horace Trumbauer & Associates in 1903. Trumbauer was known for discovering young talent on their way out of school, employing them and rewarding them greatly for their accomplishments and team work. Trumbauer was known for saying "I hire my brains," showing an attitude of tolerance within the business world decades beyond his time. (Duke Online Archives) Trumbauer didn't care about color, he cared about brains, business, and the making of a firm that would be remembered for its landmarks within the community and not the men who designed them. 

Abele graduated from the University of Pennsylvania as the first black architect student and was discovered by Trumbauer when some of his school work came across Trumbauers desk. Trumbauer soon sent Abele to Paris to study further at the Ecole Des Beaux Arts School (1903) in Paris. There is no record of Abele in the class lists in Paris but many speculate that he just attended the classes and then headed home in 1906. Upon his return he started at Trumbauer's firm as an assistant to the chief designer, Frank Seeburger, who he replaced in 1909 when the chief designer left to start his owns firm. (Tifft, "Out of the Shadows")

As chief designer, Abele designed many incredible buildings; his most famous being The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Free Library & Philadelphia Stock Exchange in Philadelphia Pennsylvania; the Duke Chapel in Durham North Carolina, Widener Memorial Library in Cambridge Mass.; and mansions such as Shadow Lawn in West Long Branch New Jersey, & the James B. Duke mansion in New York City. (Wilson, 3-4)

Born April 30, 1881 to a prominent family in Philadelphia, Abele excelled in math at the Institute for Colored Youth. The youngest of 8 children Julian was not the only won to achieve great things for his time; his older brother was a doctor and two other siblings were successful sign makers. His lineage can also be linked to Absalom Jones--one of the founders of the Free African American Society (1787) in Philadelphia. (Tifft, "Out of the Shadows")

 

Sources:

 Tifft, Susan W. "Out of the Shadows." Smithsonian. February 2005. Accessed February 13, 2016. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/out-of-the-shadows-85569503/. 

 "Julian Abele (1881-1950)." Julian Abele (1881-1950). Accessed February 13, 2016. http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/uarchives/history/articles/abele. 

 Wilson, Dreck Spurlock. African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945. New York: Routledge, 2004.