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Julian Francis Abele Collection


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Architectural Archives [Contact Us]220 South 34th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19094

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Architectural Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Julian Francis Abele was born in Philadelphia, son of Charles R. and Mary A. Abele. He attended the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art (Certificate in Architectural Drawing, 1898, Frederick Graff Prize, 1898). Abele was the first African-American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Department of Architecture (B.S. in Arch. 1902, Arthur Spayd Brooke Memorial Prize 1902). He was an active member of the University's Architectural Society, and served as its President in 1901-1902. With the encouragement and financial help of successful Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer, he also studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Little evidence is available for his time in Europe. Travel sketches from Italy and France were later exhibited in the T-Square Club Annual Exhibition (1915). Much later in life, he listed travel to England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain on his application for membership in the American Institute of Architects (1942).

Abele entered Trumbauer's office in 1906, quickly rising to the position of chief designer in 1909. Over the next thirty years the firm was responsible for such important institutional commissions as the Philadelphia Museum of Art (with Zantzinger, Borie & Medary), the Free Library of Philadelphia, Harvard University's Widener Library, and the master plan for Duke University. In addition, the firm received over 200 large-scale residential commissions. All public credit for the firm's projects went to Trumbauer and the firm. Abele was unknown to most clients and little known among architects outside of Philadelphia. Following Trumbauer's death in 1938, Abele continued the firm under the name of the "Office of Horace Trumbauer" with partner William O. Frank.

Abele was a highly accomplished draftsman and renderer and may be presumed to have made a great many of the design drawings and renderings for Trumbauer projects. However, drawings produced in Trumbauer's office were consistently unsigned, not even marked with a draftsman's initials. The only surviving drawings that are clearly identified as drawn by Abele himself (as of 2005) are the four travel sketches in this collection.

The collection comprises four watercolor sketches made by Abele during a trip made to Europe between 1902-1906.

Gift of Jeanne Yelcick.

The collection was processed and the finding aid prepared by William Whitaker and Nancy Thorne. Work was substantially completed in 2002, with additions and corrections in 2005.

University of Pennsylvania: Architectural Archives

Collection Inventory

188.1. [Campo and Church of San Vidal from the Grand Canal, Venice], 1902-1906. 1 drawings.
Folder 188.1
Physical Description

1 drawingsWatercolor on wove paper, signed "Abele"

188.2. [Interior of a Chapel with Gilded Mosaics]. 1 drawings.
Folder 188.2
Physical Description

1 drawingsPastel on wove paper, not signed

188.3. [Church from Plaza]. 1 drawings.
Folder 188.3
Physical Description

1 drawingsWatercolor on wove paper, not signed

188.4. [Town in the Cotswolds?]. 1 drawings.
Folder 188.4
Physical Description

1 drawingsWatercolor on wove paper, not signed

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