Frank Furness and the Art Holiday

Art Holiday? What has the Art Holiday got to do with Frank Furness? So who is Frank Furness? I know absolutely nothing about architecture – zero. I grew up in the 1950s, the age of Penn Center downtown. When I got my first job downtown I did a lot of walking and always found myself not interested at all in the building that were being built at that time but some of the old ones were definitely striking. They had character and were interesting. Even when they were dirty and in disrepair they were far more attractive to me then the boxes going up along Market Street.

I later found that Frank Furness was the architect of many of those old interesting buildings. This link will take you to the Wikipedia entry for Frank Furness. A sample of the buildings still standing by Furness are the old Girard Trust bank building, now the Ritz Carleton, Knowltown mansion at Rhawn and Verree, and the Fisher Fine Arts library at the U of Penn.

Frankford was home to at least 2 building by Furness. This is the Philadelphia and Reading railroad depot which was situated on Main Street (Frankford Avenue) about where the PGW office is now. It was a busy spot for a number of years and provided rail service to downtown Philadelphia as well as all points on the Reading system

So what does this have to do with the Art Holiday? Well let’s keep going it should come out here in a minute or two.

The other building that was designed by the Furness firm still stands in Frankford today but is easily overlooked. If you ride down Bridge Street to the Mount Sinai cemetery at Cottage Street you will see a small chapel building just inside the gates. It is a Furness building. Lots of things to see and well worth a walk to have a look.

Now what does this have to do with the Art Holiday? It is remote but the acclaimed 20th century theater designer William Harold Lee was a Furness protege and it was Lee who did some redesign work on a silent film house in the 1930s called the Windsor theater which was later renamed the Ace and ended up as the Art Holiday in Frankford.

It would be nice to see the old Art Holiday transformed into something that would be an asset to the community.

Reader comment:

Actually, it’s unknown whether Frank Furness designed the (now
demolished) Philadelphia & reading railroad depot in Frankford.
According to Preston Thayer, who wrote his PhD thesis on Furness’s
railroad depots, “the building may have been designed by Furness,
but it was the Frankford & Southwark Railway’s depot, built in 1858
as two single-story stone buildings, which were joined in 1878 by a
one and half story brick building with a clock tower on the corner.
It was located at the intersection of Frankford Ave, Oxford pike,
arrot street and margaret street.”

Sincerely yours,
Steve Dorfman