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What African American was a prolific architect of the Gilded Age?

Julian Francis Abele (1881–1950) was one of America’s most prolific architects of the Gilded Age. He became the first black architect at Horace Trumbauer and Associates in Philadelphia in 1904 and, as senior designer for that firm, designed over two hundred buildings. That same year, Abele became the first black to graduate from the Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts and Architecture. Trumbauer sent Abele to study at École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, from which Abele received a diploma in 1906. He became chief designer for the Trumbauer firm in 1908. During his career with the firm he designed a number of major buildings, including Philadelphia’s Free Library and Museum of Art; the Widener Library at Harvard University; and the chapel, the Allen Building, and much of the campus at Trinity College in Durham, North Carolina (now Duke University). Abele’s work on the Duke campus gained him membership in the American Institute of Architects. He is credited as being the “first black American architect to have an impact on the design of large buildings” and was known for modernizing classical forms when designing structures.

Other early black architects of renown included Albert Irvin Cassell (1895–1969), who was long associated with Howard University in Washington, D.C., as campus planner and architect; and Moses McKissack III (1879–1952), who in 1905 founded the first African-American-owned architectural firm in Tennessee.


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