October 5, 2022

Black Entrepreneur History

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Julian Francis Abele – African American Architect of Duke University

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived an African American man named Julian Francis Abele who became the architect who built much of the Duke University Campus and owner of a major architectural firm.


Born on April 30, 1881 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to parents Charles and Mary Adelaide Jones Abele (daughter of Rev. Absalom Jones who was founder of the Free African Society), Julian Francis Abele was the youngest of who became very successful siblings.

As far as Julian, he went on to do very well at the Institute for Colored Youth in 1897 where he, along with other students delivered orations. Julian Francis Abele delivered his oration titled “Some Practical Applications of Art”[1]. From there, Julian went on earn a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania[2].

He was the first AA graduate of the Graduate School of Fine Arts as well as the President of the student Architectural Society. Also while there, Julian stood out from all the students, winning prize after prize and gained a great understanding of his architectural gift while working at the Louis Hickman Architectural Firm. He pulled double duty – going to school at night to earn his degree and working in the day[3].

Julian ended up later going to Europe, financed by another architect named Horace Trumbaurer, and this is where his love for French architecture came into play. He returned to the USA to plant his career at Horce Trumbaurer’s firm in 1906 and became chief designer before taking complete control of the firm in 1938 due to Trumbaurer’s passing[4].

Julian Francis Abele became an entrepreneur and then many project designs came from his firm such as those listed below:

  • Widener Memorial Library at Harvard University
  • The Free Library of Philadelphia to which he was the sole designer of the Central Branch
  • the Dunning Coaches Center
  • the Land Title Building
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • several buildings on the Duke University campus where his portrait hangs in one of the buildings that he personally designed. He was the primary designer for the Duke University West Campus. Because of the horrendous racism of the day, he was never able to visit Duke University though he designed the structures in it[5].

See many of his architectural contributions to the USA at DUKE University website.

Julian Abele’s Death

Julian Abele passed away at his 10 bedroom three story home, on April 23 in 1950, leaving behind children who all became architects and even his grandchildren became architects! What a legacy[6].

In 1942, he was admitted into the American Institute of Architects.


Sources

  1. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)01 Jul 1897, Thu Page 3
  2. The Philadelphia Inquirer Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) 19 Jun 1902, Thu Page 16
  3. https://archives.upenn.edu/exhibits/penn-people/biography/julian-francis-abele/ [Footnotes 3, 4, 5, 6]