Julian Abele: Honoring a legacy no longer in “the shadows”

Submitted by 34db7d9c-82e6-… on Thu, 06/25/2020 - 22:51
{"version":"0.3.0","atoms":[],"cards":[["images-card",{"images":[{"url":"http:\/\/res.cloudinary.com\/dpcbzfiye\/image\/upload\/v1593125240\/kubw9kd46o1n7bj8ggc3.jpg","id":"6306867"}],"caption":"Julian Abele, AIA, designed Duke University Chapel, as well as more than 30 additional campus buildings, between 1924 and 1950."}]],"markups":[["a",["href","https:\/\/www.nj.com\/monmouth\/2020\/06\/monmouth-u-removing-woodrow-wilsons-name-from-building-to-foster-diversity.html","target","_new"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/archives.upenn.edu\/exhibits\/penn-people\/biography\/julian-francis-abele","target","_new"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/www.amazon.com\/Julian-Abele-Architect-Minorities-Architecture\/dp\/1138496472","target","_new"]],["em"],["a",["href","https:\/\/www.smithsonianmag.com\/history\/out-of-the-shadows-85569503\/","target","_new"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/spotlight.duke.edu\/abele\/","target","_new"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/today.duke.edu\/2016\/03\/abele","target","_new"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/hiddencityphila.org\/2019\/05\/unraveling-myths-about-phillys-pioneering-african-american-architect\/","target","_new"]],["a",["href","https:\/\/today.duke.edu\/2016\/10\/quad-dedication-brings-julian-abele-out-shadows","target","_new"]]],"sections":[[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Monmouth University\u2019s most prominent building, dating from\n1929, was designed by Julian Abele, the first African American to earn an\narchitecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania. But it was named for\nWoodrow Wilson, whose legacy includes reinstituting racial segregation in the\nfederal workforce. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"That disconnect is no more. Monmouth\u2019s Board of Trustees\n"],[0,[0],1,"voted "],[0,[],0,"unanimously earlier this month to remove President Wilson\u2019s name, and to\nhonor Abele. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"It\u2019s not the first time Abele has received belated\nrecognition from a major university he helped design, and his story serves as a\npoignant yet inspiring example of the challenges faced by generations of\nAfrican American architects. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cWilling and Able,\u201d as he was dubbed by classmates, was born\nin Philadelphia in 1881. Elected president of the student architectural society\nby his Penn peers, he "],[0,[1],1,"graduated "],[0,[],0,"in 1902. According to the "],[0,[2],1,"biography "],[0,[],0,"J"],[0,[3],1,"ulian\nAbele: Architect and the Beaux Arts"],[0,[],0,", by Dreck Spurlock Wilson, Abele\u2019s\nadditional degrees and certificates in architectural drawing made him \u201cthe most\nformally educated architect in all of America.\u201d He is believed to have later\nstudied at l\u2019Ecole des Beaux-Arts \u2013 a style he embraced throughout his career\nin the nationally known Philadelphia firm, Horace Trumbauer. Abele\u2019s\ncollaboration with the eponymous firm\u2019s founder was marked by \u201ca great deal of\nrespect,\u201d "],[0,[4],1,"according to Abele\u2019s son"],[0,[],0," \u2013 although, consistent with contemporary\npractice, the signature of Horace Trumbauer (who was not a formally trained\narchitect) was the only one that appeared on his firm\u2019s designs. \u201cThe lines are\nall Mr. Trumbauer\u2019s,\u201d Abele once said, \u201cbut the shadows are all mine.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"That signing practice, plus the collaborative nature of any\nlarge firm, makes it difficult to assign sole credit to Abele for many of his\nmost well-known creations. But we do know that he contributed significantly to\nthe Philadelphia Museum of Art\u2014immortalized in the movie \u0022Rocky\u0022\u2014as well as\nthe Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Widener Memorial Library at Harvard University. Abele\u2019s designs in Washington, D.C., include\nthe Argentinian Embassy and what is now the Belgian ambassador\u2019s residence. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cI think we\u2019re really fortunate that Julian Abele\u2019s talent\nwasn\u2019t squandered due to Jim Crow,\u201d commented Abele\u2019s great-grandnephew Peter\nCook, AIA, associate vice president and design principal at HGA. \u201cOne of the\nwonderful things about our profession is that the best of our work, for the\nmost part, remains there for future generations to really appreciate. And so\nhis talent is still very much on display, and it graces so many of our cities.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Abele\u2019s body of work also includes numerous mansions in\nNewport and New York, including \u2013 notably \u2013 \nthe Manhattan home of American Tobacco Company founder James Buchanan\nDuke (then the \u201ccostliest home\u201d on Fifth Avenue, now New York University\u2019s\nInstitute of Fine Arts)."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"It was this commission that led to an enduring legacy that\ncan be claimed fully and indisputably by Abele: the campus of "],[0,[5],1,"Duke University"],[0,[],0,".\nFrom the university\u2019s iconic Duke Chapel to Cameron Indoor Stadium, home of the\nDuke Blue Devil basketball team, Abele designed the bulk of Duke\u2019s West Campus\nbetween 1924 and 1950. As the university\u2019s president Dick Brodhead put it in\n2016, \u201cAbele\u2019s accomplishment was not any single building, but the whole of the\ncampus\u201430 buildings in all.\u201d "]]],[1,"p",[]],[10,0],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"After launching a committee in 2015 to explore ways to honor\nAbele, Duke\u2019s Board of Trustees elected to engrave the Duke Chapel cornerstone\nwith his name, commission a biography, fund an annual event recognizing African\nAmerican student achievement, and to rename the campus\u2019 central passage "],[0,[6],1,"Abele\nQuad"],[0,[],0,". A plaque installed on the quad emphasizes that Abele \u201cdesigned all the\nsurrounding buildings\u201d and quotes the famous St. Paul\u2019s Cathedral epitaph of Christopher\nWren: \u201cIf you seek his monument, look around.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Generations of Duke students have strolled among the\nuniversity\u2019s Abele-designed buildings \u2013 an experience the architect himself may\nnever have enjoyed. During the decades his vision was coming to life in North\nCarolina, multiple sources suggest the era\u2019s Jim Crow policies prevented Abele\nfrom ever visiting the site \u2013 although evidence is "],[0,[7],1,"inconclusive"],[0,[],0,". It is certain,\nhowever, that Abele could not have experienced the campus as a student; Duke\ndid not integrate until 1962, 12 years after his death. Even in Philadelphia,\nAbele could not escape segregation \u2013 although he did manage to reject it in his\ndaily commute. According to a"],[0,[3],1," Smithsonian Magazine"],[0,[],0," "],[0,[4],1,"profile"],[0,[],0,", Abele reportedly\nwalked more than ten blocks to work each day rather than sit in the back of the\ncity\u2019s segregated streetcars. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Abele\u2019s legacy also includes a\nnumber of descendants who joined the field, including his son Julian F. Abele,\nJr., and his nephew, Julian Abele Cook, Sr. \u2013 grandfather of Peter Cook. These\ngenerations \u201ccould never have even dreamed of the potential to be able to work\nas I work today,\u201d says Cook, whose major projects include the Smithsonian\nInstitution\u2019s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the\nEmbassy of South Africa \u2013 a project tasked with modernizing the space while\npreserving the architectural evidence of an \u0022awful\u0022 past the country \u0022couldn\u2019t\nafford to forget.\u0022 "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cIn some ways that suggests that we\u2019ve made progress in this\ncountry,\u201d Cook reflects, \u201cBut every time you think about the progress we\u2019ve\nmade, there always seems to be some equal and opposite reaction that attempts\nto take us back to where we don\u2019t need to go.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"A quiet man, Julian Abele left no personal account of his experiences\nconfronting discrimination as he built a distinguished career. (\u201cMy father\nwould be very uneasy with all this attention,\u201d his son "],[0,[8],1,"commented "],[0,[],0,"at the Duke\ndedication ceremony, \u201cBut he was proud of his work at Duke.\u201d) What we do know\nis that, upon Trumbauer\u2019s death in 1938, Abele began signing drawings with his\nown name. He became an AIA member in 1942, listing in his application a house\nhe had designed for his sister, and Duke University buildings he worked on\nafter Trumbauer\u2019s death. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"If Abele\u2019s achievements were overlooked in his lifetime, the\noversight grew after his death in 1950 \u2013 even as work continued on Duke\nbuildings he had designed. It\u2019s perhaps fitting that his name "],[0,[4],1,"resurfaced "],[0,[],0,"there\nin 1986, as Duke students protested the school\u2019s investments in apartheid South\nAfrica. As part of the demonstrations, students built shacks in front of the\nAbele-designed chapel, prompting one student to lament that \u201cour rights as\nstudents to a beautiful campus\u201d were being violated. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Another student, Abele\u2019s great-grandniece Susan Cook, spoke\nout. That very building, Cook wrote, was conceived by \u201ca victim of apartheid in\nthis country\u201d whose seemingly forgotten achievements testified to \u201cwhat a black\nman can create given the opportunity.\u201d Although Duke installed a painting of\nAbele in 1988, a more adequate tribute to his singular role in creating Duke\u2019s\ncampus would wait another three decades. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Monmouth University\u2019s decision to recognize Abele may be\nlikewise overdue. But there is poetic justice in removing Wilson\u2019s name while\nhonoring the African American architect who persevered over segregation to\ndesign the building. As institutions across the nation grapple with how their\nsymbols and building names reflect their values, it\u2019s a welcome opportunity to\nintroduce new generations to stories like Abele\u2019s."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cWhen you admire Julian Abele\u2019s talent and the work that he\nwas able to do, I\u2019d like to ask people to also think about all the talented\npeople \u2013 not just in our profession, but in all walks of life \u2013 whose talents\nremained either untapped or ignored or actively suppressed due this country\u2019s\ninability to deal with its original sin,\u201d Peter Cook says. \u201cThere are so many other\nJulian Abeles out there who we don\u2019t know about or who were never able to tap\ntheir great potential.\u201d"]]]]}
Julian Abele, the first African American to earn an architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania, designed Duke University Chapel, as well as more than 30 additional campus buildings.
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Julian Abele, the first African American to earn an architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania, contributed to designs for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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