The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is the oldest art museum and school in the United States, dating back to 1805. The Furness-Hewitt Building, completed in 1876, replaces the Academy’s first buildings on Chestnut Street, which the museum outgrew. The structure is widely regarded as architect Frank Furness’ masterpiece, and was controversial when built.
Contrast and color, as much as form, make PAFA’s museum so striking. The white limestone arches rest on brownstone bases; the brick infill is patterns of red and black.
The Furness-Hewitt Building interior is as grand and ornate as the exterior: The central staircase rises through an opulent four-story atrium ringed by marble arches, columns, statuary and gilt-on-red floral patterned walls, under a cerulean blue ceiling sprinkled with silver stars. Much of the opulence had been covered up in the first half of the 1900s, but the building was restored to its original glory for its centennial, in 1976.
(In 2005 PAFA opened adjacent Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building, a converted former federal building and automobile factory.)
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Vital Statistics
- Location: 118 N Broad Street, Philadelphia
- Year completed: 1876
- Architect: Frank Furness and George Hewitt
- Floors: 4
- Style: Neo-Gothic
- National Register of Historic Places: 1971
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Recommended Reading
- Wikipedia entry
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts website
- American Institute of Architects/Philadelphia listing
- Furnesque blog
- FrankFurness.org website
- I Love My Architect blog
- Curiosity Dispensary blog