Although long disdained for what was considered the eccentricity of his architectural designs, Frank Furness has in recent years enjoyed an immense popularity. Born in Philadelphia, the son of the Rev. William Henry Furness, Frank Furness was educated in private schools in the city. He then apprenticed to John Fraser
in 1857 but soon joined the New York atelier of Richard Morris Hunt
, wherein he learned the medievalized eclectic forms which he would later popularize in the Philadelphia area. His stay in the Hunt atelier was interrupted by the Civil War in 1861, but he returned to Hunt briefly in 1864, leaving that year again to be married and begin his own practice in Philadelphia. Not long after returning to Philadelphia, Furness joined John Fraser and George W. Hewitt
in the firm of Fraser, Furness & Hewitt
(1867-1871). When Fraser left the firm in 1871 to become Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department, based in Washington, D.C., Furness & Hewitt
remained together, taking on the important Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts commission (1871 to 1876). George Hewitt left the firm in 1875; and by 1881 Furness and his chief draftsman, Allen Evans
, had established the new partnership of Furness & Evans
. In 1886 a number of younger partners were admitted to the firm, including Louis C. Baker
, E. James Dallett
, William M. Camac
, and James W. Fassitt
. With this influx, the firm became Furness, Evans & Co.
, a name which endured long past Furness's death in 1912.
Furness's practice was a general one including a number of stations for the Pennsylvania Railroad, as well as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. In addition, the realm of his practice included banks, residences, office buildings and churches. In later years his style fell into some disrepute as the classicism of McKim, Mead & White became more popular; Furness and his followers in Philadelphia, such as Willis G. Hale and Thomas P. Lonsdale, were referred to in a national periodical as "aberrations" in the profession.
Furness was one of the founders of the Pennsylvania Institute of Architects in 1869 and held fellowship status in the AlA.