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Austin, Joseph D., Architect and Supervisor of School Buildings
Local ID #: 127C
Custis, John Trevor. The Public Schools of Philadelphia, Historical, Biographical, Statistical. Philadelphia: Burk & McFetridge Co., 1897., p. 127

Born: c. 6/26/1847, Died: 1917

Biographical information regarding school architect Joseph D. Austin remains something of a mystery. He was born in Philadelphia and entered Girard College in March, 1857. According to sources describing the staff of the Architectural Department of the Philadelphia Board of Public Education, Austin then studied with Samuel Sloan. From 1877 to 1883 he worked in the office of David S. Gendell and took up his position with the City in 1884. Through 1896 he was employed as architect and then supervisor for the Board of Public Education; but in February, 1897 a special committee was called to investigate charges against Austin regarding possible malfeasance in the construction of Central High School for Boys. In testimony by Frederick Amweg, engineer, it was alleged that Austin had accepted bribes in connection with the award of contracts for the annex to Central High School; however, these charges were not supported by other evidence; and the proceedings were dismissed. In the meantime Joseph Anshutz had been appointed supervising architect; and he remained in that position following these proceedings. The fate of Austin in the wake of this scandal remains unknown. After a hiatus in the professional listings for Philadelphia, a Joseph D. Austin reappears in 1903 as a draftsman in the City's Bureau of Water Department, where he remains until 1917. Since Austin's age at this point would have been 70, it is possible that this is a younger member of the Austin family.

Austin was elected a junior member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA in 1871.

Written by Sandra L. Tatman.

Clubs and Membership Organizations

  • Philadelphia Chapter, AIA

School Affiliations

  • Girard College


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