The career of Amos W. Barnes mirrors that of other architect/engineers in Philadelphia, such as William L. Plack and Joseph Wilson. Each began work as an engineer but developed to the status of architect, broadening the range of building types with which they were associated. Barnes was born in Brooklyn, NY, the son of Aaron Brown and Lorina (Van Dursen) Barnes. After an early education in the Brooklyn Public Schools, he entered New York University where he graduated in 1885 with his B.S. and Civil Engineering degrees. Upon graduation, he began work in the firm of civil engineer Charles B. Brush in Hoboken, NJ. There followed a series of terms of employment with railway companies, including the Kings County Elevated Railroad in Brooklyn, the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railroad in Michigan, the Union Elevated Railway in Brooklyn, and the Union Elevated Railway, and South Side Rapid Transit, both in Chicago. It was not until 1889 that Barnes came to Pennsylvania to work in the Bridge and Construction Department of the Pencoyd Iron Works, Pencoyd, PA. He remained in Pencoyd until 1893, when he opened an engineering office of his own in Philadelphia. From 1894 to 1904, Barnes is listed in the Philadelphia city directories as an engineer, including a brief parnership with William Slagle in Slagle & Barnes (1894) and a term as structural engineer for the Builder Inspector's Board, City of Philadelphia (1896-1899). Then, in 1905, Barnes is transformed into an architect in the city directories. His work, however, had been described as architectural prior to that time in the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide. Projects attributed to Barnes reflect this dichotomy of architect/engineer. While there are a number of industrial buildings noted in the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide, residential projects appear as well, primarily in the neighborhood where he maintained his own residence, Roxborough, and in Norristown, PA, where he eventually donated a large plot of ground to the borough in the area of Elmwood Park. By mid-career, Barnes had attained a reputation as a designer of theatres, as well.
Barnes was a member of the Masonic Order and served as School Director for the 21st Ward of the city beginning in 1902.
Sandra L. Tatman.
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