[Edwin Forrest Durang Portrait]
Edwin Forrest Durang
(Lorenzo C. Scataglia, c. 1874)
Durang Collection, Athenaeum of Philadelphia.
Local ID #: 88.18
Born into a distinguished theatrical family, Edwin Forrest Durang was the grandson of John Durang (1768-1822), credited with being the first native-born American actor. His parents, Charles Durang and Mary White Durang, were also remarkable for their contributions to the stage. His father and uncle, Richard Ferdinand Durang, were the first to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner", and Charles Durang (1791-1870) also worked as the director and prompter at both the Chestnut Street Theatre and the American Theatre in Philadelphia. After his retirement in 1853, Charles Durang taught dancing and wrote several books regarding dance as well as the history of the Philadelphia stage. In addition to her stage work, E. F. Durang's mother wrote six children's books.
Although nothing is known of E. F. Durang's early years beyond his birth in New York City, by 1855 he appears in Philadelphia city directories as an architect at 304 Vine Street. By 1857 he has moved to 417 Market Street and has begun working with John E. Carver, veteran residential and ecclesiastical architect. Upon Carver's death in 1859, Durang succeeded him, retaining the office at 21 N. 6th Street until 1880. Following Carver's example, Durang also specialized in ecclesiastical design, most notably those churches and institutions associated with the Catholic Church. In November, 1909 Durang was joined by his son F. Ferdinand Durang, who, in turn, succeeded him after his sudden death in 1911. According to the obituary published 7 June 1911 in Catholic Standard and Times Durang "died suddenly Monday morning near the rectory of St. Monica's Church, Seventeenth and Ritner streets, while making measurements for the new convent."
The Durang dynasty represents one of the most successful architectural enterprises specializing in Catholic church projects in Philadelphia, only rivalled in the latter part of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century by Henry D. Dagit and his sons. Furthermore, the Durang firm provided a training ground for young architects hoping to excel in ecclesiastical design: Rowland Boyle, father to an architectural dynasty himself; Emile G. Perrot; and Frank R. Watson, all worked with the Durang firm.
Sandra L. Tatman.
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