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Born: 8/4/1857, Died: 9/6/1926

A member of the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Architecture for some 27 years, Thomas Nolan was born in Williamsport, PA, to Edmund Patrick and Cornelia Augusta (Beardsley) Nolan. After an early education in schools in Paterson, NJ, Nolan entered the University of Rochester, where he received his B.S. in 1879 and his M.S. in 1882. He then furthered his education at Columbia University, where he studied under William Ware and graduated in 1884. In 1887 he travelled to Europe and enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris with the Atelier Daumet, spending one winter there and leaving in 1888.

Before travelling to Europe, Nolan had sought practical experience in two firms in Rochester, those of J. G. Cutler and W. E. Walker. In fact, from 1887 until he sailed for France, Nolan had become a partner in Walker & Nolan; but when he returned from France, Nolan set up his own firm in Rochester from 1888 to 1890 and then partnered with brother E. B. Nolan in Thomas Nolan & E. B. Nolan in Rochester from 1890 to 1892, then becoming Nolan, Nolan & Stern from 1893 to 1896, and Thomas Nolan & E. B. Nolan again, but in New York City, from 1897 to 1898.

1898 marks the beginning of his role in architectural education because it is in that year that the University of Pennsylvania hired him as an instructor (1898/99). This first tenure at the University was brief, however, because in 1899 the University of Missouri hired Nolan to head their own Department of Architecture. His stay in Missouri was brief also, and he returned to the University of Pennsylvania in 1901, this time to remain until June of 1926, a few months before his death. At the University Nolan was in charge of the Architectural Engineering and Construction courses, but he also distinguished himself as the first compiler of Sweet's Indexed Catalogue of Building Construction and as co-author, with F. E. Kidder of Architects' and Builders' Handbook. In addition to these technical publications, Nolan authored two long articles for Architectural Record in 1906 and 1911 which introduced the idea of a Philadelphia school of residential design and publicized the work of several of Philadelphia's more prominent country house architects.

Nolan was a member of the T-Square Club, the American Institute of Architects (membership 1885; fellow 1889), and the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA. His technical expertise and interest in construction engineering are reflected in his AIA activities. He served on its committee for buildng codes in the United States, 1914-1915; as the AIA representative to the American Society for Testing Materials; and as chair for the AIA committee on materials and methods, 1916-1918.

Written by Sandra L. Tatman.

Clubs and Membership Organizations

  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
  • T-Square Club
  • Philadelphia Geographical Society

School Affiliations

  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Ecole des Beaux-Arts
  • Columbia University
  • University of Rochester


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