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Born: 6/20/1897, Died: 4/7/1964

Edmund R. Purves was born in Philadelphia and graduated from the Germantown Friends School in 1914. His career at the Univeristy of Pennsylvania, which he entered in 1914, was interruped by World War I; but he received is B.S. in Architecture in 1920. After graduation Purves returned to France, where he attended the Atelier Gromort from 1920 to 1921. Upon his return to Philadelphia, Purves joined the firm of Zantzinger, Borie & Medary, where he remained through 1927, only spending 1925 with Willing, Sims & Talbutt. In 1927 Purves and another University of Pennsylvania graduate, Kenneth M. Day, set up their own firm of Purves & Day. This continued in operation through 1932, when Purves began to work independently. Then, in 1937 Purves, Thomas Pym Cope, and Harry Stewart established Purves, Cope & Stewart, which endured until 1941.

Again a war intervened, and Purves moved to Washington, DC, where he served as the AIA's representative. He volunteered for war action again, however, and by 1942 was with the U.S. Air Force in the Pacific Theatre. In 1945 he returned to Washington, DC, and resumed work with the AIA as Director of Public and Professional Relations, and in 1949 he was promoted to Executive Director for the Institute, a position in which he remained until 1960. For the last four years of his life Purves acted as consulting architect for the DC firm of Chatelain, Gauger & Nolan, architects and engineers.

Edmund R. Purves joined the AIA in 1930 and became a Fellow in 1944. He was also an honorary member of the RIBA and a corresponding member of the Royal Architects Institute of Canada. His career was marked by service to the community and to the profession and included stints as instructor of architectural design (1924-25) and as assistant demonstrator of design (1927-28) for the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art. He received several medals from the Beaux-Art Institute of Design (1919 to 1920) and was a finalist for the Paris Prize of 1920. His firm received the Gold Medal of the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA, and he served on the Board of Examiners for Architects for the State of Pennsylvania from 1938 to 1950 and on the Board of Directors for the Pennsylvania Institute for the Blind from 1935. Club memberships included the Philadelphia, Cosmos and Rotary Clubs, as well as the Literary Society of St. Anthony's Hall.

Written by Sandra L. Tatman.

Clubs and Membership Organizations

  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
  • Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
  • Beaux Arts Institute of Design

School Affiliations

  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Ecole des Beaux-Arts
  • Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art


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