[Group photo of Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson]
Harbeson, Hough, Livingston, Larson
John Harbeson Collection, Athenaeum of Philadelphia.
Local ID #: 47-P-055-001
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John Harbeson's role in the transmission of Beaux-Arts ideas in architecture, his relationship to Paul P. Cret and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as his ready ability to recall the conditions of professional practice at the beginning of the twentieth century ensured his place in the hearts of many architectural historians in the Philadelphia area (and beyond). As one of the longest surviving members of an older generation of architects trained in the Beaux-Arts method, Harbeson was in a unique position to provide insight both into American architectural education just before World War I and into the changes that occurred when that Beaux-Arts approach was discarded as a result of Bauhaus influence.
He was born in Philadelphia to James Page and Fredericka (Krauter) Harbeson and received his B.S. in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in 1910, followed by his M.S. in 1911. He received the Arthur Spayd Brooke Prize in 1910 and the Cope Memorial Prize in 1913 for his "Design for a New Case for the Liberty Bell." During the summers of his undergraduate career, Harbeson worked for John T. Windrim, but immediately upon graduation he cemented what would be a longterm relationship with his mentor, Paul P. Cret, by entering the association which Cret had established with Albert Kelsey for the Pan-American Union Building in Washington, DC. When Kelsey & Cret dissolved after completing the Pan-American Building work, Harbeson remained with Cret and in 1923 became his partner, along with William J. H. Hough and William Livingston. In 1925 the firm was joined by Roy Larson. After Cret's death in 1945, the younger men followed his wishes and removed the Cret name from their masthead, continuing as Harbeson, Hough, Livingston, Larson.
Extremely active in both professional organizations and in publication, John Harbeson joined the AIA in 1916 and became a fellow of the Institute in 1934. Locally, he was involved in both the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA and the T-Square Club. Farther afield, he participated in the Royal Society of Arts (London), the National Academy of Design, and the American Battle Monuments Commission (a position in which he replaced Cret). He served as Chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania from 1927 to 1935 and as Acting Dean of the School of Fine Arts at the University from 1929 to 1930. Harbeson was chiefly responsible for the awarding of architecture degrees to women at the University.
Numerous honors came to Harbeson over the years, including the Philadelphia Art Alliance Medal of Achievement (1974), the Society of Architects' Pennsylvania Award (1980), the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA Citation for Excellence (1984), and the Carpenters' Company award for "40 years of extraordinary service and fine fellowship" (1986).
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Philadelphia Art Alliance
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- Philadelphia Sketch Club
- T-Square Club
- National Academy of Design
- Royal Society of Arts
- National Sculpture Society
- American Battle Monuments Commission
- Fairmount Park Art Association
- University of Pennsylvania
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