Local ID #: BG_1913-02-12_10_108 (Kelsey)
Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide,
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Albert Kelsey became as well-known for his professional activities as for his architectural accomplishments, oftentimes leading to the erroneous assumption that Kelsey completed very few designs on his own. Born in St. Louis, MO, Kelsey was the son of A. Warren and Janeete Care (Washburn) Kelsey. He attended St. Luke's School and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1895. Following an apprenticeship with T. P. Chandler and Cope & Stewardson, as well as experience in the T-Square Club Atelier, Kelsey joined two other architects in the firm of Kennedy, Hays & Kelsey. This firm prospered until 1900, when Hays resigned to serve full-time at the University of Pennsylvania. Kennedy & Kelsey then continued until 1905, when Robert G. Kennedy retired to Scotland. Following Kennedy's retirment, Kelsey worked with Paul P. Cret on the design of the International Bureau of American Republics Building in Washington, D.C.; their collaborative effort won the international competition for the building. Kelsey continued to associate with Cret (as Kelsey & Cret) on architectural competitions until 1909, when both architects began to work independently. Thereafter, Kelsey continued in private practice, winning the competition for Carson College for Orphan Girls in Flourtown, PA, in 1916/17, as well as designing buildings for Chautauqua College in New York. In the environs of Philadelphia Kelsey designed residences and was influential in the planning of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Kelsey' s organizational activities brought him more recognition than his designs, however. While active in both the T-Square Club and the Philadelphia Chapter of the AlA, Kelsey also served as president and founder of the Architectural League of America and as president of the Pennsylvania State Association of Architects. In 1904 he was appointed architect of the Model City at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and in 1930 he received the decoration of the Commander of the Royal Order of Isabella in recognition of his work as technical adviser to the Pan-American Union in the competition for the Columbus Memorial Lighthouse. He was also a technical advisor to the Philadelphia Housing Association and held memberships in the Sons of the Revolution, the Franklin Inn Club and the University Club.
Grant Simon composed the obituary which appeared in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects (July 1950). In it he characterized Kelsey as a "great and vivid individualist. As an architect, he was more interested in the intangible impressions, if you will, the abstractions of his art, than in their precise and academic forms." This seems a fitting tribute to an architect whose career had begun in the popularity of the revival styles at the turn of the century, but who had lived to see a more abstract modernism applied to the design of buildings.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Franklin Inn Club
- Pennsylvania Society of Architects
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- T-Square Club
- Sons of the Revolution
- University Club
- University of Pennsylvania
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