Julian Abele was a prominent black architect who built more than 400 buildings. Some of them were the Harvard University Widener Memorial Library, Monmouth University’s Shadow Lawn Mansion, the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Most importantly, Abele was known for building the Duke University Chapel.
Abele was a Philadelphia, Pa., native. He came from a family line of successful men. His grandfather was a noted architect and his nephew, Julian Abele Cook, later designed Howard University. He was a descendant of Absalom Jones, the first American and black man to become an ordained priest of the Episcopal Church.
Abele was an architect that used many methods of design. He worked with watercolors, lithography, etching, wood, iron, gold, brass, precious metals stained glass and silver. He lived up to his nickname received at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art, which was “Willing and Able.”
In 1902, Abele was the first black student to graduate from the Department of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. After attending several schools to hone his craft of architecture, Abele traveled overseas to study the various designs in Europe, Germany, Greece, Switzerland and Spain. He was able to do so through the sponsorship of Horace Trumbauer, a respected Philadelphia architect. His designs carried the Beaux Arts style, a uniquely detailed style that he learned at the L’ecole des Beaux Arts School in Paris.