Hotel art is piece of Penn history

Yellin’s drawing exceeds 10 feet.

Architectural Archives

The ironwork of the late Samuel Yellin, a visiting faculty member in the School of Fine Arts in 1926, adorns buildings all over the country from New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine to the Seattle Art Museum. How his made-by-hand charcoal drawings came to decorate the walls of the Inn at Penn required the sharp eye of an archivist and the vision of two key administrators.

When Yellin’s studio closed about five years ago — more than 50 years after his death — the Yellin family generously donated the drawings and records to the Architectural Archives at the Graduate School of Fine Arts, after Archives Director and GSFA Assistant Dean Julia Moore Converse requested them. There they rested — until GSFA Dean Gary Hack and Executive Vice President John Fry, who had been working on Sansom Common, asked Converse to think about which work in the archives might bring a unique character to the Inn at Penn.

“The first thing I thought of were the Yellin drawings because of their size and the graphic quality of their design,” Converse said. With Archives Collection Manager Bill Whitaker, she selected nine from hundreds of Yellin drawings.

The archivists and conservators, by retaining the scars and marks that these full-sized templates bear from the manufacturing process, have preserved the freshness and individuality of the pieces, which stand out in the formal spaces of the Inn.

The frames, which reflect the Arts and Crafts spirit of the Inn’s architecture, are fastened in the corners with some original iron work, Converse said. “The really wonderful thing is, three of those rivet heads are from the original Samuel Yellin forge, and the remainder were made by the successor to the forge, which is owned and operated by Clare Yellin, Samuel’s grandaughter.”

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Originally published on September 30, 1999