In 1873 Frank Furness designed a new façade, additions and alterations to a house at 2113 Spruce Street in Philadelphia. The house was owned by long time Furness friend, Rudulph Ellis.
Rudulph Ellis had served with Furness in Rush’s Lancers during the Civil War and is an excellent example of the close circles in which Furness did a lot of his work. In addition to their shared time with Rush’s Lancers, Ellis was a director of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and of the Commercial Trust Company both of which employed Furness in designing buildings. Other ties include, Ellis, while with the Fidelity Trust Company, as an underwriter for the International Mercantile Marine trust of another of Furness’s clients, Clement Acton Griscom, and Ellis’s father-in-law, William Struthers, from whom he acquired 2113 Spruce, as the stone supplier for Furness’s Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
At No. 2113 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, is situated the elegantly-furnished house of Mr. Rudulph Ellis, of which Mr. Frank Furness was the architect. On the right of the main hall is the library, and beyond it, in an alcove, the staircase; on the left the drawing-room, and at the extreme end the dining-room. The library is finished “throughout in antique oak, carved and heavily paneled; the wall-spaces are decorated with gold on a ground of solid crimson; the frieze appears to be made of the juxtaposition of perpendicular reeds of a light-brown hue ; and the ceiling is an intricate net-work, or “Chinese puzzle,” of deep oaken squares and curves, through which are seen occasional glimpses of crimson, which repeats itself in the stamped-plush hangings and portières.
Similarly treated, but in a lighter shade of oak, is the wainscot of the hall and the dining-room, where the ceiling, again heavily beamed, is decorated in crimson, white, and gold, and the oaken furniture covered with leather of a tint to match the lustrous crimson of the portières. An exquisitely-designed silver service, chased and embossed, and a set of dessert-plates painted after the pictures by Greuze, in the Louvre, are among the principal attractions of this place of repast.
Opening hence is the double drawing-room, with its superb upholsteries and generous hangings of damask satin of turquoise-blue. Even the lofty pier-glass of the mantel is draped with this delicate material, which establishes the color-note of the whole room. The most important of the pictorial attractions is the Troyon — a white-and-red cow standing near a large tree in the open. Unlike some of his imitators, Troyon gets not only masses and values but the stereoscopic quality of atmosphere, and, in addition to this, that intense richness of color, combined with the delicacy of the real sentiment of nature, which is the despair of most painters, and that frank sincerity of expression which has sometimes been thought to be obtainable only in fresco. The decorative aspect of this work, great as it is, is not its principal title to consideration; along with it is the profound spiritual interpretation of sky, atmosphere, and animal life.
The pleasant facility of Villegas in arranging a bouquet of color displays itself admirably in Mr. Ellis’s example of that able representative of the Hispano-French school, to whom Nature appears in the guise of a garden of flowers; and the specimens of Rico, Delort, Meyer von Bremen, and Papperitz are excellent of their kind. The room is lighted by an immense chandelier of glass crystals. Particular mention may be made of the mirror in the library, which consists of plate-glass backed by black velvet instead of the usual quicksilver, and produces a darkly-mysterious effect, like that made by the reflections from a very old oil-painting.