Category Archives: Special Collections

Field-Based Research in the Study of Early American Architecture

By Carl Lounsbury, Senior Architectural Historian, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

For nearly ninety years, historians and curators at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation have examined countless documents and images housed in public and private archives and collections to inform the restoration and interpretation of Virginia’s eighteenth-century capital. Although their work has been grounded in written records supported by archaeological evidence, field-based architectural research has been their lifeblood, giving credibility to their restoration efforts and shape to their understanding of early American architecture. This reliance on fieldwork has linked those first architects hired by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in the late 1920s to the current generation of architectural historians. The Chesapeake House: Architectural Investigation by Colonial Williamsburg illustrates how contemporary fieldwork has transformed our understanding of building practices in the colonial and early national periods and enriched the interpretation of Williamsburg and other history museums.

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River Edge, Charles City County, Virginia. Photo by Jeff Klee.

The collective endeavor of nine scholars associated with the museum since the 1980s, The Chesapeake House is a summary of current scholarship in the region that reveals a far different approach to fieldwork than that which was practiced previously. Lavishly illustrated with measured drawings, 3D renderings, photographs, and technical illustrations, the seventeen chapters and two portfolios include several interpretative essays describing the methodologies of fieldwork, the development of plan types from Jamestown’s settlement to the antebellum period, and the design process. There are chapters on slave quarters and agricultural buildings, building types that had been largely ignored by earlier historians. The last part of the book focuses on materials, details, and finishes with essays on framing methods, hardware, brickwork, interior and exterior ornamentation, paint, and wallpaper, which provide a reliable guide to the form, style, and chronology of early buildings in Virginia and Maryland. The book can be read in two ways. It is an architectural history of the region as well as a guide on how to interpret the complex histories of old buildings through their many constituent parts.

 

Recreation of a one-room house with its furnishings based on an inventory, c. 1700. Drawing by Studio Ammons after Allan Adams.
Recreation of a one-room house with its furnishings based on an inventory, c. 1700. Drawing by Studio Ammons after Allan Adams.
Framing, Pear Valley, 1740, Northampton County, Virginia. Drawing by Studio Ammons after Willie Graham.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

H and HL side hinges. Drawing by Patricia Miller.
H and HL side hinges. Drawing by Patricia Miller.

The Chesapeake House tells a different story than the works of our predecessors in part because we have asked different questions of our evidence. Our views of early American architecture have been shaped by conceptual models of colonial society quite dissimilar to those held by the architects who transformed Williamsburg in the 1920s and 1930s. Great houses such as Westover and Stratford continue to beckon scholars as they did earlier when Fiske Kimball and Thomas Waterman first described their stylistic qualities. These two early chroniclers of the region’s architecture applied the theoretical concepts developed by art historians. This perspective considered architecture as fine art. They measured the significance of buildings according to how well they embodied a formal set of design rules. Their task was to explain a building’s relationship to an evolving stylistic system that shared certain formal aesthetic criteria. They evaluated buildings according to Renaissance rules of architecture that emphasized symmetry, proportion, and the appropriate use of the classical orders and judged them according to how well they fit those precepts. They praised those buildings that exemplified stylistic coherence or fidelity to European models of classicism and reproached others for straying from these ideals either through perceived ignorance or poor craftsmanship.

Mount Clare, c. 1757-60, Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by author.
Mount Clare, c. 1757-60, Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by author.

The aesthetic character of buildings no longer answered the most important questions that my generation of architectural historians was eager to explore. Many of us considered architecture to be an expression of social behavior and cultural practices grounded in specific historical circumstances. Consequently, our field research studies emphasized spatial analysis over stylistic pedigree. We shifted our focus from the aesthetics of form to the social manifestations of building. We investigated buildings with the belief that architectural forms carry social meanings. Architecture gives physical shape to the way people perceive their place in the world and how they interact with others. The arrangement of spaces and the hierarchical ornamentation of rooms reveal much about patterns of behavior. Buildings can be read as closely as any textual analysis for what they say about the behavior, aspirations, and interactions of members of a society, revealing patterns as clearly as any contemporary letter or newspaper. People designed some spaces to facilitate interaction whereas in other circumstances they carefully regulated access to prevent indiscriminate intermingling. The early American landscape communicated a variety of meanings that sometimes changed over time or were transformed by new ideas and attitudes. Often, the significance of a building was implied by its position in a landscape, its materials, levels of finish, or plan. However, these meanings were not static but often dynamic, changed over time, and could be interpreted in a variety of ways or contested by different members of society.

The Comforts of Home for a Gentleman’s family in Williamsburg.
The comforts of home for a gentleman’s family in Williamsburg.
The Discomforts of Home for an Enslaved Family in Williamsburg.
The discomforts of home for an enslaved family in Williamsburg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entire historic landscapes have been opened for such scrutiny, not simply the style-conscious homes of the wealthy. In The Chesapeake House, gentry houses visited by our predecessors still play an important role in telling many stories, simply by the fact that their owners dominated colonial society and these structures have enjoyed a better rate of survival. But they were only a part of a more diverse early landscape, which is less familiar now by the fact that so much of it has disappeared. Beyond the formal grounds of great estates like Shirley or Gunston, there was a countryside that swarmed with ordinary people who seldom or never set foot on a gentleman’s property and only occasionally crossed paths with a Carter or Mason at the parish church, county courthouse, muster field, or along the road. The commonplace world of small freeholders, tenant farmers, indentured servants, and most slaves assumed a much-reduced scale—smaller farms, modest wooden farmhouses, fewer specialized farm buildings, and here and there a solitary quarter. Not surprisingly, few of these smaller farmhouses remain standing today and eighteenth-century slave houses and agricultural buildings are extremely rare. What we know about this nearly lost world derives from a few standing remnants supplemented by archaeological evidence and documentary sources. By looking at the entire range of this architectural legacy, our research also explores the physical dimensions of the lives of men, women, and children whom have often been forgotten in traditional historical narratives—from craftsmen and laborers who shaped the buildings to the myriad of individuals, who inhabited, worked, played, and entertained in them.

Architectural Drawings of a Railway Company

By Bonnie Reed

Last spring I completed a review of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway architectural drawings archived at the Texas Tech Southwest Collection. This research project was precipitated by a comment made by a professor on the difficulty of locating architectural drawings for some historical structures. My original impression was that most of the drawings in this collection were of depots; however, I found drawings of a great variety of railroad and community structures, including the historical structure that initiated my research quest.

The charter for the Atchison Topeka Railroad was drafted in 1859. The company changed the name to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in 1863. As with the other railroads, train tracks were laid in wilderness areas or land settled by ranchers and farmers, whose homesteads were miles from each other. The depots allowed the ranchers and farmers to send their products to market and for pioneers to obtain supplies. The railroad served as a reliable, convenient, and safe method for travel across the continent.

From the railroad depots, small towns sprang up. The depot of any given town served as a center of activity, where news arrived by telegraph, and where locals and visitors traveled to and from the small town. As the community grew around the train station, structures related to the maintenance of a railway were required. Businesses opened to answer the needs of the settlers in the towns and the travelers passing through. These towns soon required community structures, so hotels and general stores were built.

As expected, the AT&SF maintained depots strategically along the primary and secondary routes. For the rural towns, these depots were combination stations for both passengers and freight. Larger cities required separate passenger and freight structures.

The AT&SF architectural drawings offer an interesting glimpse into the types of structures required for running a railway throughout a largely unpopulated swath of land primarily in the Midwest and Southwest. The railway required structures for the foreman’s office, file rooms, supply and lavatory buildings, locker rooms, blacksmith shops, welding shops, storage sheds, and buildings for the car inspectors and coach cleaning. The AT&SF collection includes drawings for numerous types of power and boiler houses. Larger railroad compounds included round houses, large round structures with turntables used for repairing locomotives, in addition to car repair and machine shops, and engine houses. Drawings for other maintenance structures were designed for waste refuse, water treatment, and paint and carpenter shops. Drawings included those for railroad platforms to receive passengers and the mail. The AT&SF collection also includes an architectural drawing for an apprentice school.

The headquarters for the AT&SF was in Chicago. The collection includes numerous drawings for the remodel and decorating of the vice president and executive offices within the Railroad Exchange Building. Additional drawings include yard office and storage facilities.

PANHANDLE, TEXAS COMBINATION DEPOT

Panhandle Depot Floor Plan (Sheet 1)
Panhandle Depot Floor Plan (Sheet 1)

The depot at Panhandle, Texas is a good example a combination depot. The depot was designed by E. A. Harrison in Chicago, in June 1927. The floor plan shows the basic arrangement, with one side of the long structure restricted to freight, while the other side includes an office, baggage room, express room, platform, and boiler room (Sheet 1/7). This architectural drawing reflects the United States’ history of racial prejudice and segregation. While there is a large general waiting room, there are separate waiting rooms with bathroom facilities for men, women, and African Americans (labeled Negro).

Panhandle Depot Elevation (Sheet 2)
Panhandle Depot Elevation (Sheet 2)

The elevations of the depot on Sheet 2/7 also include both the front, back, and side elevations. This drawing includes architectural details.

AT&SF & Community

The AT&SF was involved with a surprising number of structures not directly related to the daily operation and maintenance of the railroad. The structures supported the daily life of the workmen, as well as the passengers and the community. Some of the drawings are additions and/or alterations to existing buildings created by the company that required expansion. To support the growing number of settlers and travelers going West, these structures included bunk houses for the workmen, lunchrooms, reading rooms, commissaries, laundries, recreation halls, and hotels.

It is commonly known that Fred Harvey and his descendants worked with the AT&SF to offer lunches served at the Harvey Houses by the Harvey Girls. Some of the drawings produced by the AT&SF were created for the Fred Harvey Company, including lunchrooms, creameries, hotels, and cafeteria-camper lodge buildings. Architectural drawings of the Harvey Houses are included in the collection.

SLATON SANTA FE READING ROOM

Within this collection are architectural drawings of buildings in a small town named Slaton, Texas, located just southeast of Lubbock. In May an architecture professor and I took the short trip to have lunch at the Slaton Harvey House. We received a tour with stories by the daughter of a former Harvey Girl. While the AT&SF architectural drawing collection does not include the drawings for the Slaton Harvey House, the collection has drawings of the surrounding structures, including the reading room, heating house, and round house. The Slaton Harvey House still stands, but the AT&SF structures for which we have the drawings have long since been demolished.

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Slaton Reading Room Elevations & Details (Sheet 2)

The railway maintained reading rooms that served as the all-around resource for their workers at the end of the work shift, as a place to bathe, sleep, read, and wait for the next returning train home. In addition to magazines and books, the reading rooms offered exercise opportunities and wholesome entertainment. The reading rooms also served as places for educational lectures and performance entertainment for the workers, their families, and sometimes the community. Accordingly, each reading room was maintained by a librarian.

The Slaton Reading Room was designed by C.Y. Morse and built in 1912. The collection includes seven drawings of the structure. Architectural drawing includes both front, rear, and side elevations, along with interior details of the staircase and counter (Sheet 2/7).

Slaton Reading Room Floor Plan (Sheet 1)
Slaton Reading Room Floor Plan (Sheet 1)

The building floor plan (Sheet 1/7) offers the arrangement of the first floor with rooms assigned to specific activities: billiards, cards and reading. The librarian’s living quarters has a kitchen, bedroom, and private stairs to the librarian’s basement with a laundry tub. The basement also has the public bath and boiler room. The second floor has 18 possible bedrooms and two baths, one with laundry tub and a linen closet. Each floor includes a veranda that extends the length of the facade. The set includes five drawings of interior and exterior details, including windows, doors, and counters. The drawings were completed in Topeka.

REST HOUSE AT HERMIT’S RIM, GRAND CANYON

Rest House at Hermit's Rim Elevations (Sheet 3)
Rest House at Hermit’s Rim Elevations (Sheet 3)

Plans for the Rest House on Hermit’s Rim at the Grand Canyon is a set of six architectural drawings produced in Chicago and dated May 9, 1914. The elevation for the structure includes both the facade and the fireplace (Sheet 3/6). In addition to the massive fireplace, caretaker’s cottage and kitchenette, the floor plan includes the layout for the porch, pillars, and stone wall at the facade (Sheet 1/6). The unique quality of the structure can be seen in the roof made of rock stone, concrete, and wood (Sheet 2, not seen here).

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Rest House at Hermit’s Rim Floor Plan (Sheet 1)

The drawings for the Rest House were created by AT&SF for the Fred Harvey Company. While the architect’s name is not given on the drawings, it is known that Mary Colter worked for the Fred Harvey Company and that she is the architect of record. The drawing includes additional elevations, sections, and details.

Other Harvey Facilities

In addition to newly designed structures, the collection includes drawings for alteration and additions to the Harvey House in Barstow, California, as well as additions to the Harvey House in Gallup, New Mexico, and alterations to the Harvey House in Amarillo, Texas. The collection includes drawings for the remodel of a Harvey House in Hutchison, Kansas. The AT&SF also prepared drawings for the Fred Harvey Company for a creamery in Las Vegas, New Mexico and a sandwich packing room in Newton, Kansas.

The AT&SF Railway also produced drawings for additions and/or alterations for hotels in Gallup, New Mexico and Williams, Arizona. In addition, the collection includes drawings for the alteration, remodeling, and additions to the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque and plans for the dining room at the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. For the Grand Canyon, there are drawings for a remodeling of the cafeteria-campers lodge building.

Summary

It is unknown how many structures were built from these drawings and if these drawings were the final version used to build or renovate existing structures. We do know that photographs of some of the architecture constructed from these drawings may be found in archives around the country. Photographs of buildings that were designed and constructed for AT&SF, including those from architectural drawings in the Texas Tech Southwest Collection, can be found online at the Kansas Memory website: http://www.kansasmemory.org/.

The Southwest Collection has just begun to digitize the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe collection; a few drawings are currently available for viewing at the following website: http://collections.swco.ttu.edu/handle/10605/69777

Bibliography

Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company: An Inventory of Its Records, 1905-1973. Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University. http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/ttusw/00134/tsw-00134.html

Berke, Arnold. Mary Colter: Architect of the Southwest. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002.

Bray, Frank Chapin. “Social Centers for Railroad Men.” The Chautauquan 39:4 (June 1904) 865-867.

Bryant, Keith L. Jr. History of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974.

Grant, H. Roger and Charles W. Bohi. The Country Railroad Station in America. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company 1978.

Kansas Memory website: http://www.kansasmemory.org/. (accessed 11.25.2014)

Latimer, Rosa Walston. Harvey Houses of Texas: Historic Hospitality from the Gulf to the Panhandle. Charleston: History Press, 2014.

Weigle, Marta Babcock, Barbara A. The Great Southwest of the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railway. Phoenix: The Herd Museum, 1996.

Riskin, Marci L. The Train Stops Here: New Mexico’s Railway Legacy. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

From Coast to Desert: Two California Modernists

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Hass Residence, Carmel, 1969. Mark Mills Papers, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

By Peter Runge and Laura Sorvetti.  Edited by Jesse Vestermark.

Special Collections at the Robert E. Kennedy Library, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo collects records documenting the architecture and built environment of California. These collections are used by a wide variety of researchers and support the scholarship of the students and faculty of the university. Included are the records of architects Mark Mills and William F. Cody, two  Mid-Century Modern architects of California.

Mark Mills

Mark Mills (1921 – 2007) quietly and steadily established himself as a highly regarded, if not well-known, architect of the Big Sur/Carmel area of the Central Coast of California from the 1950s to the early 2000s. After graduating from the University of Colorado in 1944, Mills worked for Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West, eventually leaving to design and build an experimental geodesic dome in the desert of central Arizona with Paolo Soleri.

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Project drawing, Hass Residence, Carmel, 1969. Mark Mills Papers, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Shortly thereafter, Mills retreated to the lush and rugged landscape of Big Sur and Carmel, California, where he designed and built over forty custom homes and buildings that are both inspired by and reflect the landscape in which they reside. The distinctive and organic Hass house in Otter Cove captures the structural elegance and reverence for space that characterized Mills’ design aesthetic.

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Architect Mark Mills. Mark Mills Papers, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

The Mark Mills Papers at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo include correspondence, photographs, bound presentation portfolios of his published work, and architectural drawings, primarily for single-family residences.  For more information and images regarding Mills, refer to this previous blog post: Coastal Modern: Architect Mark Mills.

William F. Cody

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Presentation drawing, Cameron Residence, Thunderbird Country Club, Rancho Mirage, 1950. William F. Cody Papers 2, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

A contemporary of Mark Mills working in Southern California, William F. Cody, FAIA (1916-1978) was an influential Desert Modern architect who practiced in Palm Springs at the peak of the Modernist movement. Between 1946 and 1973, Cody maintained a diverse practice in California’s Coachella Valley, designing country clubs, residences, hotels, and church projects.

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Project drawing, Moncrief Residence, Thunderbird North, Palm Springs, 1955-56. William F. Cody Papers, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Cody’s specialization in country club clubhouses with related residential developments helped to define the Palm Springs landscape of the 1960s. His residential projects emphasized key elements of Modernism: simplicity of form, natural light, and large windows offering a seamless connection between residential interiors and the outdoors.

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Huddle’s The Springs Restaurant, Cameron Shopping Center, Palm Springs, 1957. William F. Cody Papers, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, two substantial collections—the William F. Cody Papers and the William F. Cody Papers 2 —contain a wide range of records, including student work, architectural drawings and plans, office records, public relations materials, photographs (including photographs by Julius Shulman), correspondence, and project files.  The bulk of these document his practice from 1946 to the mid-1970s, when a stroke limited his career.

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Presentation drawing of proposed Racquet Club Cottages West, Palm Springs, 1960. William F. Cody Papers, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.