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Robert Allen Cook architectural collection

AR008 (RS81503)

Description

The Robert Allen Cook architectural collection includes a wide range of documents and more than 3,500 architectural drawings. The materials document the daily operations of an architectural office during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and shed light on such practical matters as labor costs, materials, hiring practices, client relations, and the making of design decisions.

The variety of building types represented among Cook's drawings indicates that he was a broad general practitioner, able to design everything from important public buildings to bakeries. The drawings depict commercial buildings, schools, churches, hospitals, greenhouses, barns, factories, fire stations, Masonic buildings, residences of all types, garages, theaters, and even automobile showrooms. The collection provides some documentation for the vernacular face of New England as it still looks today in many towns.

The operations of Cook's firm are thoroughly chronicled by extensive professional correspondence, letter books, tax records, account books, bills and receipts, pay cards, time sheets, cancelled checks, contract accounts, and hardware schedules. Individual projects are well documented through photographs, postcards, contract files, specifications, and architectural drawings. Pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, and books relate to commissions and occasionally contain articles by Cook. The trade catalogues in the collection were used by Cook primarily as reference and source materials.

Robert Allen Cook's largest-scale project was his work designing workers' housing and industrial buildings for the Draper Company of Hopedale, Massachusetts, the largest supplier of textile machinery in the country. Hopedale was considered to be one of the most successful company towns in America. In The Model Company Town (Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press, 1984), John S. Garner writes, "one town above others exemplifies a significant achievement in industrial organization, housing, and site management. Hopedale, Massachusetts, offers a paradigm by which other company towns, as well as model company towns, can be compared. It represents the best of its type: not only was it able to provide a pleasant environment for its inhabitants, but it also retained a model image and social order through professional design and site maintenance."

The biographical material in this collection consists of a few advertisements, trade cards, letters of introduction, membership cards, and receipts. Unpublished writings include an essay, "Burbank Gives His Views on Childhood Culture" (1905); notebooks titled "Building Notes," "Book of Measurements," and "Europe;" brief lists of buildings, photographs, and incomplete drawing and specification indices. A small file on his trip to Rome supplements the "Europe" notebook.

Details

Collection Name
Robert Allen Cook architectural collection
Collection Code
AR008
Dates
1888-1946
Abstract
The Robert Allen Cook architectural collection includes more than 3,500 architectural drawings that reveal in detail the daily operations of an architectural office during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and shed light on such practical matters as labor costs, materials, hiring practices, client relations, and the making of design decisions. The collection includes additional documentation such as contracts, specifications, photographs, and correspondence.
Acquisition Type
Library & Archives Purchase
Date of Acquisition
1993-1996
Physical Description
49 linear feet (x boxes)
Finding Aid Info
An electronic finding aid is available through Historic New England's Collections Access Portal. A paper finding aid is available in the Library & Archives.
Collection Type
Architectural and Cartographic Materials
Description Level
Collection
Credit Line
The majority of the collection was purchased by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England) in 1993, 1994, and 1996. Gifs to the collection were made by Earle Shettleworth, Robin Philbin, and Paul Curran.
GUSN
163748
Reference Code
AR008

Historical/Biographical Note

Robert Allen Cook was born on September 13, 1872, in Milford, Massachusetts. He was educated in his hometown and received his architectural training by studying under several draftsmen in Boston and traveling to Europe. On his return in 1897, he established a practice in Milford. For many years, his office was located at 57 Prospect Street.

Although Robert Allen Cook is relatively unknown today, in his time he was nationally recognized for his designs for workers' housing and industrial buildings for the Draper Company of Hopedale, Massachusetts, the largest supplier of textile machinery in the country. In addition to his work for the Draper Company, he designed commercial, educational, and religious buildings and residences, including the Spruce Street School (Milford), Dr. Waldo Boardman House (Winthrop), and Milford Federal Savings & Loan Association.

Robert Allen Cook died on October 11, 1949, in Milford.

Sources
Material in the collection. Obituaries, Milford Daily News, Oct. 11, 1949. Garner, John S. The Model Company Town. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984.

Arrangement

Arrangement
The collection is arranged in fourteen series as follows:
Series I. Biographical information, 1891-1920, undated
Series II. Writings, 1890-1914, undated
Series III. Drawing indices, 1892-1914
Series IV. Specification indices, 1910-1918
Series V. Photographs, undated
Series VI. Postcards, undated
Series VII. Subject files, 1896-1913, undated
Series VIII. Correspondence, 1890-1926
Series IX. Financial and legal material, 1892-1946, undated
Series X. Contract accounts, 1901-1913
Series XI. Contracts, 1893-1928
Series XII. Specifications, 1893-1933, undated
Series XIII. Printed material, 1891-1936, undated
Series XIV. Architectural drawings, dates

Record details

Originator
Cook, Robert Allen (Architect)
Other Organizations
Draper Company
Descriptive Terms
architects
bungalows
commercial buildings
company towns
cottages
double houses
dwellings
factories (structures)
garages
hospitals (buildings for health facility)
houses
industrial buildings
industrial housing
office buildings
public buildings
schools (buildings)
stables (animal housing)
Material Type
account books
advertisements
architectural drawings (visual works)
architectural records
books
checks (bank checks)
clippings (information artifacts)
commercial correspondence
contracts
invoices
letter books
notebooks
pamphlets
periodicals
personnel records
photographs
postcards
receipts (financial records)
specifications
tax records
time sheets
trade cards (advertising)
trade catalogs
writings (document genre)
Subjects
architectural firms
Places
Milford (Worcester county, Massachusetts)
Hopedale (Worcester county, Massachusetts)
Bellingham (Norfolk county, Massachusetts)
Franklin (Norfolk county, Massachusetts)
Upton (Worcester county, Massachusetts)
Uxbridge (Worcester county, Massachusetts)
Restrictions
This collection is available for research.
Accruals Note
Accruals are not expected.
Publications Referencing This Collection
(1994-10). NEA Newsletter. New England Archivists.
(Winter 1994). SPNEA Newsletter. Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities.
Language Note
Materials are entirely in English.
Physical Access Restrictions
There are no physical restrictions on this collection. There are no technical restrictions on this collection.
Preferred Citation
Item identification. Box #, folder #. Robert Allen Cook architectural collection (AR008). Historic New England, Library & Archives.
Processing Information
The collection was processed by Ann Clifford from 1995 through 1997. Processing of the collection was supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The finding aid was updated and made DACS-compliant by Abigail Cramer and Megan Gallagher in 2014.
Rules and Conventions
This finding aid is DACS compliant.

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