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General architectural and cartographic collection

AR001 (RS33715)


Architectural drawings constitute one of the largest categories of holdings in the Library and Archives. The drawings are of two distinct types: 1. those by architects and architectural scholars of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who measured and drew elevations, floor plans and details of New England's earliest historic structures, as part of the quickening movement to protect its architectural heritage from oblivion; and 2. those which relate to actual or proposed commissions by New England architects of the late-eighteenth and early twentieth centuries, ranging from churches, jails, office buildings to dwellings. The latter type predominates.One of the highlights of the collection of historic building plans is the measured drawings that Boston architect John H. Sturgis prepared on the eve of the demolition of the Hancock House in 1863. These works are 'the first full set of measured drawings to have been made of an American home" (Floyd, Margaret Henderson. "Measured Drawings of the Hancock House by John H. Sturgis". In: "Architecture in Colonial Massachusetts", 1979). Possibly the example of Sturgis influenced his nephew, Ogden Codman, Jr., whose conjectural drawings and measured plans of more than 20 of Boston's most architecturally distinguished late Colonial and early Federal period mansions, drawn in the 1880s and early 1890s, are also part of the collection. These are maintained in their original portfolios; his associated notes are stored with the Codman Family Papers (MS001). Other measured drawings of particular interest are the measured drawings by Gridley James Fox Bryant of the Brattle Street Church in Boston, drawn in 1866 and 1871, which Abbott Lowell Cummings has aptly described as "preservation on paper."Prior to the formation of the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1933, Norman Isham, J. F. Kelley, G. F. Dow, Alfred Shurrocks, Frank Chouteau Brown, Donald Millar, Thomas T. Waterman, and others systematically combed New England in search of surviving buildings from the first and second period of its architectural history. Much of their work was inspired by William Sumner Appleton, the founder of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, known today as Historic New England, which took the lead among preservation organizations in documenting and preserving early regional building traditions. These drawings are a matchless record of now demolished or radically modified high-style and vernacular structures. Correlated materials include Norman Isham's research notes, clippings and photographs, and several scrapbooks of photographs compiled by Alfred Shurrocks, both of particular interest to buildings in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Additional documentation also is found in the Institutional Archives correspondence files.A number of New England's most significant architects are represented by smaller holdings. There are designs by Asher Benjamin (some signed), for dwellings in Greenfield, Massachusetts and Suffield, Connecticut, an unidentified meeting house, and watercolor renderings of the elevations and grounds of a house by Thomas Rundle for Eleazar Wright in Medford, Massachusetts. The floor plans for the Boston residence of David Sears on Beacon Street by Alexander Parris were discovered among the drawings of Luther Briggs, Jr., and re-credited on the basis of watermarks and calligraphy. Two sheets of floor plans and an elevation of a dwelling in Danvers, Massachusetts have been attributed to the hand of Samuel McIntire.Among the most visually striking drawings in the collection are the color competition renderings for a chapel at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, prepared by Richard Bond, Ammi Young, and Gridley James Fox Bryant in 1844. Richard Upjohn, Sr.'s extensive set of plans for the remodeling of Theodore Lyman's Brookline residence in 1852 contain templates for porch brackets and other decorative details. Edward Casey, best known interiors at the Library of Congress, is represented by five commissions for estates and "barns" in Connecticut, in addition to portions of his architectural library which reflects his Beaux Arts training.The work of Ogden Codman, Jr., a prominent architect with an interest in architectural history, has a strong connection to Historic New England as he was a member of the family who owned the Codman House, one of the organization's properties in Lincoln, Massachusetts. His career as a "fashionable young architect" is amply documented for more than 40 planned or built residential commissions executed between the mid-1890s to approximately 1916, in Newport, Rhode Island, New York City, Connecticut, Long Island, and New Jersey. The interpretation of Codman's work is enhanced by a voluminous body of letters in the Codman Family Papers, not only with fellow architects and designers, but particularly with his mother Sarah F. B. Codman, to whom he confided his aspirations and his tactics to attract prominent patrons. Also significant in this regard is the correspondence between Codman and Edith Wharton, who launched his architectural career and co-authored with him the influential book, "The Decoration of Houses".Another resource of interest is the source material prepared by Harold Kirker for his book, "The Architecture of Charles Bulfinch", such as plans and photographs of his buildings, obtained from several libraries and historical collections. A collection of designs for families of modest means are those by carpenter-builder William Place, whose practice appears to have been centered in the vicinity of Johnston, Rhode Island. Active in the 1890s, his works consist of over 25 drawings, such as plans for tenements, cottages, and two-family dwellings. In a similar vein is a collection of nearly 20 drawings by Julius Pomeroy, who operated in the area near Easthampton, Massachusetts in the 1870s. His designs are strongly shaped by published house plans of the period.The Maps and Atlases Collection is composed of over 500 maps of New England localities and 50 bound atlases. The majority relate to Boston and vicinity. The maps provide especially good coverage for the 19th century, some of which are occasionally illustrated with vignettes of architectural and scenic views.Municipal and county atlases published 1874 frequently include illustrations in the form of line engravings, most often of commercial buildings. Early atlases, such as those published by Bromley and Hopkins between the mid-1870s to the turn of the century, generally show the configuration of buildings on individual lots. Source: Guide to the Library and Archives, 25-26.


Collection Name
General architectural and cartographic collection
Collection Code
Date Notes
ca. 1790s-2000s
Physical Description
ca. 30,000 architectural drawings
Collection Type
Architectural and Cartographic Materials
Description Level
Reference Code


Over 5,000 individual drawings have been catalogued and are accessible by means of a card index arranged by localities and architects' names. There are finding aids to many of the architectural collections in the Library and Archives.The checklist to the maps and atlases is arranged chronologically within localities.

Record details

Benjamin, Asher, 1773-1845 (Architect)
Bryant, Gridley James Fox, 1816-1899 (Architect)
Bulfinch, Charles, 1763-1844 (Architect)
Casey, Edward Pearce, 1864-1940 (Architect)
Codman, Ogden (Architect)
McIntire, Samuel, 1757-1811 (Architect)
Parris, Alexander, 1780-1852 (Architect)
Sturgis, John Hubbard, 1834-1888 (Architect)
Upjohn, Richard (Architect)
Young, Ammi B., 1798-1874 (Architect)
Descriptive Terms
churches (buildings)
commercial buildings
historic buildings
historic houses
public buildings
religious buildings
Material Type
architectural drawings (visual works)
measured drawings
Boston (Suffolk county, Massachusetts)
New England (United States) [general region]
New York state (United States)
Related Items
Bowen family papers

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