Gropius family papers

Collection Type

  • Manuscripts


1851-1985, undated

Location Note

HGO-02-105-A-F-402; HGO-02-105-A-F-403; HGO-02-105-A-F-404; HGO-02-105-A-F-405; HGO-02-105-A-F-406; HGO-02-105-A-F-106




The Gropius family papers (MS012) contain the papers of architect, Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (1883-1969) and his wife, Ise (Frank) Gropius (1897-1983), and reflect their personal lives and professional work in both Germany and the United States. The papers are largely comprised of Ise's correspondence with family and friends in her homeland of Germany; immigration and naturalization documents and genealogical material relating to both Walter and Ise; financial records regarding bank accounts, financial investments, royalties, household and medical expenses; records related to the Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts; Walter's professional work (primarily focusing on the Architects Collaborative (TAC), Bauhaus, Frank'sche Eisenwerke Aktiengesellschaft; and publishers); Ise's drafts for the exhibition catalogue, Walter Gropius: Buildings, Plans, Projects, 1906-1969, regarding Walter's life work; and other personal papers. Large portions of the papers are in German. Allergy note: fabric samples, feathers, and other allergy causing agents may be present throughout the collection. The collection is arranged in eight series.

In 1979, Historic New England acquired the Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, from Ise (Frank) Gropius (1897-1983), wife of architect Walter Adolf George Gropius (1883-1969). The papers within the house at the time of acquisition formed the bases of the collection: Gropius family papers (now MS012).

Update: 2013-2014
In 2013-2014, through a National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant (Award Number: NAR13-RH-50051-13: "Family Manuscript Collections: Expanding Online Access to New England Heritage Project"), twenty-six Historic New England manuscript collections of family papers were re-evaluated and processed/reprocessed to meet current archival standards and "best practices;" corresponding finding aids were created/updated to be DACS-compliant and converted into electronic Microsoft Word document form; and the finding aids were made accessible/searchable online through the use of the Minisis M2A archival database of the Minisis Collections Management System. The Walter Gropius (1883-1969) papers (MS012) were part of the grant project.

Prior to the 2013-2014 collection processing, the Walter Gropius (1883-1969) papers (now MS012) comprised one file box, seven cartons (approx. 9.17 linear feet) plus two multi-purpose boxes, and additional loose material. The collection possessed no original order.

During the 2013-2014 collection reprocessing/updating, materials were sorted according to record types and/or topic; a rudimentary arrangement scheme was applied to the collection; folder titles were created (as needed); and the collection was housed in legal-size, acid-free folders and cartons. Most of the papers throughout the collection were removed from envelopes (if applicable), unfolded, and flattened; most oversize material was interleafed within the boxes, as applicable; and a few fragile and vulnerable items were placed in enclosures or interleafed within folders, as appropriate. Folders and boxes were numbered, labeled, barcoded, and stored accordingly. Scope and content notes were created; brief research was engaged to create a biographical/ historical sketch; restrictions were noted; and related collections held by Historic New England and other repositories were researched and noted. A DACS-compliant, electronic 2010-2013 Microsoft Word document finding aid was created (with corresponding paper finding aid) and entered into the collection record in the MINISIS M2A online database. LPMP-style processing was applied to the collection and minimal attention was given to preservation and housing issues.

2013-2014 extent of collection (prior to updating):
·01 file boxes (legal-size)= 0.42 linear feet
·07 cartons (letter-wise)= 8.75 linear feet

*Yale linear footage calculator: approximately 9.17 linear feet (1 file box, 7 cartons) plus 2 multi-purpose boxes, loose material

NOTE: Processing/updating the collection and making the finding aid accessible online were made possible through grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (Award Number: NAR13-RH-50051-13), the Bedford Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor.


Descriptive Terms

clippings (information artifacts)
estate records
financial records
journals (accounts)
legal documents
military records
property records
site plans
stock certificates
family papers

Physical Description

Family papers: 12.0 linear ft. (12 cartons)

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.

Custodial History

·1979: Acquisition of the Walter Gropius House, Lincoln, Massachusetts, and all of its contents from Ise (Frank) Gropius (1897-1983), wife of Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (1883-1969)

Collection Code


Collection Name

Gropius family papers

Date of Acquisition


Reference Code



Personal and professional correspondence; banking records; bills, receipts, and invoices; royalty statements, stock certificates, tax records, and other financial records; contracts; genealogical material; insurance records; legal documents; manuscripts; medical records; papers relating to Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts; papers regarding publishers; photographs; printed material; professional papers; etc.; reflecting the personal and professional lives of architect Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (1883-1969) and his wife, Ise (Frank) Gropius (1897-1983) of Lincoln, Massachusetts, and Germany.

Credit Line

Gift of Ise (Frank) Gropius (1897-1983, 1979


Barcelona (Barcelona province, Catalonia, Spain)
Berlin (Berlin state, Germany)
Boston (Suffolk county, Massachusetts)
Buenos Aires (Distrito Federal, Argentina)
Cambridge (Middlesex county, Massachusetts)
Chicago (Cook county, Illinois)
Dessau (Halle district, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany)
Frankfurt am Main (Darmstadt district, Hesse, Germany)
Lincoln (Middlesex county, Massachusetts)
London (Greater London, England, United Kingdom)
Middletown (Middlesex county, Connecticut)
New York City (New York state)
Paris (Ville de Paris department, Île-de-France, France)
Stuttgart (Stuttgart district, Baden-Württemberg, Germany)
Washington (DC)

Record Details


Gropius family

Material Type

family papers

Other People

Anshen, Ruth Nanda
Kupferberg, F. (Florian), 1773 or 1774-1851
Frank, Ellen
Frank, J.
Gropius, Beate
Gropius, Ise
Gropius, Walter, 1883-1969
Hewett, Betsy
Summer, Nevin

Other Organizations

American Institute of Architects
Architects Collaborative, Inc.
Archives of American Art
Berliner Handels-Gesellschaft
Brine Trees
Buckley and Scott
Büro für Pressebeobachtung. Ausschnitt
Busch-Reisinger Museum
Charles T. Branford Company (Boston, Mass.)
Collier Books (Firm)
Denoel (Firm)
Editorial Lumen
Faber and Faber
Fischer Bücherei
Frank'sche Eisenwerke Aktiengesellschaft
General Panel Corporation of California
Gonthier (Firm)
Harper & Brothers
Harper & Row, Publishers
Harry Seidler and Associates
Harvard Trust Company
Harvard University
Historic New England (Organization)
Houghton Library
International Editors' Company (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Lincoln Land Conservation Trust
McGraw-Hill Book Company
M.I.T. Press
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)
National Council of Architectural Registration Boards
Paul Theobald and Company (Chicago, IL)
Ropes & Gray
Smithsonian Institution
Stuart School. Child-Walker School of Design (Boston, Mass.)
Tecta Furniture
Verlag Gerd Hatje (Stuttgart, Germany)
Wesleyan University (Middletown, Conn.). Press


·This collection is available for research. Arrangements to access the collection must be made in advance.
·The majority of the collection is unrestricted. Some materials, due to thier sensitive nature, may require review by Library and Archives staff prior to their use.
·Restricted. #C.11.14-C.11.23 are restricted and closed to research until January 1, 2074.
·Allergy note: fabric samples, feathers, dried flowers, and other allergy causing agents may be found throughout the collection.
·Note: due to aging materials and condition of the materials, the whole of the collection requires handling with care.

Description Level


Location Note

HGO-02-105-A-F-402; HGO-02-105-A-F-403; HGO-02-105-A-F-404; HGO-02-105-A-F-405; HGO-02-105-A-F-406; HGO-02-105-A-F-106

Appraisal, Destruction, and Scheduling Note

The following items have been temporarily removed from the collection and will be catalogued separately at a future date:

·Architectural plans

·Audiovisual material

·Additional drawings

·Additional manuscript drafts

.Unprocessed material: 2 linear ft. (2 cartons) plus 1 multi-purpose box

Language Note

Materials in English and German; some in French

Preferred Citation

·[Item identification.] Gropius family papers (MS012). Historic New England, Library and Archives.

Processing Information

·2014 August: Processed by Agathe Albi, French Heritage Intern; with assistance from Alyssa Ramirez, archives assistant; Bridgette A. Woodall, project archivist; and Jennifer Pustz, museum historian

Rules and Conventions

This finding aid is DACS-compliant.

Historical/Biographical Note

Historical/Biographical Note

The Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, was built in 1938 by German architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969). He was thirty-five years old when he was appointed director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Weimar, Germany. One of his first decisions was to combine the Academy of Fine Arts with the School of Crafts and rename the new institution the Bauhaus. Bauhaus is taken from two German words: bauen (to build) and Haus (house), and translated means "House of Building," an idea Gropius took from medieval craft guilds. Gropius was director of the Bauhaus from its founding in 1919 until 1928.

Financial woes and political opposition forced the school to move from Weimar to Dessau in 1925. The school entered its most creative phase in Dessau, where Gropius brought together a faculty of celebrated artists and craftspeople that included Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, Anni Albers, Marianne Brandt, Alexander Schawinsky, and Marcel Breuer, among others.

The attitude of the Bauhaus toward design was all-embracing, encouraging collaboration and taking into consideration not only the individual object or building but also the larger context, the community, and the environment. Training required students to study the fine arts, to learn the skills of a craft, to understand the properties of materials, and to be familiar with technology and factory production. The Bauhaus embraced new materials, new technology, and sought to create a new aesthetic, unencumbered by historical tradition. Students were taught that beauty was to be found in the economy of form, in the expressive use of materials, and in solutions that were suitable, economical, practical, and therefore inherently elegant.

The political situation in Germany at the time was rapidly changing with the rise of the Nazi Party. The government closed the Bauhaus in 1933 and Gropius, who had left the school in 1928 to open a private practice in Berlin, fell into disfavor with the Third Reich, who described his work as "Communist." Gropius submitted designs for government-funded projects that were consistently rejected. There was little work in Germany for anyone not closely aligned with the government. In 1934, the German government granted Gropius's request to work temporarily in London. The dean of Harvard University's Graduate School of Design, Joseph Hudnut, visited Gropius in London and offered him a teaching position at the university. Harvard pursued Gropius, anxious to revitalize the teaching of architecture and change their curriculum from the Beaux-Arts tradition. Only when Harvard agreed to allow him to build a private architectural practice in America - in addition to his teaching - did Gropius accept the offer. Walter Gropius accepted the appointment as professor and subsequently chairman of the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Architecture in 1937. Walter and Ise Gropius arrived in the United States in the spring of that year with little more than their furniture made in the workshops of the Bauhaus, their books, and office files. Their daughter Ati, twelve years old at the time, remained behind in England to finish the school year. They immediately fell in love with the New England countryside and admired the landscape outside Cambridge and Boston and, in contrast to their apartments in Berlin and London, decided to live in more rural surroundings. They found a Colonial-style house to rent on Sandy Pond in Lincoln, Massachusetts, but the house did not suit their functional or aesthetic needs. Ise later wrote, "Our Bauhaus furniture looked indeed strange in the small rooms of this prim little house of Colonial style."

New social connections brought an extraordinary opportunity. Henry Shepley, an architect friend, approached philanthropist and patron of the arts Helen Storrow, informing her that "the new German professor" at the Harvard School of Design was 'desperate' to build a house for himself but was not in the financial position to do so. He suggested that she offer him a piece of land on her large estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts, finance the house, and rent it to him so that they could "see what he might do." Mrs. Storrow, who was known to support many individuals and organizations, agreed almost immediately. Mrs. Storrow thought that newly arrived immigrants should always be given a chance, so she offered Gropius a building site and the financial resources to build his house, because as she put it, "if it is good, it will take root." Gropius chose four acres on a small hill surrounded by Mrs. Storrow's apple orchard.
Working with local Concord, Massachusetts, builder Casper J. Jenney and approximately $20,000, the Gropiuses wanted their home to reflect its surroundings and traveled around New England studying vernacular architecture. In designing the house, Gropius combined traditional elements of New England architecture such as clapboard, brick, and fieldstone, with new, innovative materials, some of them industrial, such as glass block, acoustical plaster, and chromed banisters, along with the latest technology in fixtures. The design of the Gropius House is consistent with Bauhaus philosophies of simplicity, functionality, economy, geometry, and aesthetic beauty determined by materials rather than applied ornamentation. Gropius used traditional New England building materials and architectural elements in intriguing ways, like the vertical clapboard walls of the front hall which are not only functional but beautiful.

Guests to the Gropiuses' home and dinner table included their Bauhaus friends and fellow émigrés as well as other notables of the twentieth century. Alexander Calder, Joan Miro, Igor Stravinsky, Henry Moore, Demetri Hadzi, and Frank Lloyd Wright are a few names in the Gropius guest book. In several ways, Gropius incorporated the philosophy of living in harmony with nature. The large plate glass windows have a dual purpose: they visually bring the outdoors in, but also permit passive solar gain. Another strategy he used was to allow the flat roof rainwater and snow melt to drain through a center pipe to a dry well. Over time, Mrs. Gropius designed her gardens to become low-water, low-maintenance, and incorporated indigenous plants. They did not have air conditioning, but used passive ventilation. Walter Gropius believed that the relationship of a house to its landscape was of paramount importance, and he designed the grounds of the home as carefully as the structure itself. The Gropius's goal was to create a New England landscape, complete with mature trees, rambling stone walls, and rescued boulders as focal points. The Japanese-inspired garden in the back of the house was installed by Mrs. Gropius in 1957 after a trip to Asia. It was her intention to create a low-horizon profile in the garden with azaleas, cotoneasters, candytuft, and junipers, and to use a red maple as the focal point under the arch. Walter and Ise Gropius considered the screened porch to be among the best practical New England responses to the environment. However, they noted, porches usually darkened interior living spaces and were often placed at the front or side of a house. In past decades a porch overlooking the road would be quite pleasant, with neighbors and infrequent slow-moving vehicles passing by. However, modern living dictated that a porch should not force the occupants of the house to endure the noise of the street. Gropius adapted the basic idea, placing the porch perpendicular to the house to capture every available breeze, provide total privacy from the road, and darken only a service room. The screened porch room permitted outdoor living year round. Mr. Gropius played ping-pong there in the winter months, as the south and west-facing sun would warm it in winter, and the breezes would cool it in summer. Mrs. Storrow's death in 1945, the Gropiuses bought the house from her son, and added one and a half acres to the original four acres.

Walter Gropius died in 1969, leaving Mrs. Gropius a two-sentence will. In the will he states that he loves her and trusts her with his legacy. Mrs. Gropius acted on her husband's intent by establishing the Walter Gropius Archives at Harvard, as well as donating pieces of art to the Busch-Reisinger Museum and to the Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin.

Walter and Ise Gropius promoted modern architecture and Bauhaus principles of design by using their family home as a teaching tool. Gropius believed that his house, although built in 1938, embodied the qualities of simplicity, functionality, economy, geometry, and aesthetic beauty that could transcend time and could be applied to the architecture of today. Mrs. Gropius was determined to carry this educational opportunity forward by turning her home into a museum. She chose to give the property to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, now Historic New England, in 1979, but continued to live in the house until her death in 1983. She recognized that the Gropius House was, and continues to be, a New England house and an important part of the New England architectural continuum. In a charming anecdote, Mrs. Gropius was always amused to think of the Gropius House as a New England "antiquity" as years before it had been barely tolerated as a curiosity, or worse, an abomination. The stewardship of Historic New England insured that the Gropiuses' vision of preservation and education would carry on into the future.

Material in Other Collections

Material in Other Collections

Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard UniversityHoughton Library, Harvard UniversityArchives of American ArtMarcel Breuer Collection, Syracuse UniversityBauhaus-Archiv, Berlin, Germany
Walter Gropius papers in the Bauhaus-Archiv (MS Ger 208.2), Houghton Library, Harvard University. [Original materials in the Bauhaus-Archiv, Museum für Gestaltung, Berlin, Germany]

Walter Gropius additional papers, 1908-1937, undated (MS Ger 208.3), Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Walter and Ise Gropius papers, 1883-1981. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Walter Gropius papers, 1930-1972 (BRM 4), Harvard Art Museums Archives, Harvard University.

Walter Gropius papers, 1925-1969 (MS Ger 208), Houghton Library, Harvard University.



The collection is arranged in eight series: Series I. Correspondence. Series II. Financial records: banking institutions. Series III. Financial records: other financial records. Series IV. Papers regarding Gropius House and the Town of Lincoln, Massachusetts. Series V. Professional work. Series VI. Publishers. Series VII. Other papers. Series VIII. Manuscripts and printed material.

*Collection housing/storage code: #x.x=file box (i.e., #1.2= file box 1, folder 2); C=carton; FB=folio box; FF=fragile files; MB=multi-purpose box; OB=oversize box/folder; OV=oversize volume; VF=vertical files/flat files