Original art collection


The original art collection contains approximately 1000 items such as drawings, paintings, sketches, and illustrations in various media, mainly ink, pen, pencil, and watercolor, dating from the 1820s to the mid-twentieth century. The geographic scope encompasses all of the New England states and New York State, with a small number of materials that represent other locales in the United States and Europe. The collection presents both documentary and artistic works. In the documentary category, there are several watercolors of historic buildings by Lester Bridaham, who was an artist for the Historic American Buildings Survey in Massachusetts during the 1930s; Boston architect Lawrence Park's detailed renderings of several seventeenth century buildings; pen-and-ink sketches by Bostonian John W. Robbins, who specialized in the portrayal of the city's hidden alleyways; circa 1830s sketches by John Warner Barber of early New Hampshire houses; and a rare series of finely detailed sketches of farms and houses in Cumberland, Maine by an unknown artist of the late 1850s. In the artistic category, there are amateur watercolors, largely landscapes of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, by Susannah Hickling Lewis Willard, who was a Cambridge artist working in the 1840s to the 1860s; a group of watercolors, drawings, and other genres by Almira Fenno Gendrot, a pupil of William Morris Hunt; and several pieces by George Harvey, another Hunt student.


Descriptive Terms

graphite (mineral)
watercolor (paint)
wash (coating)
landscapes (representations)
historic buildings
alleys (streets)
drawings (visual works)
paintings (visual works)
illustrations (layout features)
renderings (drawings)

Physical Description

approx. 1000 items

Finding Aid Info

A paper finding aid is available in the Library & Archives. It includes item-level descriptions of the material and a comprehensive index to the collection.

Custodial History

The custodial history is different for each acquisition that has been added to this collection. See item-level information for details.

Collection Code


Collection Name

Original art collection

Reference Code



A collection of original artworks compiled into a collection by Historic New England staff.

Date Notes



Boston (Suffolk county, Massachusetts)
Massachusetts (United States)
Connecticut (United States)
Maine (United States)
New Hampshire (United States)
Rhode Island (United States)
Vermont (United States)
New York state (United States)
Virginia (United States)
Illinois (United States)
New Jersey (United States)
United States
United Kingdom

Record Details

Material Type

drawings (visual works)
paintings (visual works)
illustrations (layout features)
renderings (drawings)

Other People

Barber, John Warner, 1798-1885
Bridaham, Lester Burbank
Gendrot, Almira Torrey Blake Fenno, 1834-1924
Harvey, George W., 1835-1920
Park, Lawrence, 1873-1924
Robbins, John
Willard, Susannah Hickling (Lewis)

Other Organizations

Historic American Buildings Survey




This collection is available for research.


Delicate materials may be restricted due to their condition.

Description Level


Accruals Note

Accruals are expected at the discretion of Library & Archives staff.

Language Note

Materials are entirely in English.

Preferred Citation

Item identification, box #. Original art collection (GC001). Historic New England, Library & Archives.

Processing Information

This collection was processed and individual items catalogued by Historic New England staff as materials were acquired. The finding aid was written by Abigail Cramer, February 2014.

Rules and Conventions

This finding aid is DACS-compliant.

Related Items

Prints and engravings collection, 1830s-1920s

Historical/Biographical Note

Historical/Biographical Note

This collection was compiled by the Historic New England, Library & Archives staff over the course of many years. The materials were acquired individually or in small groups and added to the collection. Many artists are represented in this collection, some well-known and others amateur. See individual materials for further information about their history and the artists responsible for them.



The materials in this collection are arranged by geographic location. Materials from within the United States are arranged by state and then by town; materials from outside the United States are arranged first by country and then by town. There is also a separate designation for United States waterways, as many of them cross state lines, and there is a separate “general” United States category for works for which the specific location is unknown.

Reparative Language in Collections Records

Historic New England is committed to implementing reparative language description for existing collections and creating respectful and inclusive language description for new collections. If you encounter language in Historic England's Collections Access Portal that is harmful or offensive, or you find materials that would benefit from a content warning, please contact [email protected].