The records of the Architectural League of New York measure 114.9 linear feet and date from 1880s-1974 (bulk 1927-1968). The League's mission "to advance the art of architecture" is documented through administrative and business records, committee records and officers' files, exhibition files, records of functions and events, correspondence, publicity files, photographs, lantern slides, and 16 scrapbooks.
Scope and Content Note:
The records of the Architectural League of New York measure 114.9 linear feet and date from 1880s-1974 (bulk 1927-1968). The League's mission "to advance the art of architecture" is documented through administrative and business records, committee records and officers' files, exhibition files, records of functions and events, correspondence, publicity files, photographs, lantern slides, and scrapbooks.
League records prior to 1927 are limited in the collection and are mostly found among Administrative Files. The administrative files include a nearly complete collection of annual reports from 1889-1932 and various meetings minutes from 1889 through the mid-20th century. Also found is a history of the League written by founding member Cass Gilbert, documentation of the changes of the League Constitution and By-Laws during the first half of the 20th century, and other administrative records.
Over a third of the collection are records from committees, including voluminous records of the Executive Committee, Current Work Committee, House Committee, Finance Committee, Membership Committee, and Scholarships and Special Awards Committee. In addition, there are scattered records for minor committees. Materials include correspondence, meeting minutes, election ballots, financial records, membership records, documents related to awarding scholarships and awards, and other administrative and organizational committee records. Found is the original 1889 agreement between the Architectural League, the Art Students League, and the Society of American Artists to build the American Fine Arts Society building. Throughout the collection, but especially in the Membership Committee subseries, the records provide a glimpse into the struggles the League faced during the Depression through World War II to maintain dues-paying members.
Officers' Files includes collated records of the League Executive Secretary and Secretary, as well as correspondence of the League President and Treasurer. Materials found here are not comprehensive; similar materials can be found throughout the collection.
Financial records such as bank statements, correspondence, and ledgers; insurance correspondence and policies; and legal correspondence, are found in the Business Records series. This series does not include records prior to 1926.
Exhibition files provide detailed documentation of the exhibitions sponsored by, or held at, the League primarily from the 1930s to the early 1970s. Records related to the League Annual Exhibition, the National Gold Medal Exhibitions, and the 1939 World's Fair in New York are found here, as well as exhibition files arranged chronologically by exhibition date and miscellaneous administrative files. Materials include administrative files, applications, correspondence, printed materials, publicity files, and other records related to organizing and managing exhibitions. The files of the Exhibition Committee are also found here.
Other series which document activities held by, or held at, the League include Functions and Events series and Publicity Files series. Found is correspondence, printed materials, press releases, schedules, and other administrative documents created in organizing events such as dinners, lectures, receptions, balls, and outings. The Records of Other Organizations includes records relating to organizations that had business with the League, often regarding events, meetings, and exhibitions held at the League. Represented here are some records of the American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.) and the National Sculpture Society (N.S.S.).
Correspondence includes miscellaneous correspondence arranged alphabetically by subject or name, and collated correspondence arranged chronologically. Most of the chronological correspondence appears to be Secretaries' files. The materials in the Miscellaneous series seem to have been separated from their original files, or were never filed properly. Therefore, materials and contents are similar to those found in other series, such as correspondence, administrative records, some financial records, and handwritten notes.
Black and white photographs, a handful of colored photographs, nearly 350 lantern slides, and negatives of exhibitions, buildings, events, and portraits are found in the Photographic Materials series.
Sixteen scrapbooks include eight scrapbooks of clippings from 1880s-1960s, and seven scrapbooks of notices and printed materials from 1925-1930. Also found is a scrapbook of signatures of event attendees, a clippings scrapbook compiled by Hamilton M. Wright, and a scrapbook of the Archeological Institute of America.
The collection is arranged as 12 series:
Series 1: Administrative Files, 1889-1969 (Boxes 1-10, OV 116; 9.7 linear feet)
Series 2: Committee Records, 1887-1974 (Boxes 10-54, 110, 114, OV 116; 44.7 linear feet)
Series 3: Officers' Files, 1900, 1923-1970 (Boxes 54-58; 3.9 linear feet)
Series 4: Business Records, circa 1926-1972 (Boxes 58-62, BVs 129-144; 7.35 linear feet)
Series 5: Exhibitions, 1887-1972, bulk 1930s-1960s (Boxes 62-83, 111, OVs 117-119; 21.85 linear feet)
Series 6: Functions and Events, 1909, 1931-1973 (Boxes 84-93, OV 120; 9.35 linear feet)
Series 7: Publicity Files, 1922-1972 (Boxes 93-95, 111; 2.5 linear feet)
Series 8: Records Relating to Organizations, 1908-1968, bulk 1930s-1960s (Boxes 95-101; 6.1 linear feet)
Series 9: Correspondence, 1929-1970 (Boxes 101-103, OV 120; 1.85 linear feet)
Series 10: Miscellaneous, circa 1936-1968 (Boxes 103-104; 1.3 linear feet)
Series 11: Photographic Materials, 1896-1960s (Boxes 105-108, 112, OVs 121-128; 4.3 linear feet)
Series 12: Scrapbooks, 1880s-1960s (Boxes 108-109, 113-115, BVs 145-148; 2.2 linear feet)
There are frequently similar and related materials in multiple series, as is indicated in the series' descriptions. The records may originally have been arranged by file owner (committees, secretary, etc.), then by League season (roughly May - April). Most series include a handful of folders in which the original folder title indicates the file owner and League season (i.e. Secretary 1938-1939).
Modeling the organization's name after the Art Students League of New York, the Architectural League of New York was founded in New York City in 1881 by a group of architects who wished to gather and discuss architecture and its relationship to the arts. The group elected D.W. Willard as the first President of the League and they began gathering regularly to discuss and critique each other's sketches and hold competitions. The organization grew quickly and soon the League rented a room in a building on 14th Street between University Place and Fifth Avenue.
However, by the mid-1880s the founders and more active League members left New York, and membership began to falter. The League was reorganized in 1886, expanding membership beyond professional architects, and incorporated in 1888 with 166 members. In 1889, the League joined with the Art Students League of New York and the Society of American Artists to form the American Fine Arts Society. Thus, in 1892 the three organizations were able to erect a building at 215 West 57th Street where the League remained until 1927 when it moved to 115 East 40th Street.
The League was run by the Executive Committee and its officers, elected every two years. The beginning of each League season kicked off with an annual dinner in the spring. The League also formed numerous committees to organize activities and manage administrative tasks. Noteworthy committees include the Current Work Committee, House Committee, Finance Committee, Exhibition Committee, Membership Committee, and Scholarships and Special Awards Committee.
The League's interdisciplinary approach to architecture and the arts was expressed through sponsored forums and discussions with architects and artists. From the League's beginning, the Current Work Committee was established to organize educational forums for members. Recognition of achievement was awarded by an Annual Exhibition from the late 1880s until 1938. In 1950, the League began awarding the annual National Gold Medal Exhibition in various fields such as landscape architecture, engineering, and sculpture. Additionally, the League awarded numerous other scholarships each year. Architects, artists, and arts-related organizations could also rent space in the League building to hold meetings, discussions, and exhibitions.
The League admitted its first female member in 1934. Notable members of the League included Arnold W. Brunner (President, 1903-1905), Cass Gilbert (President, 1913-1915), Philip Johnson, Robert A.M. Stern, and Russell Sturgis (President, 1889-1893).
The Architectural League of New York continues to provide educational opportunities and scholarships to students and professionals.
Background information was gathered from a written history of the League by Cass Gilbert found in this collection and the Architectural League of New York website (http://archleague.org/category/archive/history-archive/).
Among the holdings of the Archives of American Art are several collections that contain Architectural League of New York records. The American Federation of Arts records, 1895-1993, include a significant amount of League records related to national awards programs and lantern slides from the "New Horizons in America" lecture series.
The Architectural League of New York records were donated in several installments from 1967-1980 by the Architectural League of New York.
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
The Architectural League of New York records are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.