If hand-drawn architectural sketches and renderings are on the verge of becoming a lost art in this age of Autocad, then I would imagine that they would increase in value exponentially in the coming decades. My husband-the-architect can draw beautifully, as can lots of other architects that we know (Salem seems to be a magnet for architects) but they are all in their 40s: are they the last generation of sketching architects? While searching for some information about a Boston architect named Arthur Little who studied, sketched, and worked in Salem, I came across a periodical entitled The American Architect and Building News which was packed with amazing illustrations over its relatively short (1876-1908) life. I think I’m next-to-last in a long list of bloggers who have discovered this resource (and I’m sure it must be a key primary source for architectural historians), but I’m still going to showcase some of my favorite illustrations.
The American Architect was published every Saturday by a series of Boston publishers. It was first and foremost a trade publication, containing industry news and notices, classified as “Building Intelligence”, as well as plans, sketches, and photographs of newly-commissioned and -built structures. Its scope was national, even international, but there are lots of Boston-area buildings given its place of publication. This was the gilded age, and elaborate summer cottages were given pride of placement. It was also an age of the emerging Colonial Revival style, and so architects like Little looked for inspiration for their new houses in the old colonial towns, like Salem. Below are some detail drawings of the very inspirational Peirce-Nichols house from several 1886 issues of The American Architect and a contemporary phot0graph of the house.
Some illustrations from issues of The American Architect published in 1884, including sketches of a “cottage” in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, the Ames Building in Boston (the city’s first “skyscraper”) by H.H. Richardson, a facade and details of a house in Scotland, and a Queen Anne-style house in Pittsburgh:
More details from an old Salem houses, drawn by Frank W. Wallis (who did the Peirce Nichols house sketches above), from an 1886 issue of The American Architect, and comparative cornices and door hardware from 1889 issues:
No detail was too small for The American Architect and Building News. Given the era, there are also lots of technical drawings, for plumbing and “sanitation”, electrical wiring, fire prevention (the goal was a “slow-burning house”), and studies of shade and shadows. The work of draftsmen like E. Eldon Deane (whose sketches are above) set an artistic standard for the magazine which even extended to advertisements like the one from Cabot below.
A sprawling summer cottage in Dublin, New Hampshire and exterior and interior sketches for an urban residence, from 1889:
The publishers of American Architect clearly realized the value of their drawings and published several portfolio volumes of single sheet prints like the 12-series “Georgian Period” below, currently on sale for $5000 here. Individual colored prints, like the dining room of the Emmerton House in Salem and the “morning room” of a house in Boston’s Back Bay, both drawn by Arthur Little, were also produced, an acknowledgement that the architect, was, in fact, an artist.
March 10th, 2011 at 6:49 pm
Stumbled on your blog post through AOL. You already know I will be signing up to your rss feed.
March 10th, 2011 at 9:49 pm
Much can be learned from these great old publications.
March 11th, 2011 at 9:25 am
Thanks for stopping by, John. I’m looking forward to exploring your blog in detail.
March 15th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
Donna, We have a copy of that georgian architecture book, It was Blake’s grandfather’s guide to resoring old New England Houses in the 40’s 50’s and 60’s, beautiful book..Stop by for a glass of wine and we can take a look!
March 15th, 2011 at 4:18 pm
Wow, Nina, big news and you found me! I will take you up on your offer soon.
May 20th, 2011 at 7:31 am
[…] Chestnut Street resident, civic leader, brother of architect William Little (who I wrote about here) and good friend and neighbor of fellow Salem artist Frank Benson (who I wrote about here) […]
March 5th, 2014 at 5:31 am
Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this
write-up and the rest of the site is really good.