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Guide to the Gordon Burris Photographs
1922–1935
 PR 333

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Joseph Ditta, August 2017

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on August 29, 2017
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Burris, Gordon Guild, 1903–1988
Title: Gordon Burris photographs
Dates: 1922–1935 (bulk, 1927–1935)
Abstract: Approximately 312 photographic prints by Gordon Guild Burris (1903–1988), a Canadian-born civil engineer employed by the Turner Construction Company in New York during the 1920s and 1930s. Burris photographed the construction projects to which he was assigned, such as the Hotel Lexington, Bloomingdale’s department store, and the Port of New York Authority Commerce Building / Union Inland Terminal No. 1 (all in Manhattan), Pilgrim State Hospital (Brentwood, Long Island), the New Jersey Bell Telephone Headquarters (Newark), and the Convention Hall at Asbury Park, New Jersey. He often took shots of the surrounding neighborhoods from upper floors of the incomplete structures. The collection also includes views of campgrounds, parks, beaches, boats, bridges, and waterways in the vicinity of greater New York City, as well as images of friends, coworkers, and of Burris himself. Some photographs document his native Nova Scotia in 1922–1923.
Quantity: 0.416 Linear feet (1 box)
Location Note: Negatives stored in N-YHS conservation lab freezer, shelf B2.
Call Phrase: PR 333

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Biographical Note

Gordon Guild Burris was born on 21 April 1903 at Stewiacke, Colchester County, Nova Scotia, Canada, to William Norman and Anne Kerr (Guild) Burris. He studied surveying at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, in the class of 1922–1923 (see the group photos in Folder 1, below, where he is identified by his initials, “G. B.”). He emigrated to the United States on 5 June 1923, crossing the border via the Grand Trunk Railway, and settled at Detroit. Ten days later he declared his intention to become a U.S. citizen. Burris completed the naturalization process in 1931, signing the oath of allegiance on January 12. By then he had been living for two years at a Bronx, New York, Y.M.C.A. (470 East 161st Street), and working for the Turner Construction Company as an engineer. It is unclear if his official duties included photographing the building projects to which he was assigned, or if Burris simply enjoyed taking pictures as a hobby. Whatever the reason, he captured construction methods and machinery in addition to the surrounding neighborhoods of the unfinished structures from their upper stories.

Burris served in the U.S. Army between 1942 and 1945, although a 1932 photograph of him in uniform captioned “Pvt. G.G. Burris” attests to an earlier term (see Folder 35, below). He eventually became a photographer for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts at Richmond.

Burris died, age 85, at Morristown, Lamoille County, Vermont, on 6 June 1988. He never married.

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Scope and Contents

The collection contains approximately 312 photographic prints from the years 1922–1923 and 1927–1935. (Roughly 278 negatives on possibly unstable, nitrate base film have been transferred to cold storage in the N-YHS Conservation Lab). The majority of the photographs were taken by Gordon Guild Burris, who dated and captioned each image.

The earliest group of photographs (Folder 1) captures his native Nova Scotia in 1922–1923, just before he left for the United States. Of interest to researchers of the built environment of greater New York City are the views taken at Turner Construction Company jobsites. Burris worked for Turner as an engineer, and, possibly as one of his duties, documented the progress of the buildings and their environments. Among the Turner projects are the following, listed in the order in which they first appear in the collection:

  1. New Jersey Bell Telephone Headquarters, 540 Broad Street, Newark (Folders 5–8, 10)
  2. Hotel Lexington, 511 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan (Folders 11, 13, 18, and 20)
  3. Bloomingdale’s, Lexington Avenue at 59th Street, Manhattan (Folders 21, 23–24, 27–29)
  4. Pilgrim State Hospital, Brentwood, New York (Folders 24, 26)
  5. Convention Hall, Asbury Park, New Jersey (Folder 25)
  6. Port of New York Authority Commerce Building (currently home to Google's New York offices), 111 Eighth Avenue, Manhattan (Folders 34–35)

Burris traveled with friends and coworkers in the vicinity of greater New York City, often by ferry or excursion boat, and so documented the waterways, bridges, and boats he saw. He photographed campsites and parks, too, such as Indian Point Park, an amusement venue previously on the site of the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York (Folder 15), and points of interest, like the Fire Island Lighthouse (Folder 33). The myriad locations of the photographs are noted in the container list, below.

Arrangement

The entire collection is housed chronologically in one small box. Gordon Burris kept his photographic negatives and prints in numbered, dated envelopes. (Only numbers 10–17, 21–43, 51–52, and 58–62, covering the years 1927–1935, are part of the present collection.) On the envelopes Burris typed a caption for each image inside, the date he shot it, focal length, exposure time, and other details. He also wrote or typed an expanded version of each caption on the reverse of its corresponding print. The prints and empty envelopes (each envelope held from six to twelve negatives and prints) are now stored in folders, with the envelopes behind the prints. A few unnumbered, but dated envelopes are interfiled chronologically (folders 1, 22, 30, 37, and 38). The last folder (44) holds four postcards.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Burris, Gordon Guild, 1903–1988

Subject Organizations

  • Bloomingdale’s (Firm).
  • Turner Construction Company.

Subject Topics

  • Chrysler Building (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Buildings, structures, etc.

Subject Places

  • Asbury Park (N.J.)
  • Babylon (N.Y.)
  • Beacon (N.Y.)
  • Bear Mountain Bridge (N.Y.)
  • Bear Mountain State Park (N.Y.)
  • Bellevue Hospital
  • Brentwood (N.Y.)
  • Bronx River (N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • East River (N.Y.)
  • Elizabeth (N.J.)
  • Ellis Island (N.J. and N.Y.)
  • Fire Island (N.Y. : Island)
  • General Grant National Memorial (New York, N.Y.)
  • Harlem River (N.Y.)
  • Hotel Lexington (New York, N.Y.)
  • Hudson River (N.Y. and N.J.)
  • Jersey City (N.J.)
  • Kearney (N.J.)
  • Liberty Island (New York, N.Y.)
  • Long Beach (N.Y.)
  • New Jersey Bell Telephone Headquarters (Newark, N.J.)
  • New York (N.Y.)--Buildings, structures, etc.
  • New York Harbor (N.Y. and N.J.)
  • Newark (N.J.)
  • Newburgh (N.Y.)
  • Oyster Bay (N.Y.)
  • Palisades (N.J. and N.Y.)
  • Passaic River (N.J.)
  • Pelham Bay Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Perth Amboy (N.J.)
  • Port Authority Commerce Building (New York, N.Y.)
  • Port Washington (N.Y.)
  • Prospect Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Ringwood Region (N.J.)
  • Rockaway Beach (New York, N.Y.)
  • Rye (N.Y.)
  • Sea Bright (N.J.)
  • Staten Island (New York, N.Y.)
  • Statue of Liberty (New York, N.Y.)
  • Van Cortlandt Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Wanaque River Region (N.J.)
  • White Plains (N.Y.)

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.)

Use Restrictions

Permission to reproduce any Print Room holdings through publication must be obtained from: Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024. Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 270. Fax: (212) 579-8794.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as the Gordon Burris Photographs, PR 333, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Credit line (for exhibition labels): Gift of Richard C. Nylander.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Richard C. Nylander (cousin of the photographer), March 2017.

Processing Information

Processed by Archivist Joseph Ditta, August, 2017.

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Container List

Container 1     Title Date
Folder: 1 [Nova Scotia]

Scope and Contents

Scenes at Darlings Lake, Nova Scotia, and group photos of the surveying class at Dalhousie University, Halifax, April 1923 (Gordon Burris is identified in the latter by his initials, "G.B.").

1922–1923
Folder: 2 Envelope 10

Scope and Contents Note

New Jersey Palisades; Perth Amboy and Elizabeth, New Jersey; Staten Island; Grant’s Tomb.

1927 September 3–November 5
Folder: 3 Envelope 11

Scope and Contents

New Jersey Palisades; Grant’s Tomb; Perth Amboy and Elizabeth, New Jersey; Staten Island.

1927 November 5–12
Folder: 4 Envelope 12

Scope and Contents

Staten Island; Pelham Bay Park; Sea Bright, New Jersey; Y.M.C.A. Building, Orange, New Jersey.

1927 November 12–1928 January 29
Folder: 5 Envelope 13

Scope and Contents

Views from roof of New Jersey Bell Telephone Headquarters (540 Broad Street, Newark); men in front of “Turner Construction Company” sign.

1928 February 5–18
Folder: 6 Envelope 14

Scope and Contents

Views from roof of New Jersey Bell Telephone Headquarters (540 Broad Street, Newark).

1928 February 18–March 25
Folder: 7 Envelope 15

Scope and Contents

Views from roof of New Jersey Bell Telephone Headquarters (540 Broad Street, Newark).

1928 March 25–April 7
Folder: 8 Envelope 16

Scope and Contents

Views from roof of New Jersey Bell Telephone Headquarters (540 Broad Street, Newark); man in front of “Turner Construction Company” sign; Manhattan from New Jersey Palisades.

1928 April 8–May 12
Folder: 9 Envelope 17

Scope and Contents

Passaic River; and Y.M.C.A. Camp Kittatinny at Lake Fairview, Stillwater Township, Sussex County, New Jersey.

1928 June 3–10
Folder: 10 Envelope 21

Scope and Contents

Views of New Jersey: Kearney, from the roof of New Jersey Bell Telephone Headquarters (540 Broad Street, Newark); Kearney Yacht Club; Wanaque Reservoir and Dam, at Wanaque and Ringwood.

1928 October 14–December 30
Folder: 11 Envelope 22

Scope and Contents

Views from the roof and 27th floor of the Hotel Lexington construction (511 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan).

1929 April 27
Folder: 12 Envelope 23

Scope and Contents

Passaic River and Kearney Yacht Club, New Jersey.

1929 May 18
Folder: 13 Envelope 24

Scope and Contents

Views from roof and upper stories of Hotel Lexington construction (511 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan), including New York Central Building and American Tubular Tower; Ellis Island; Liberty Island; Jersey City; Brooklyn.

1929 June 2
Folder: 14 Envelope 25

Scope and Contents

Statue of Liberty; Long Beach and Babylon, Long Island.

1929 June 2–July 4
Folder: 15 Envelope 26

Scope and Contents

Babylon, Long Island; ships on Hudson River; Bear Mountain; Bear Mountain Bridge; Indian Point Park (amusement park previously on the site of the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York).

1929 July 4–7
Folder: 16 Envelope 27

Scope and Contents

Hudson near Bear Mountain and Newburgh, New York; cable railway at Mount Beacon.

1929 July 7
Folder: 17 Envelope 28

Scope and Contents

Mount Beacon and Beacon, New York.

1929 July 7
Folder: 18 Envelope 29

Scope and Contents

Mount Beacon and Beacon, New York; employees on Hotel Lexington construction (511 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan).

1929 July 7–20
Folder: 19 Envelope 30

Scope and Contents

Bellevue Hospital from East River; Bronx Y.M.C.A. (470 East 161st Street); Rye Playland; Rye Beach; Rockaway Beach.

1929 July 20–August 11
Folder: 20 Envelope 31

Scope and Contents

Mombasha Lake, Monroe, New York; Glen Island Park, New Rochelle; Prospect Park, Brooklyn; and the Chrysler Building under construction, seen from the Hotel Lexington (511 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan).

1929 August 17–September 1
Folder: 21 Envelope 32

Scope and Contents

Boats on Hudon River; lower Manhattan skyline; excavation for new Bloomingdale’s store (Lexington Avenue at 59th Street, Manhattan).

1929 December 21–1930 March 15
Folder: 22 Miscellaneous snaps received

Scope and Contents

Mrs. Susan Churchill of Darlings Lake, Nova Scotia, and Gordon Burris.

1930 March 2, 17
Folder: 23 Envelope 33

Scope and Contents

Bloomingdale’s construction (Lexington Avenue at 59th Street, Manhattan).

1930 March 15–April 5
Folder: 24 Envelope 34

Scope and Contents

Pilgrim State Hospital construction (Brentwood, Long Island); Bloomingdale’s construction (Lexington Avenue at 59th Street).

1930 May 18–20
Folder: 25 Envelope 35

Scope and Contents

Avon by the Sea, Belmar Beach, and Convention Hall construction, Asbury Park, New Jersey; views of ships in New York Harbor.

1930 May 31
Folder: 26 Envelope 36

Scope and Contents

Pilgrim State Hospital construction employees (Brentwood, Long Island), and Point O’ Woods (Point Aux Woods), Fire Island.

1930 June 14–21
Folder: 27 Envelope 37

Scope and Contents

Bloomingdale’s construction (Lexington Avenue at 59th Street, Manhattan).

1930 June 28
Folder: 28 Envelope 38

Scope and Contents

Bloomingdale’s construction (Lexington Avenue at 59th Street, Manhattan). Includes shot of water tower.

1930 June 28
Folder: 29 Envelope 39

Scope and Contents

Bloomingdale’s construction (Lexington Avenue at 59th Street, Manhattan); dredge near Oyster Bay, Long Island.

1930 August 10–October 4
Folder: 30 [Photómaton envelope]

Scope and Contents

Seven small Photómaton (coin-operated photo booth) headshots of Gordon Burris.

1930 December 26
Folder: 31 Envelope 40

Scope and Contents

Dr. Emma Putnam, and friends / coworkers at Rye, New York.

1931 July–August 2
Folder: 32 Envelope 41

Scope and Contents

Friends / coworkers at Rye, New York.

1931 August 2
Folder: 33 Envelope 42

Scope and Contents

Fire Island, New York, including Fire Island Lighthouse.

1931 October 11
Folder: 34 Envelope 43

Scope and Contents

Port of New York Authority Commerce Building / Union Inland Terminal No. 1 construction (111 Eighth Avenue, Manhattan).

1932 January 24
Folder: 35 Envelope 51

Scope and Contents

Port of New York Authority Commerce Building / Union Inland Terminal No. 1 construction (111 Eighth Avenue, Manhattan), and Camp Moore, Sea Girt, New Jersey.

1932 July 19–September 3
Folder: 36 Envelope 52

Scope and Contents

Friends / coworkers at White Plains, New York; High Bridge, Harlem River.

1934 July 4–August 5
Folder: 37 [unnumbered envelope]

Scope and Contents

Hell Gate Bridge, East River.

1935 May
Folder: 38 [unnumbered envelope]

Scope and Contents

Tinted photograph of the SS Normandie leaving for Europe on her first eastward crossing.

1935 June 7
Folder: 39 Envelope 58

Scope and Contents

Glen Island Park and Fort Slocum, New Rochelle, New York; Electric Ferry coming from Port Washington, Long Island.

1935 June 16
Folder: 40 Envelope 59

Scope and Contents

SS Normandie leaving for Europe on her second eastward crossing (at Pier A, Battery); Pelham Bay Park;  SS Belle Island, which ran to Roton Point Park, Rowayton, Norwalk, Connecticut.

1935 June 22–July 4
Folder: 41 Envelope 60

Scope and Contents

Ships docked in Hudson, lower Manhattan; Ann Mary Hyland (coworker’s child).

1935 July 19–August 4
Folder: 42 Envelope 61

Scope and Contents

Ann Mary Hyland (coworker’s child).

1935 August 4
Folder: 43 Envelope 62

Scope and Contents

Bronx River Parkway.

1935 August 18
Folder: 44 Postcards (4)

Scope and Contents

  1. The Lexington / Lexington Avenue at Forty-Eighth Street / New York City [typed list of Turner Construction Company employees on verso, ending with "G. Burris, — Feb. 2, 1929 to Oct. 30, 1929"].
  2. Bronx Union Branch, Young Mens [sic] Christian Association / 470 East 161st St. Near Third Avenue, New York City [color].
  3. Bronx Union Branch Young Men’s Christian Association / 470 E. 161st St., Near Third Ave., New York City [black and white].
  4. Broadway Camp Talcott / Huguenot Orange Co., N.Y. [dated on recto: “Sept. 5–6 & 7, 1931”].
1929-1931

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