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Guide to the Alexander Jackson Davis Architectural Drawing Collection
1827-1884
 PR 16

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


New-York Historical Society

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 27, 2018
Finding aid written in English.

Scope and Contents Note

The Alexander J. Davis Architectural Drawings Collection spans the period from 1827 to 1884 and contains approximately 800 drawings, chiefly renderings and plans in ink, graphite, and watercolor. This collection includes both famous built projects and unrealized conceptual designs. Compared with other collections of Davis' works, the Society's collection is particularly strong in New York City and State material.

Only a few drawings from Davis' early career exist in this collection. Town and Davis designs include one drawing each of the Custom House, the Lyceum of Natural History, and for Jones Court, office building on Wall Street. Five design drawings exist from 1833 or 1834 for a house for William Wolcott Wadsworth in Geneseo, New York, which was never executed. Two design drawings for the North Carolina State Capitol also date from the Town and Davis partnership.

Davis' romantic country villas and cottages are represented in this collection by some 200 drawings and by his 1838 publication Rural Residences. . .. The drawings from Rural Residences. . . are unbound and individually catalogued. They include generic plans for country villas and cottages, as well as drawings of well-known Davis designs like the "Blithewood" gate houses, "Eyrie," Llewellyn Haskell's house in Llewellyn Park, and the David Codwise Villa in New Rochelle.

Many houses appear in only a single sheet. These include important Davis commissions such as Richard Lathers' "Winyah" and John J. Herrick's "Ericstan," as well as many other executed and not executed country homes. More drawings exist for the following houses: "Montgomery Place" in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. (6 drawings,) "Belmead" (6 drawings,) Thomas Merrick's "Tyrdyn Terrace" in Llewellyn Park (8 drawings,) Joel Rathbone's "Kenwood" (10 drawings,) and "Kirri Cottage" in Newark, N.J., built for Davis' mother Julia Jackson Davis House (8 drawings.) Also well represented in the collection are drawings of houses built for William S. Archer (Elk Hill, Va., 6 drawings,) Samuel F.B. Morse, (Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 4 drawings,) John Rutherford (rural New Jersey, 8 drawings,) Charles B. Sedgewick (Syracuse, N.Y., 8 drawings,) and Andrew Weir (Norfolk, Va., 8 drawings.)

Larger sets of drawings are present for "Wildmont," Davis' own summer lodge in Llewellyn Park (33 drawings) and "Mount Wollaston," a commission from Charles Francis Adams and John Quincy Adams that was never built (15 drawings.) A set of 23 drawings covers "Grace Hill," Edwin Clark Litchfield's villa in Brooklyn (one of the few surviving of Davis' New York City structures.) Twenty-three drawings date from the 1867 renovation/transformation of "Knoll" to "Lyndhurst." Nearly that many are from the renovation of an existing house to create a residence for David Hoadley in Englewood, N.J.

Many unidentified drawings are designs for urban double houses and town houses. Several drawings comprise Davis' entry in a Tenement House Competition sponsored by the National Academy of Design in 1876. Identified New York City homes include those of Charles A. Davis (Gramercy Park,) William Coventry H. Waddell (Murray Hill) and one sheet of the Phillips and Taber double house. Twelve drawings show a series of rowhouses built for Major General Daniel Butterfield 87th Street and 5th Avenue.

The remaining drawings depict more that 150 different projects designed or sketched by Davis: numerous churches and public buildings, several office and commercial buildings; art galleries, schools, historical societies, and libraries, including an unexecuted scheme for the Astor Library; asylums and hospitals; and monuments. Only some of the drawings are fully identified and dated; most are signed. Plans include an unexecuted hotel on Constitution Island, and three 1870 designs for a new New-York Historical Society building (not executed.)

Significant identified buildings in New York include the West Presbyterian Church on Carmine Street in Manhattan, Brooklyn City Hall (13 drawings,) the Long Island Historical Society (8 drawings,) the Pauper Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island (4 drawings) and a design (unexecuted) for the Jefferson Market Courthouse.

Most of Davis' North Carolina projects are shown here, if in only a few sheets per project. The collection also includes four drawings of the Ohio State Capitol. Two floor plans for the White Sulpher Springs Hotel in West Virginia, an unexecuted commission to design new hotel and bath houses, are also present

Some project correspondence is filed in with the drawings. A few sheets of letterpress specifications for various projects are included in the collection.

Most drawings were numbered by Society staff upon receipt. In some cases, drawings from the same projects were given alphabetical suffixes. Indices of drawings by number and by project title follow this text.