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Guide to the New-York Historical Society Original Building Planning & Construction Records
1848-1946
 NYHS-RG 3

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


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 19, 2019
Finding aid is in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Contents Note

The New-York Historical Society original buildings planning & construction records include material concerning construction of the two buildings by N-YHS that served as N-YHS's home from 1857-1908 (2nd Avenue and 11th Street) and from 1908 to the present (Central Park West, between West 76th and 77th streets). For the Central Park West site, the record group includes both the construction of the building's central portion in the first decade of the twentieth century and the major expansion of the late 1930s. The record group also includes a rich set of correspondence, N-YHS committee meeting minutes, and other documents related to N-YHS's unsuccessful attempt in the 1860s-1870s to establish in Central Park a Museum of Antiquities, Science, and Art.

The record group includes substantial documentation related to the planning and administration of the construction projects, including minute books of the planning and oversight committees; correspondence of N-YHS, the architects, the construction contractors, subcontractors, and others; work specifications; and construction progress reports and details. The Central Park West construction projects are documented to a far greater extent than that of the 1850s 2nd Avenue construction, yet that project also holds substantial material.

All the projects hold rich material on the financial aspects of the project, especially in terms of the costs incurred for labor and material. The Central Park West projects include all the supporting documents submitted for payment by the general contractors, Andrew J. Robinson in the early 1900s and Turner Construction Company in the 1930s, and others. The record group includes the printed appeals, subscription books, and other documents related to the fundraising efforts for the 2nd Avenue building and acquisition of the Central Park West site and the construction of the central portion. The record group also holds substantial documentation concerning Henry Dexter's vital donation and subsequent involvement in support of the Central Park West construction. The title abstracts, title searches, and deeds for the ten lots on Central Park West purchased by N-YHS in 1891 are in the record group.

The record group holds well over 1200 blueprints and other formats of architectural and other plans. The bulk of these by far relate to the 1937-1938 Central Park West expansion, many of which are multiple versions of particular plans drawn by architects Walker & Gillette and the subcontractors on the project. Nonetheless, there are also many 1904-1908 plans drawn by architects York & Sawyer for the central portion of the N-YHS building. There are only a few plans for the 2nd Avenue project, though none that appear attributable to the architects Mettam & Burke. At least some, and perhaps all, of the 2nd Avenue plans in the record group were proposals by architects George B. Carstesen & C.H. Gildemeister. The record group also holds a small number of plans from the 1940s, including an unrealized plan for a further expansion of the Central Park West building to create an Education Building.

Aside from textual documents and architectural plans, the record group includes a small number of photographs of the 1937-1938 construction work and of the cornerstone laying ceremony at Central Park West in 1904. There are also some artifacts (e.g., ribbons, pins) from that ceremony.

Arrangement Note

The New-York Historical Society original building planning and construction records are organized in 4 series:

Series I. 2nd Avenue Building

Series II. Proposed Central Park Building

SerIes III. Central Park West Construction: Central Portion

Series IV. Central Park West Construction: Expansion