Archival Collections
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

Emery Roth & Sons architectural records and papers, 1906-1996 (bulk 1951-1994) 

Creator: 
Emery Roth & Sons.
Phys. Desc: 
34,175 drawings; 245 linear feet papers; 1,906 photographs
Location: 
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
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Online information

Biographical Note

Emery Roth & Sons (1938-1996) was a family-run architecture firm that had a major influence on the post-war development of Manhattan. In 1938 the architect Emery Roth (1871-1948), renowned for upscale Manhattan apartment buildings like the Beresford and the San Remo, renamed his practice Emery Roth & Sons to reflect the inclusion of his sons Julian and Richard as partners. Julian (1901-1992) specialized in construction costs and building materials and technology, while Richard (1904-1987) was named the firm's principle architect. In the early 1960s, Richard Roth's son, Richard Roth, Jr. (b. 1933) became the third generation to join the firm, eventually rising to chief architect and shareholder. As the firm expanded and diversified over six decades, it remained a family business through the 1990s. Richard Roth's children, Robyn Roth-Moise and Richard Lee Roth, both worked for the firm and its subsidiaries. Emery Roth & Sons continued to design high-rise apartment buildings in Manhattan, as Emery Roth had, but shortly after World War II the firm began to shift its focus to high-rise office buildings. As they became increasingly specialized in commercial space, they worked closely with real estate developers such as the Uris Corporation, Tishman Construction, Diesel Construction, the Durst Organization, and Helmsley-Spear, Inc. Significant examples of their work in New York include 55 Water Street, 300 Park Avenue, the Palace Hotel, 546 Fifth Avenue, and 600 Lexington Avenue. Emery Roth & Sons frequently collaborated with other architects on large projects for which they were the architects of record. These projects included the World Trade Center (Minoru Yamasaki), General Motors Office Building (Edward Durell Stone), 1585 Broadway (Gwathmey Siegel & Associates), 7 Hanover Square (Norman Jaffe), the Portland Municipal Building (Michael Graves), 375 Hudson Street (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill), and the Pan Am Building (Walter Gropius and Pietro Belluschi). Over the years the firm consistently provided marketable designs that maximized the net rentable area, a feature highly prized by real estate developers. Writing of the firm's work in a 1957 article, Richard Roth remarked "The entire endeavor in our office is to create the best that can be produced within the restrictions that are placed upon us; and these restrictions are seldom those of our client, but rather of lending institutions; economics; and municipal authorities' laws." (Progressive Architecture, June 1957). The promotion of the Texas-based architect Robert Sobel (b. 1931) to principal in the late 1970s marked a shift in their focus from Manhattan office buildings to mixed-use properties in Texas and overseas. Beginning in the 1970s, possibly in reaction to New York City's fiscal crisis, and continuing through the 1990s, the firm expanded and diversified its operations into several related entities. In the 1980s they took advantage of the Texas oil boom, establishing the office of Sobel / Roth that was based in Houston. Notable examples of their work outside of Manhattan include Houston's Alliance Tower, Beijing's China World Trade Center, and the Taman Tuk Abdul Razak Center in Malaysia. In 1993, Richard Roth, Jr., sold his all of his issued and outstanding shares of Emery Roth & Sons and all of its affiliated and related entities to Robert Sobel. In 1996, the firm ceased to operate, apparently because of financial distress.

Scope and Contents

This collection primarily contains architectural drawings, correspondence, business records, and a small number of photographs related to the projects of Emery Roth & Sons and its subsidiary entities. A large portion of the entities are represented only in the Office Records series and are identified as such. Some projects on which Emery Roth & Sons acted as architect of record are not represented in this collection, most notably the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

Subjects