Archival Collections
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

Wallace K. Harrison architectural drawings and papers, 1913-1986 bulk 1930-1980 

Harrison, Wallace K (Wallace Kirkman), 1895-1981
Phys. Desc: 
29 manuscript boxes; 2 print boxes
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
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Online information

Biographical Note

Wallace K. Harrison (1895-1981), was an American modernist architect. He was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, where as a teenager he worked for the contractor O.W. Norcross and the architectural firm Frost & Chamberlain. Beginning in 1916, the architectural firms for which Harrison worked were McKim, Mead & White; Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson; Frank J. Helmle & Harvey Wiley Corbett; Corbett, Harrison & MacMurray; Harrison & Fouilhoux; Harrison, Fouilhoux & Abramovitz; and others. He also did free-lance work for Raymond Hood. Harrison served in World War I as a Navy ensign aboard a subchaser. After the war, Harrison attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he spent a year in the atelier of Gustave Umbdenstock. He was also a winner of a Rotch Travelling Scholarship in 1922. Harrison had a long-standing personal and professional relationship with Nelson A. Rockefeller which began while he was workig on Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller established the U.S. Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, where Harrison served as assistant coordinator in 1941 and director in 1945. Harrison won numerous awards, including the New York Architectural League's Gold Medal in 1936 and the American Institute of Architect's Gold Medal in 1967.

Scope and Contents

The Wallace K. Harrison architectural drawings and papers consists of architectural drawings, photographs, correspondence, notes, speeches, manuscripts, press releases, clippings, memoranda, printed material, job lists, curriculam vitae, contracts, articles, and other material related to Harrison's architectural projects. The collection also contains a significant amount of material regarding Harrison's position as director of the Office of Inter-American Affairs, director of planning of the United Nations Headquarters and biographical material. Approximately a third of the collection is made up of photographs. Photographers include Wendy Barrows, Shirley Burden, George Cserna, Y[uzo] Nagata, and Ezra Stoller, among many others. There is also a collection of 148 art books that belonged to Harrison referred to as his "doodle books." A list of these books with brief descriptions of where Harrison drew in them is contained in the finding aid. Projects documented include Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Opera House, Rockefeller Center, Albany Mall (Empire State Plaza), United Nations, X City, ALCOA building, Corning Glass building, First Presbyterian Church, La Guardia Airport, Socony-Mobil building, Battery Park City, Radio City Music Hall, New York World's Fair (1939 and 1964), Institute for Advanced Study, National Academy of Science, Pahlavi National Library Competition, Oberlin College's Hall Auditorium, Pershing Memorial, Rockefeller University, Hopkins Center, The Anchorage, Avila Hotel, and numerous other buildings and residences. The Wallace K. Harrison architectural drawings and papers were transferred to Avery Drawings & Archives in two accessions: Accession 1981.001 (now known as Collection I) and accession 1989.002 (now Collection II). The first part of Harrison's papers, Series I: Collection I (1981.001) , consists of material given to Avery Library by Ellen Harrison (WKH’s wife) in 1981. The second part of his papers, Series II: Collection II (1989.002) , consists of materials borrowed by Victoria Newhouse for her book titled Wallace K. Harrison, Architect. This borrowed material was removed from Harrison's papers before they were given to Avery Library. In 1989, when Newhouse's book was published, the material was given to Avery Library to be rejoined with the material from which it was removed. The material borrowed by Newhouse has not been interfiled with the first part of the collection because of the numerous printed references already made to the collection. While both parts of the collection were described as separate collections, much of the material overlaps and it is therefore important for the researcher to view Collection I and Collection II as parallel to each other. Collection I is arranged by format of material and thereunder by project or subject. Folder titles have been transferred from the original file folder label given by WKH. A folder title in square brackets indicates it has been supplied by the cataloger and not from WKH’s original file. While Collection I is not organized into series, there was a corresponding subject index created to faciliate access. This subject index is a downloadable Excel spreadsheet located at the beginning of the container list for Collection I. Collection II is arranged as follows—Subseries 1: Professional papers (arranged alphabetically by subject title), Subseries 2: Project Files (arranged alphabetically by project title), and Subseries 3: Photographs (arranged with larger projects listed first, followed by smaller projects, then photographs of people, with oversized photographs of people or projects, and various project slides listed at the end.) The drawings for both parts of the Harrison collection have been cataloged separately in the online catalog. Series III: Architectural Drawings provides a link to each project’s associated record. Sheet level description can be found in these project-level records. Each sheet is individually accessioned and indicates which acquisition it originates from. 2,050 drawings arrived in the first accession (and are catalogued under the call number NYDA.1981.001) and 365 drawings arrived in the second accession (catalogued as NYDA.1989.002).