Archival Collections
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

Kahn & Jacobs architectural drawings and records, 1893-1965 bulk 1893-1950 

Creator: 
Kahn & Jacobs.
Phys. Desc: 
738 items; 3 items; 1 manuscript box
Location: 
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
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Online information

Biographical Note

Ely Jacques Kahn was one of the most significant architects in New York City in the 20th century, sustaining an active career over more than six decades. Many of his buildings are now New York City landmarks, bearing witness to the sophistication of Art Deco and Moderne styles and the ambitions of the post-World War II building boom. Born in Manhattan, Kahn graduated from Columbia College in 1903 and completed further study in architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1907-08. Returning to New York, Kahn struggled to find work in the wake of the 1907 stock market collapse. Competition for architectural jobs was tough given the growing number of trained architects and Kahn also faced a rising wall of anti-Semitism in the patrician world of New York architecture. In 1914, Kahn took a teaching position at Cornell as a replacement for a French architect unable to return due to the outbreak of World War I. In 1917, he joined the partnership of Buchman and Fox, already an established firm. As part of Buchman & Kahn, he began designing and building successful commercial buildings, profiting from the building boom in the 1910s and 1920s. After Buchman's retirement in 1930, Kahn practiced alone for a decade, and was joined in 1940 by the much younger Robert Allan Jacobs. Kahn finished his career in partnership with Jacobs, retiring from the practice in 1969. Jacobs retired soon after, in 1973, and the remaining junior partners of Kahn & Jacobs joined the St. Louis-based architecture firm Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) that same year. The bulk of this collection consists of the Kahn & Jacobs architectural drawings and records, created between circa 1893 and 1965, which were donated to Avery Library by HOK in 1978.

Scope and Contents

The projects in this collection represent the history of a firm that lasted nearly a century. The roots of the firm can be traced back to Hermann J. Schwarzmann, a German-born architect who designed the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876. Schwarzmann soon partnered with Albert Buchman and practiced with him until 1887. Unfortunately no drawings survive from the two earliest firms. This collection begins with records from the partnership of Buchman & Deisler (circa 1888-1899), followed by a succession of partnerships until the dissolution of the firm: Buchman & Fox (1899-1917), Buchman & Kahn (1917-1930), Ely Jacques Kahn Architects (1930-1940), and Kahn & Jacobs (1940-1973). The bulk of the collection documents the firms' work from 1893 until 1950. The collection includes approximately 8,250 architectural drawings for projects located primarily in New York City that were designed or altered by Kahn & Jacobs and the various predecessor partnerships. Major projects include the Bergdorf Goodman Department Store (1927); Bloomingdale’s Department Store (1903-1917); the Bonwit Teller Department Store at Fifth Avenue and 38th Street (1911); the Film Center building (1928-1932); the original New York Times Building at 42nd Street and Broadway (1915-1920); and the Squibb Building (1929-1951), all in New York City. Researchers will also find drawings for the Oppenheimer-Collins Company buildings in Brooklyn (1915-1928), New York City (1906-1930), Philadelphia (1923), and Pittsburgh (1919-1928). This collection represent the history of one prominent architectural firm in New York, its most well-known member being Ely Jacques Kahn (1884-1972) whose activity spans over fifty years. The archive was given to Avery Library by the successor firm of Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum in 1978. The firm has been known under the following names: Buchman & Deisler (ca. 1883-1900) ; Buchman & Fox (ca. 1900-1919) ; Buchman & Kahn (ca. 1920-1929) ; Kahn & Morgan (1930) ; Kahn & (Eliel) Saarinen (1930) ; Ely Jacques Kahn, archts. (1930-1940) ; Kahn & Jacobs (1941-1972) Series I: Architectural Records The series consists of architectural drawings for 117 projects (located primarily in New York City), designed or altered by Kahn and Jacobs and its predecessor firms. Each project was catalogued separately in the online catalog. In order to preserve this historical unit, each project was catalogued in the online catalog in close to chronological order. This finding aid 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 with numbers ranging from 1978.001.00001 through .08313. In the container listing for this online finding aid, the projects have been listed alphabetically by the available identifier (either building name or address) rather than in accession/chronological order. Series II: Property Survey This series contains 738 survey drawings for over 270 properties located primarily in New York City. The drawings date from the 1860s to the 1940s, with the bulk created during the Buchman & Deisler and Buchman & Fox years. The surveys are arranged in ascending street order, with non-New York properties list at the end. Series III: Other Records Included are specifications, dated from 1903 to 1918, for work done for Messrs. Bloomingdale Brothers Department Store; and three ledger books, dated from 1926 to 1941.