Archival Collections
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company architectural records, 1866-1985 bulk 1890-1942 

Guastavino, Rafael, 1842-1908
Phys. Desc: 
40.1 linear feet; 3651 drawings; 46 items
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
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Online information

Biographical Note

Rafael Guastavino (1842-1908) was an architect and a builder. Born in Valencia, he studied architecture in Barcelona and built his first house in 1866. For the next 14 years, he established his reputation for fireproof construction and built factories, warehouses, and apartment houses in the Barcelona area. In 1881, he emigrated to the U.S. with his son, Rafael Jr. (1872-1950). They settled in New York City, and gained success as contractor and builder with their patented tile vaulting system. (The Guastavinos held 24 patents on their vaulting processes.) In July of 1889, they established The Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company, and in 1897, the R. Guastavino Company. In 1908, at the time of his father's death, Rafael Jr. assumed control of the Company. At the height of its expansion, the firm maintained offices in New York, Boston, Providence, Chicago, and Milwaukee, including a manufacturing plant in Woburn, Mass. In 1943, Rafael Jr. sold the Company to Malcolm S. Blodgett, who was the treasurer and business partner of the Guastavinos, succeeding his father, William E. Blodgett. The Company's last project was in 1962. During its existence, their unique vaulting system was used in more than 1,000 buildings, many of them landmarks, in the U.S. and as far away as India. Other key members of the Company include: Foster M. Summerville; A.M. Bartlett; and Kenneth Williams.

Scope and Contents

This collection is made up of architectural drawings, correspondence, specifications, contracts, invoices, minutes, financial statements, patents, advertisements, photographs, photograph album, test results and reports, memoranda, tile samples, factory order cards, and other materials pertaining to The Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company's projects. The dates of the materials span 1866-1985, with bulk dates 1890-1942. The architectural records include structural, decorative, and acoustical sample products and fragments. Also included are materials added to the files by George Collins (1917-1993), Professor of Art History at Columbia University. Prof. Collins secured the donation of this archive in 1963, and remained its custodian until it was transferred to the Drawings and Archives Collection at the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library in 1988. The records document Prof. Collins' research efforts, as well as the Company's projects in forty states (including District of Columbia), four Canadian provinces, and eleven other foreign countries. The original filing system applied by Prof. George Collins was maintained. Series arranged as follows: Series I: Architectural Drawings The drawings in the collection consist of pencil and ink drawings, blueprints, blueline prints, sketches, and watercolors drawn and reproduced by the Company, architects and other contractors. Included are plans, elevations, sections, and details in full-scale of 698 projects and technical records. Represented are projects in 35 states (including District of Columbia), four Canadian provinces, and four other foreign countries. The dates of the drawings span 1886-1964, and the bulk dates are 1899-1936. Each project was catalogued separately in the online catalog. 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 1963.002.00001 through .02652. Drawings are arranged beginning with non-U.S. projects followed by U.S. projects listed alphabetically by state and city. Materials without locations are listed at the end of the inventory. Series II: Administrative and Technical Records This series lists R. Guastavino Co.'s business records and Prof. Collins' research papers. The Company's business records include correspondence, meeting minutes, financial statements, patents, drawings, advertisements, photographs, photograph album, and test results and reports. There are also some papers and photos of the Guastavino family. The research papers include work notes and papers, maps, correspondence, newsletters, and magazine and newspaper clippings. The arrangement and the titles for subject divisions and folders were supplied by Prof. George Collins. His filing system was maintained and titles were transcribed directly as provided. For folders without titles, a title was given by the cataloger and enclosed within brackets ([]). Each folder is followed by content descriptions also supplied by the cataloger. Folders 15:12 through 18:8 and subject divisions "R.G. CO. GENERAL SALES" and "RG I EARLY MISC. SPANISH ACTIVITIES" were originally stored with project files, and have since been removed and refiled accordingly within this series. Thirty-six drawings, including the Guastavino family tree and technical drawings, are listed at the end of Series I: Architectural Drawings. Series III: Project Files The project series contains correspondence, specifications, contracts, invoices, financial statements, advertisements, photographs, memoranda, and other materials pertaining to the Company's projects in forty states (including District of Columbia), four Canadian provinces, and eleven other foreign countries. The dates of the materials span 1866-1985. Also included are materials added to the collection by Prof. Collins during his research (e.g., citations, work notes, photographs, magazine and newspaper clippings, and correspondence). The amount of materials in the project folders vary from one item to multiple folders. The folders in this series were also arranged by Prof. Collins. They begin with the Company's projects in foreign countries, followed by projects in the United States. For projects in the U.S., the folders are in alphabetical order by state, and thereunder by city. However, cities with greater number of projects, e.g., New York City, are filed before other cities. Given the large number of projects in New York City, these files were subdivided by borough and building type. Series IV: Factory Orders This series contains index cards that list the numerous projects for which the Company supplied and/or installed its tiles. The cards are not comprehensive; however, they provide the most complete list of projects. In addition to the job number and title, the cards provide information on the number and type of tiles, shipping instructions, and cost. The dates of the cards span 1900-1961. The material in this series is arranged by job number (1-877). This series also includes a box of index cards unrelated to the Company or its projects. The unidentified cards list the names of authors, scholars, and publishers pertaining to the publishing of the journal, Romanic Review. Series V: Slides This series provides images of Guastavino domes and vaults and comparative types of domes and vaults found in Europe, Mexico, and Cuba. Among the 463 slides, 321 are lantern slides. The material in this series is arranged by: 1. non-Guastavino projects; 2. Guastavino projects in Europe and Cuba and Mexico; and 3. Guastavino projects in the United States. The U.S. projects are arranged in alphabetical order by city. For an inventory list of lantern slides, see box 1, folder 14 of the second series. Series VI: Sample Products and Fragments This series includes 46 items that represent structural, decorative, and acoustical sample tiles and fragments. One of the items is a multi-tiered display case of tiles. The material in this series is not arranged.