Archival Collections
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

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

Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company/George Collins.
Phys. Desc: 
Papers: 40.1 linear ft.; Architectural drawings: 3,651 sheets.; Material samples: 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

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 highest concentration of its projects is in New York City, and in the Eastern region of the U.S. The list of projects include: Army War College and the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.; Boston Public Library, Boston, Mass.; Baltimore Union Station, Baltimore, Md.; Nebraska State Capitol, Lincoln, Neb.; Grand Central Terminal and Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, N.Y.; G.W. Vanderbilt residence, Biltmore, N.C.; and B'nai Israel Synagogue and Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, Penn. The list of architects who hired the Company include: McKim, Mead & White; Benjamin Wistar Morris; Bertram G. Goodhue; John Russell Pope; Carrere & Hastings; Delano & Aldrich; Warren & Wetmore; York & Sawyer; Cass Gilbert; Cram and Ferguson; and Heins and LaFarge. 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. The drawings include plans, elevations, sections, and details in full-scale of 698 projects and technical records. The dates of the drawings span 1886-1964, and the bulk dates are 1899-1936. These drawings are cataloged separately in this online catalog. Their accession/call numbers are 1963.002.00001 through .02652.