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Cass Gilbert Collection (1883 - 1952)
RepositoryNew York Historical Society, Patricia D. Klingenstein Library - Dept. of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections
Collection IDPR 21
Size380 linear feet (696 boxes, 444 bound volumes)
Collection Description
Cass Gilbert was born in 1859 in Zanesville, OH, moved to St. Paul, MN in 1868, and, in 1878, studied architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After traveling and studying in Europe, he joined the New York office of McKim, Mead and White as Stanford White's assistant in 1880, and married Julia Finch in the same year. The couple had four children. In 1882, he was sent to St. Paul, MN to open a branch office and to oversee the building of depots, terminals, and hotels for the Northern Pacific Railroad. Within two years, the office collapsed and Gilbert formed a partnership with James Knox Taylor in St. Paul that lasted until 1892. Gilbert designed churches and houses in Minnesota and became a recognized architect after winning a competition to design the Minnesota State Capitol in 1895.

In 1899, Gilbert returned to New York City and received a number of significant commissions. He won a competition to design the United States Custom House (1901-1907) and designed the 24-story building at 90 West Street (1905-1907) in Manhattan. From 1911-1913, Gilbert worked on the Woolworth Building. At 55 stories tall, it was the tallest building in the world from 1913 to 1930 and became one of Gilbert's most famous designs. Other important Gilbert buildings include the New York Life Insurance Company Building (1925-1928) and the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington (1936), which was completed after his death. Gilbert also created designs for the George Washington Memorial Bridge (1927-1931) that proved to be too expensive and were never used. Among his many notable projects are a number of Newark buildings, including the Essex County Courthouse, the Kinney Building, and the Gibraltar Building (originally the headquarters of the Prudential Life Insurance Company).

Gilbert was active in art and architectural organizations, and served on several national councils and commissions. He was a long-time member of the American Institute of Architects and served as its president in 1908-1909. He was president of the National Academy of Design from 1926 to 1933. He received several honorary degrees and was awarded the Academy of Arts and Sciences Gold Medal in 1930.

Gilbert died on vacation in Brockenhurst, England in 1934 at the age of 74. Cass Gilbert, Jr. worked as an architect in his father's office and finished many of the office's projects, including the Supreme Court building, after Cass Gilbert's death.
Collection Contents
The collection contains Gilbert's professional and personal papers. It consists primarily of files related to his numerous architectural projects, both completed projects and those he worked on but did not complete. The collection also documents his extensive involvement in art and architectural associations. His personal papers mainly relate to personal business; some family letters are included. The arrangement follows Gilbert's filing system as closely as possible. [NOTE: The online finding-aid does not include information on the architectural drawings. A more detailed box and folder listing for the collection is available in the Department of Prints, Photographs and Architectural Collections reading room.]

The collection is divided into 9 series: Project Files, Office Files, Professional Organizations, Personal Files, Lantern Slides, Record Book of Drawings, Scrapbooks, Metal Printing Plates, and European Sketchbooks. Series I, Project Files, represents the bulk of the collection and is divided into two subseries, each including Newark-related materials. The first subseries, Foldered Material, contains project material including correspondence, memos
otes, specifications, bid documents, proposals, reports, contracts/agreements, financial statements, change orders, drawings, photographs, etc. The following Newark projects are among those in this subseries:

American Insurance Company Building - Boxes 5-12 (1902-1930): Constructed in 1904 and demolished in 1981. The building's bronze double doors were preserved and are housed in the Newark Museum.

Essex County Courthouse - Boxes 76-91 (1901-1929): Among the materials associated with this significant project are eight boxes of correspondence, the bulk dating from the period of the building's design and construction (1904-1908), involving various companies and individuals and including the Essex County Building Commission. There are also specifications, sketches, and drawings, as well as two boxes of photographs taken during construction. Daily Reports outline progress from 1902 through 1912.

Kinney Building - Boxes 140-149 (1912-1930): Built on the site of the home of Robert Treat at the SE corner of Broad and Market Sts., the 12-story commercial building was completed in 1912 and altered in 1928.

National State Savings Bank - Boxes 178-181 (1909-1912): Built in 1912, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and converted into a boutique hotel in 2014.

Prudential Life Insurance Company Bridges and Buildings - Boxes 260-280 (1924-1934): Four initial Prudential buildings were constructed at the turn of the twentieth century by G. B. Post. In 1926-1927, when Cass Gilbert's building, the Gibraltar, was constructed adjacent to the others, he designed elevated bridges to connect the structures. The Post buildings and the bridges were later demolished. The 14-story Gibraltar Building was renovated in 1997 and houses the Superior Court of New Jersey. The collection contains a large amount of material documenting the Gibraltar's design and construction, primarily in the form of correspondence, but also including specifications, reports, agreements, requisitions, change orders, a few photographs, a worker accident report, and numerous other related items.

Scheuer Building - Boxes 304-306 (1904-1917): Designed in 1905 for a firm of importing grocers, the ten-story building, erected at Broad and Commerce Sts., has been demolished.

Ward Tomb - Box 482 (1905-1919): A small amount of material, including correspondence, memos, progress reports, illustrations, and photographs, describes the design and construction of the mausoleum for Governor Marcus L. Ward in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.

The second subseries, Bound Volumes, consists mainly of letterbooks containing copies of copies of correspondence or books of specifications. Other volumes include records of contracts or financial ledgers. There are volumes for all of the projects mentioned in the first subseries, with the exception of the Ward Tomb: American Insurance Company Building (Volumes 4-8); Essex County Courthouse (Volumes 37-42); Kinney Building (Volumes 72-81); National State Savings Bank (Volumes 105-107); Prudential Life Insurance Company Bridges and Buildings (Volumes 145-161); and Scheuer Building (Volume 180). [NOTE: many of these volumes are fragile and access is dependent upon the judgment of the staff.]

Series VIII, Metal Printing Plates, contains images of several Newark buildings, including the Essex County Courthouse (Box 694).

Additional material relating to Newark projects might perhaps be found in Series II. Subseries VI: Weekly Appointment Calendars (1914-1934), Series VI: Record Book of Drawings (1906-1920), and/or Series VII: Scrapbooks (1890-1926). These series are arranged chronologically, however, and not identified by project. Close page-by-page searching would be required to locate Newark items.

NOTE: See also, Essex County, N.J. Building Commission, "Essex County Court House, Newark, New Jersey / Report of Leslie D. Ward, president of the Essex County Building Commission, in transferring new Court House to Board of Chosen Freeholders; report of Cass Gilbert, architect of new Court House; description of mural paintings and statuary; description of old Court House by Joseph L. Munn, counsel of Essex County Commission." ([Newark], 1908), New Jersey Historical Society, Call no. 725.15 Es7.
FormatsGraphics; Photographic materials; Textual materials
SubjectArchitecture / Building
Time Periods19th Century; 20th Century
Access policyOpen for research
Finding AidYes
Finging Aid URL