Ely Jacques Kahn papers, 1906-1986, bulk 1906-1972

Summary Information

At a Glance

Bib ID:
11015367 View CLIO record
Kahn, Ely Jacques, 1884-1972; Kahn, Liselotte; École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts (France)
Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library
Physical Description:
3 manuscript boxes; 7.5 print boxes; 2 folder
English .

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.


Scope and Content

The collection consists of papers related to the personal and professional life of American architect Ely Jacques Kahn. A small amount of personal papers was transferred from the Arendts Library at Syracuse University in 1992. Additional personal papers, including two large scrapbooks, were donated by Liselotte Kahn, wife of Ely Jacques Kahn, in 1992 and 1993. Also found in this collection are student drawings and an incomplete autobiographical essay, donated to Avery Library by Kahn himself in 1963. Completing the Kahn holdings are personal materials from Ely Jacques Kahn, including drawings done while Kahn was a student at the Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris (1907-1908), sketchbooks, diplomas, autographs from fellow students, a typescript of Kahn's autobiography, and scrapbooks containing clippings, photographs, telegrams and other ephemera. Additionally, there is a small holding for Liselotte Kahn within the collection, including her unpublished memoirs, some correspondence, and a watercolor painting. Liselotte Kahn's memoirs describe her childhood in Germany; her marriage to Dr. Ernst Müller and the birth of their sons; Nazi anti-Semitism; their emigration to Greece; her husband's medical practice in Athens; the Italian and German invasion of Greece; their escape to Palestine; and their emigration to and experiences in the United States.


The collection is arranged in six series: Biographical/Background Material, Student Work and Art, Professional Papers, Writings, Photographs and Miscellaneous Ephemera, and Liselotte Kahn papers.

Using the Collection

Restrictions on Access

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.

Restrictions on Use

Columbia University is providing access to the materials in the Library's collections solely for noncommercial educational and research purposes. The unauthorized use, including, but not limited to, publication of the materials without the prior written permission of Columbia University is strictly prohibited. All inquiries regarding permission to publish should be submitted in writing to the Director, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For additional guidance, see Columbia University Libraries' publication policy.

In addition to permission from Columbia University, permission of the copyright owner (if not Columbia University) and/or any holder of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) may also be required for reproduction, publication, distributions, and other uses. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of any item and securing any necessary permissions rests with the persons desiring to publish the item. Columbia University makes no warranties as to the accuracy of the materials or their fitness for a particular purpose.

Preferred Citation

Ely Jacques Kahn papers, 1906-1986, (bulk 1906-1972), Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Related Material

Kahn Jacobs architectural drawings and records, circa 1893-1965, (bulk ca. 1893-1950): Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabum Gift (1978.001)

Robert Allan Jacobs papers, 18902-1990s, (bulk 1909-1983): Margot Jacobs Gift (1999.013)

[Conceptual cross-section rendering for a multi-use building] / Kahn Jacobs : Mark Dessauce Gift (2003.005)

150 Permanent Dwelling Units and Community House [Lexington Park, M.D. ] / Kahn Jacobs: Mark Dessauce Gift (2003.005)

[2 Park Avenue (New York, N.Y)] : [design for bronze Subway sidewalk sign post] / Buchman Kahn: Andrew Alpern Gift (2010.005)

[Perspective rendering of] Federation Building [New York, N.Y.] / Buchman Kahn: Catha Rambusch Gift (1994.017)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--The collection was donated in six accessions: 1963.001, 1973.012, 1992.03, 1992.011, 1993.016, and 1994.013. A small donation by Jules Stern was added in 2023 (2023.001)

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Processing Information

This finding aid was produced by Shelley Hayreh, Avery Archivist, in 2014. The scrapbooks were processed by Nicole Richard in 2015.

Revision Description

2014-11-19 File created.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Biographical sketch

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.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches for other collections at Columbia University, through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, and through ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Autobiographies (literary works) CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Autographs (manuscripts) CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Photographs CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Sketchbooks CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
watercolors (painting) CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Bergdorf Goodman (New York, N.Y.) CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Architects -- New York (State) CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Architects -- United States -- Biography CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Sketch-books CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Study and teaching CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID