Avery Drawings & Archives Collections

Theodore Conrad papers, 1937-1991

Summary Information


Theodore Conrad (1910-1994) was an American architectural model maker. This collection is composed primarily of model photographs, press clippings and other documentation, drawings, and administrative papers. The visual materials mainly consist of model making documentation from Conrad's career as a professional model maker for major architecture firms, most notably Skidmore Owings and Merrill and Edward Durell Stone.

At a Glance

Bib ID 12009490 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Conrad, Theodore, 1910-1994 ; Checkman, Louis, 1914-2004
Title Theodore Conrad papers, 1937-1991
Physical Description 13 linear feet
Language(s) 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

Series I: Projects

This series documents approximately 200 of Conrad's architectural models. The documentation is primarily photographic; however, some projects include tear sheets and reprints featuring the model, some plans and drawings, and other related ephemera. The series is divided into four subseries. Subseries 1: By Architect comprises of 79 architectural models arranged alphabetically by the architect of the project. Subseries 2: By Project Title contains 22 architectural models for projects where the architect is unidentified. The models in this subseries are arranged alphabetically by project title. Subseries 3: Magazine Projects features 27 architectural models created as a magazine design project. The projects are arranged alphabetically by magazine and list the associated architect. Magazines represented are Collier's, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, McCall's, and Womasnn's Home Companion House. Series 4: Unidentified Buildings includes 147 photographs for approximately 60 to 70 models. The models are from unidentified projects and architects and are arranged by building type.

Series II: Accounting Records

This series contains billing and (primarily financial) correspondence for Conrad projects dating from the 1940s to the 2000s.

Series III: Professional Papers

The series includes general professional correspondence arranged chronologically from the 1940s to the 1980s, clippings and printed material featuring Conrad or models by Conrad, photographs of Conrad's various model workshops (including photographs of equipment and of construction of various models), papers related to Conrad's historic preservation efforts in Jersey City, and an album complied by Conrad documenting his work during the Second World War designing and fabricating models of aircraft for aircraft identification purposes.

Series IV: Personal Papers

This series contains photographs of Conrad, non-project related drawings, miscellaneous photographs, and papers related to Conrad's Selective Service in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Series V: Reference

This series primarily includes trade catalogs on model making tools and materials. Additional reference material not related to models is also included in the series.

Series VI: Architectural Drawings

This series consists of architectural drawing reproductions (blueprints, diazo, etc) for 12 identified and unidentified architectural projects.

Publication Date


Using the Collection

Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

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. 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

Theodore Conrad papers, Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Doris Conrad Brown. Method of acquisition--Donated;; Date of acquisition--2015. Accession number--2015.015.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Oskar Arnorsson (Graduate Intern) under the supervision of Shelley Hayreh (Avery Archivist).

Revision Description

2016-11-18 File created.

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

Subject Headings

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

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Architectural design Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architectural models Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architectural models -- Design and construction Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- United States -- Designs and plans Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture, Modern -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Models and modelmaking Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Stone, Edward Durell Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Structural frames -- Models Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical sketch

Theodore Conrad was born in a house on 31 Griffith Street, Jersey City, New Jersey, on May, 19, 1910 to German immigrants. His father, Frederick Conrad, was a manager for the Hudson County Consumer's Brewery in Union City and his mother, Edoline Frerichs Conrad. His grandfather was a builder who constructed many of the houses in Conrad's Riverview Park neighborhood, piquing Conrad's interest in building at a young age. After studying draftsmanship at Dickinson High School in Jersey City, where he also received substantial workshop training, Conrad attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he was trained in the Beaux Arts tradition under Leopold Arnaud. At the age of 18, while still a student at Pratt, Conrad earned a summer internship at the office of Harvey Wiley Corbett, building a model of Corbett's proposal for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building (never realized), documented in the collection. Conrad earned a full-time job at Corbett's firm upon graduation from Pratt, soon transferring the professional model making work for from Corbett's office to his own shop in the basement of 31 Griffith Street, effectively starting his own business in 1931. As his practice grew, he moved into his own home on 248 Ogden Avenue, while setting up shop next door in an old jewelry factory on 250 Ogden Avenue. The collection includes thorough photographic documentation of Conrad's workshops.

During WWII Conrad was hired by the Navy to design and fabricate models of enemy aircraft which were photographed and published in brochures for identification purposes. The archive holds one such aircraft model, as well as a number of photographs used for the brochures, as well as copies of the brochures themselves. He was also commissioned by the Army to design a plan to camouflage Paterson, NJ, by producing fake rivers to confuse German fighter pilots.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Conrad's enterprise became the largest in the country, at its height employing 26 men and women. His assignments include work for McKim Mead and White, Edward Durell Stone, Louis Kahn, Mies van der Rohe and Skidmore Owings and Merrill, many of whom are in the collection. Conrad was a pioneer in the use of plastics and metals for models instead of the more traditional materials of wood, plaster and cardboard, making the switch in 1936. He was awarded for his model-making innovation in 1962, when he was the recipient of the American Institute of Architects Craftsmanship Medal.

In his later years, Conrad increasingly partook in Jersey City politics and preservation efforts. In 1961, he ran for the city council on the ticket of former Mayor Thomas Gangemi, but lost. He was soon after appointed a city redevelopment commissioner. He was the founding member of the Jersey City Historic District Commission, the Brownstone Revival Committee, and the Riverview Neighborhood Association, and served as the president of the Jersey City Museum Association and the Jersey City Preservation and Restoration Association. His biggest preservation effort was his resulted in the declaration of the Hudson County Courthouse on Newark Avenue as a national historic site in 1971. He also played a major role in advocating for Liberty State Park, documented with drawings in the collection, as well as the preservation of Loew's Jersey Theater.