Avery Drawings & Archives Collections
 

Julian Clarence Levi architectural drawings and papers, 1895-1963

Summary Information

Abstract

The Julian Clarence Levi collection documents the life and activities of a twentieth century American architect and philanthropist. The collection consists of watercolor study drawings developed while Levi was a student at Columbia University and the École des Beaux Arts; architectural drawings, photographs and records for architectural projects designed and developed in association with his partner Alfred S. Taylor from 1907 until 1962; professional papers from various committees and societies Levi was associated with; personal papers and photographs, including documentation on his family and office, his academic and professional recognitions, public events, travels and social gatherings as a former Columbia alumnus; and various prints and photographs of buildings and European artists collected by Levi throughout his life.

At a Glance

Bib ID 12011815 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Levi, Julian, 1874-1971 ; Gottscho, Samuel H (Samuel Herman), 1875-1971 ; Taylor, Alfredo S.G. ; Beck, William G.
Title Julian Clarence Levi architectural drawings and papers, 1895-1963
Physical Description 16 manuscript boxes; 14 print boxes; 29 rolls; 33 folders (flat-file); 1 box (card storage-file box)
Language(s) English , French , Spanish; Castilian .
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.

Arrangement

Description

Scope and Contents

The collection is a good resource for researchers interested in studying student drawings and architectural visualization at the end of the nineteenth century in the United States and at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The collection also documents Georgian revival residential design in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and the New England region. Due to the fact that Taylor & Levi designed many houses in Norfolk, Connecticut, the Levi collection is also a noteworthy source for the town's own history and development. The collection is also useful for researchers interested in New York's architectural, economic, and social transformations during the 1920s and 1930s. The collection also documents how organizations like the A.I.A. New York Chapter, the Architects Emergency Committee, and A.I.A.'s Foreign Relations Committee operated internally and engaged internationally in France and countries in Latin America.

The collection is also an important source of Samuel H. Gottscho photographs, as most of the residence project records consist of photography by Gottscho depicting interior and exterior spaces.

The collection is divided into five series.

  • Series I: Student Work

    This Series contains primarily small to large scale watercolor drawings developed by Levi during his years as an architecture student. It is divided into two main subseries: drawings created at Columbia University and the drawings produced at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris (the majority correspond to the latter). As some of the drawings do not necessarily specify school origin, dates and language differences were taken into account to establish this ordering. The collection provides an incredible insight into the architecture educational legacy of the École des Beaux-Arts at the end of the 19th century. Drawings show classic building representation techniques, including plans, elevations and sections, metal and timber details, perspectives and descriptive geometry studies. Drawings are divided by date, and, when stated, divided by the distinct professor in charge of the class, such as Atelier Godefroy and Freynet, Lucien Magner, Victor Laloux and Scellier de Gisors.

    This Series also include a collection of coursework sketchbooks, travel notebooks, study albums and tracing paper sketches; as well as photographs taken during the time.

  • Series II: Taylor & Levi Project Records

    Julian Clarence Levi's architecture practice started after he returned from Paris in 1905. During the first half of 1905, he worked under architect Herbert D. Hale. He was also associated with Francis Kimball from 1905-07, designing and developing what appears to have been his first major commission: Seligman Building. From 1907 to 1962 he became partner in the firm of Taylor & Levi, alongside American architect Alfred S. Taylor, with whom he would design a wide range of commercial and non-commercial projects. Private luxury residence projects, however, represents the vast majority of their work.

    This Series is divided into two subseries: one focused exclusively on the firm's numerous residential projects, ordered by the owner's name; and the second dedicated to their other projects, organized by project type, such as cafes, camps and clubs, churches, exhibitions, mausoleums, stores, universities, among others.

    The Series is mainly made up of photographs showing the projects' final outcome and contract papers, although some working drawings, plans and renderings can be found for specific projects. However, little evidence remains of the firm's design process as no preliminary drawings or sketches exist. A third and final subseries is dedicated to William G. Beck Projects, one of Taylor & Levi's employees who became the Office Manager in 1954 after Levi retired.

  • Series III: Professional Papers

    This Series is mainly focused on Levi's correspondence as a member of the New York Chapter at the American Institute of Architecture (AIA), between 1911 and 1956. As Chairman of the Committee on International Relations, Levi kept in contact with numerous architects around the globe, especially from France and Latin America. Several documents also account for architectural events and congresses developed during the fifties such as the Pan American Congress of Architects held in various countries in Central and South America. Due to the international nature of his work at these institutions, it is possible to find correspondence in English, French and Spanish. Subseries 2 is dedicated to the Chartres Cathedral Window Restoration, a donation made possible by the AIA Chapter members, the Henry Adams Foundation, and individuals, in order to restore one of the 7 by 26 feet windows of the Chartres Cathedral in France damaged during the French Revolution. This Subseries consists primarily of correspondence and gives a detailed account of the process behind the window's restoration through letters exchanged between the Restoration Committee (Harold B. Willis, Julian C. Levi, Ralph Walker, and Alex Hoyle), as well as other key personalities such designer Jean Maunoury, AIA president Glenn Stanton and French ambassador Henry Bonnet. Some letters are accompanied with photographs and drawings sent to the Committee, showing the design and manufacturing process of the window.

  • Series IV: Personal Papers and Photographs

    This Series is dedicated to Levi's personal papers and photographs, documenting aspects of his life such as family pictures, photographs of his residence in Paris and New York, photographs at public events, diplomas, medallions, and medals. Additionally, the Series includes Columbia University related documents, travel photos around the US and Europe, and mostly non-architectural drawings and sketches done by Levi. Four scrapbooks deserve special notice in this Series, as they represent one of the most important resources on the life, activities, and achievements of Levi. Each scrapbook is thematically divided as follows: 1) Personal Bibliography of Levi, 2) A.I.A., 3) The Society of Beaux Arts Architects, New York City, and Architectural League of New York, and 4) Committees and Associations. The scrapbooks are made up of newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, invitations, letters, announcements, travel pamphlets, tickets, among other papers.

  • Series V: Collected Documents

    This Series contains numerous prints and photographs Levi gathered throughout his life as a collector. Most of the material is comprised of European prints from various artists, as well as historic photographs of US buildings. Some photographs also correspond to exhibitions such as the Panama-California Exposition or the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts, although is not clear if they were taken or acquired by Levi. Two New York City notebooks are also part of this Series, showing the life of New Yorkers at the end of the nineteenth century. Chapters include stories about the city -landmarks, public spaces, and buildings-, while others focus on special events such as the elections day, Christmas celebrations and the lifestyle of various city characters.

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.

Related Archival Materials

Julian C. Levi papers, 1862-1971, at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University. There is significant overlap between the collection held at Avery Drawings & Archives and the collection held at Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Researchers are encouraged to consult both collections to get a fuller understanding of Levi's life and activities.

Watercolors by Julian Clarence Levi in Avery Art Properties. Holds over 250 watercolor paintings by Levi can be founded in Avery Art Properites.

Columbia University School of Architecture student drawings, 1879-1956. This collection includes 3 student drawings by Julian Clarence Levi and 13 drawings by his partner Alfred S.G. Taylor.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Holds 53 objects from the 1971 bequest of the Estate of Julian Clarence Levi.

The Cooper Hewitt. Holds 29 objects from the 1971 bequest of the Estate of Julian Clarence Levi.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Jose Luis Villanueva, Graduate Intern in Primary Sources, under the supervision of Shelley Hayreh, Avery Archivist, in 2019.

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.

Genre/Form

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Architectural drawings Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographic prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
American Institute of Architects. New York Chapter Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Massachusetts Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- New Jersey Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- United States -- Designs and plans Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Virginia Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cathédrale de Chartres Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- : Alumni and alumnae Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts (France) -- Students Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Society of Beaux-Arts Architects Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Julian Clarence Levi was a New York-based architect, watercolorist and philanthropist. Levi was born in his family's home in New York City on December 8, 1874. Between 1895 and 1897 he studied at Columbia College and at the School of Architecture, before travelling to Paris to continue his education at the École des Beaux-Arts. At the École, he was recognized as a gifted student, winning numerous awards for his designs and drawings. Upon graduation, he returned to New York in 1905 and began an architectural practice working in association with architect's Helbert D.Hale and Francis H.Kimball. In 1907 he founded Taylor & Levi, an architectural partnership with Alfred S.G. Taylor that remained active until 1954, producing a broad range of building, mainly focusing their practice on luxury residential projects in the New York and New England region.

As a longtime member of the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) and other institutions, Levi became very active in various exhibitions, committees, and congresses around the world. In 1921 he organized various exhibits on American Architecture that traveled across Europe, and became part of a special program led by the French government for the reconstruction of schools in France. He was the founder and chairman of the Architects Emergency Committee in 1930, a venture that helped create jobs for American architects after the Great Depression. In 1937 he collaborated as technical advisor for the US Building Pavilion at the Paris "International Exposition of Arts and Technics in Modern Life", and worked on the design of the Romanian House at New York World's Fair in 1939. As a two times Chairman of Foreign Relations at the AIA, he traveled across the world - especially Latin America- attending many Pan-American congresses representing the United States architects. Also affiliated with the AIA New York Chapter, he contributed to the restoration of one of Chartres Cathedral's glass lancet, a task for which he became, in 1955, the only non-French person to receive the medal of "La Compainie des Architects en Chef des Monuments Historiques." For his philanthropism and public service work, Levi received many medals and recognitions.

Throughout his life, Levi also became a noted planner and theorist about the city, writing many articles for major magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times, the NY Herald and the Architectural Review. In his writings, he espoused a philosophy about architecture in the approaching age of the skyscraper, promoted regulations within the built environment, proposed the renewal of different parts of the city, suggested new transportation systems and speculated about the creation of new public spaces. He advocated for the use of color in building's facades and recommended the erection of "sub-air terminals" above the city piers for use by small aircraft between airports and towns. During his times at the Emergency Committee, he promoted a competition for the renewal of the Bryant Park, a project won by architect Simpson and whose design was then adopted by Robert Moses from the Park Commission for the park's final layout.

Levi died in 1971, the same year he received a Certificate of Distinction from Columbia University. Called a "Renaissance man" in his New York Times obituary, Levi was also known as an avid collector, treasuring priceless paintings from the Renaissance, French, English and Italian antiques, oriental rugs, and a myriad art objects; many of them held in museum and institutions such as the Cooper Hewitt and the Metropolitan Museum.