Avery Drawings & Archives Collections
 

Charles A. Platt architectural records and papers, 1879-1981, bulk 1882-1933

Summary Information

Abstract

Charles Adam Platt (1861-1933) was an American architect and landscape designer. Although best remembered today for his landscape and country house designs, he was also nationally known for his etchings, landscape paintings, commercial architecture, and institutional projects. He was largely self-taught in each of these disciplines, building his success on his ability to reconceive the classical tradition in architecture for the needs and desires of his wealthy, powerful clients. This collection contains materials related to Platt's personal and professional lives, the bulk originating from Platt's office in the form of project drawings, photographs, and records documenting architectural projects from 1901-1933.

At a Glance

Bib ID 3460562 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Platt, Charles A (Charles Adams), 1861-1933
Title Charles A. Platt architectural records and papers, 1879-1981, bulk 1882-1933
Physical Description 3,989 architectural drawings; 519 photographs; 3 linear feet; 91 glass plate negatives;
Language(s) English .
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 Content

This collection contains materials related to Platt's personal and professional lives, the bulk originating from Platt's office in the form of project drawings, photographs, and records documenting architectural projects from 1901-1933. Several earlier projects and projects completed by Platt's office after his death are also documented. A small group of drawings was created for publication only, and some drawings may have served as both project records and presentation drawings.

The archive also contains typescript transcriptions of correspondence from Platt's travels to Europe in 1879 and from 1882-1886, as well as transcribed letters to his wife, Eleanor Hardy Bunker Platt, and a diary kept during his brief engagement as a member of the Food Administration in Italy after World War I. Additional papers include limited personal and professional correspondence.

Lastly, the collection contains original glass plate negatives of photographs of Italian Renaissance gardens taken by Platt and/or his brother William Platt in the spring of 1892. Platt incorporated some of these images in ITALIAN GARDENS, published by Harper in 1894.

  • Series I: Architectural Drawings

    The Architectural Drawings are divided into 3 subseries: Working Drawings, Presentation and Publication Drawings, and Standard Drawings.

    Subseries 1: Working Drawings contain drawings created by Platt's office in the course of work on a given project. Te majority of the projects contain a full set of architectural plans. Each project was catalogued separately in the online catalog CLIO. This finding aid provides a link to each project's associated catalog record. Sheet level description can be found in these project-level records. Each sheet is individually accessioned with numbers ranging from 1974.002.00001 through .03729.

    Subseries 2: Presentation and Publication Drawings consist of drawings initially made in preparation for the Monograph of the Work of Charles A. Platt, published in 1913. According to a note from William Platt that accompanied the donation of the drawings in 1976, the drawings continued to be made after 1913 "since they had become of inestimable value for purposes of study and comparison as new work came along. They also provided an exercise in drafting and lettering for aspiring office boys." Dates that appear on the drawings reflect project dates, not drawing dates, and usually reflect only the year of project completion.

    Subseries 3: Standard Drawings consist of drawings that were originally created by Platt's office in the course of work on a given project but were later selected by Platt as standard sheets or examples of various architectural or landscape elements. Platt stored these drawings by type of element. The Standard Drawings were also part of the 1974.002 accession, and thus have complete cataloging information as well as in CLIO, but they remain physically separated.

  • Series II: Project Photographs

    This series includes project photographs as well as copy photographs separated from the Keith N. Morgan Papers, also held by Avery Library's Department of Drawings & Archives.

    Projects are arranged geographically by state and then city. Domestic projects are listed first, followed by international projects. Projects with no specified location are listed last.

  • Series III: Project Records

    This series includes non-visual project-related material, including contract records, invoices, notes, and calculations. A small number of the files date after Platt's death, and relate to the activities of William & Geoffrey Platt.

    Projects are arranged geographically by state and then city. Domestic projects are listed first, followed by international projects. A group of invoices for projects with no other documentation in the files are arranged alphabetically at the end of the series.

  • Series IV: Italian Gardens

    This series contains 8"x10" glass plate negatives documenting Charles Platt's 1892 trip to Italy. Platt traveled with his brother, William, to view Italian Renaissance villas and gardens and used many of the photographs he took to illustrate his publication Italian Gardens (Harper & Brothers, 1894). Additional images were included in the 1993 reissue of Italian Gardens (Sagapress/Timber Press). This series also includes 50 unpublished images.

    Access is restricted to the original glass plate negatives, which are housed in off-site cold storage. However, a digitized postive photograph has been made for each negative and is linked in the finding aid. The negatives are arranged geographically by city and the listed alphabetically by the name of the villa. Unidentified villas are listed are listed last.

  • Series V: Personal Papers

    The series is divided into 3 subseries: Photographs, Biographical Information, and General Papers. Material is arranged chronologically within each subseries, with undated material at the end of each subseries.

  • Series V: Correspondence

    This series consists of personal correspondence between Platt, his family, and social and professional associates. Platt's travels as an art student in Europe, most of which he undertook from 1882-1886, are well documented in transcribed correspondence. Some of the letters from this period appear to have been transcribed twice by independent typists. No original letters from this period were found, though sketches from some of the letters appear to have been clipped and pasted into one set of the transcriptions.

    Abbreviations Used in the Series Inventories: ALS (Autograph letter, signed); CAP (Charles Adams Platt); EHBP (Eleanor Hardy Bunker Platt); TC (Typed carbon); TL (Typed letter); TLS (typed letter, signed)

  • Series VI. Professional Papers

    The series is divided into 4 subseries: General Papers, Reference Files, Exhibitions, and Awards, Degrees, and Tributes. Material is arranged chronologically within each subseries, with undated material at the end of each subseries.

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.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

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

Charles Adams Platt architectural records and papers. Dept. of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York, N.Y.

Related Material

A collection of books and photographs from Charles A. Platt's office is held by the Century Association Archives.

A small collection of Platt correspondence is held by the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art .

Also held in the Department of Drawings & Archives at Avery Library are the Keith N. Morgan Papers, which contain research notes and photographs relating to Platt, including a small number of original documents; and the collection of drawings and papers from Platt's sons and successor firm, William & Geoffrey Platt, Architects. Additionally, records and drawings by Platt may be found in the Woodlawn Cemetery Records.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Processing Information

The 1974 accession was processed by project staff of the Department of Drawings & Archives. The later accessions were processed by and integrated into the earlier collection by Julie Tozer, Platt Project Archivist, Dept. of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, from September 2007 to February 2008. The architectural drawings, project photographs, project records, and Italian Garden negatives were updated in 2020 and converted from excel inventories into EAD.

Revision Description

2008-04-18 File created.

2009-12-03 File revised.

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

2020-05-08 Excel inventories converted into EAD.

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
Architectural reprographic prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Carbon typescript papers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Etchings (prints) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Glass plate negatives Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Holograph papers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Mixed media drawings Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographic prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Printed papers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Typescript papers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Adams, Herbert, 1858-1945 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Addison Gallery of American Art Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Alger, Russell A., Jr., 1873-1930 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
American Academy in Rome Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Anderson, Isabel Weld Perkins, 1877-1949 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Anderson, Larz, 1866-1937 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Apartment houses -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Apartment houses -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architects -- United States -- Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architects -- United States -- Diaries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Connecticut Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Illinois Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Massachusetts Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Michigan -- Grosse Pointe Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- New Hampshire -- Cornish Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- New York (State) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Ohio -- Cleveland Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- United States -- Designs and plans Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Washington (D.C.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture, Domestic -- Illinois -- Lake Forest Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture, Domestic -- New York (State) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture, Domestic -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Art -- Study and teaching Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Art Students League (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Art museums Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Astor (Vincent) Estate Office Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Astor Building (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Astor Court Apartments (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Astor House Building (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Astor, Vincent, 1891-1959 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bacon, Henry, 1866-1924 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Baker, Floyd E Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bunker, Dennis Miller, 1861-1890 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Campus planning Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Casino del bel respiro (Rome, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Century Association (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Chaloner Prize Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cheney family Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Churchill, Winston, 1871-1947 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Connecticut College Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Coolidge Auditorium (Library of Congress) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cooper, James Fenimore, 1858-1938 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Corcoran Gallery of Art Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cornish (N.H. : Town) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cortissoz, Royal, 1869-1948 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Country homes -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cox, Kenyon, 1856-1919 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Croly, Herbert David, 1869-1930 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Culver, Frederick S Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Deerfield Academy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Dreyer, Louis H Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Dwellings -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Dyer, George Rathbone, 1869-1934 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Freer Gallery of Art Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Freer, Charles Lang, 1854-1919 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Gardens -- Design Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Gardens -- Italy -- Pictorial works Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Gardens -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Gardens, Renaissance -- Italy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Gentrification Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Giardini Giusti (Verona, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Giardino di Boboli (Florence, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Goulstone, G. T Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hanna Building (Cleveland, Ohio) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Harold F. McCormick House (Lake Forest, Ill.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Harvard Club of New York City Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hedrich-Blessing (Firm) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
James Fenimore Cooper House (Cooperstown, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Knickerbocker Hotel (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Landscape architecture -- Pictorial works Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Landscape architecture -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Landscape painting Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Landscape photography Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lazarus, Annie Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Leader-News Building (Cleveland, Ohio) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lefebvre, Jules, 1836-1911 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lewis, Schell Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lyman Allyn Art Museum Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lyme Art Association Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Manship, Paul, 1885-1966 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
McConnell, J. W (John Wilson), 1877-1963 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
McCormick, Edith Rockefeller, 1872-1932 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
McCormick, Harold F (Harold Fowler), 1872-1941 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Meyer, Eugene, 1875-1959 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Museum buildings -- Massachusetts -- Andover Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Museum buildings -- Ohio -- Columbus Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Museum buildings -- Washington (D.C.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
National Academy of Design (U.S.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
National Gallery of Art (U.S.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
New York State Roosevelt Memorial Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Palazzo Colonna (Rome, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Palazzo del Quirinale (Rome, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Parrish, Stephen, 1846-1938 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Peter A. Juley & Son Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Phillips Academy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photography -- Negatives Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Platt, Charles A (Charles Adams), 1861-1933 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Platt, Eleanor Hardy Bunker Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Platt, Geoffrey, 1905-1985 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Platt, John Henry Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Platt, Mary Elizabeth Cheney Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Platt, William, 1897-1984 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pompeii (Extinct city) -- Buildings, structures, etc Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pratt, Frederic B (Frederic Bayley), 1865-1945 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pratt, John T. (John Teele), 1873-1927 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Rhees, Rush, 1860-1939 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Roosevelt, Sara Delano, 1854-1941 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Schools -- Massachusetts -- Andover Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sepulchral monuments Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Shipman, Ellen, 1869-1950 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
St. Regis Hotel (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Suresnes (France). American Cemetery Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United States Food Administration Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Universities and colleges -- Illinois -- Urbana Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign campus) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Villa Aldobrandini (Rome, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Villa Borghese (Rome, Italy : Park) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Villa Caprarola (Viterbo, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Villa Conti (Frascati, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Villa Falconieri (Frascati, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Villa Lante (Bagnaia, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Villa Medici (Fiesole, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Villa Mondragone (Frascati, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Villa Portici (Portici, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Villa Taverna (Frascati, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Villa Turicum (Lake Forest, Ill.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Villa d'Este (Tivoli, Italy) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Vincent Astor Mansion (Rhinebeck, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Walker, H. O (Henry Walker), 1843-1929 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
War memorials Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wellesley College. Alumnae Building Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
William & Geoffrey Platt Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1914-1918 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wurts Brothers (Photographers : New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Charles Adams Platt, the son of John Henry Platt and Mary Elizabeth Cheney Platt, was born in 1861 in Manhattan. Although best remembered today for his landscape and country house designs, he was also nationally known for his etchings, landscape paintings, commercial architecture, and institutional projects. He was largely self-taught in each of these disciplines, building his success on his ability to reconceive the classical tradition in architecture for the needs of his wealthy, powerful clients.

Born into a wealthy family with several artist relatives, Platt developed an early interest in art by enrolling in classes at the National Academy of Design in 1878 and joining the Art Students League in 1879. Vacationing in upstate New York that year, he met the painter and printmaker Stephen Parrish, who encouraged Platt to investigate the newly revived art of etching. Platt quickly became adept in the medium, earning the nickname "the boy etcher" and becoming a successful member of the etching revival by 1881. To advance his growing interest with painting, Platt traveled to Europe from 1882-1886. He studied in the atelier of Jules Joseph Lefebvre in Paris from 1884-1885 but often worked independently within a circle of friends including Henry Oliver Walker, Kenyon Cox, and Dennis Miller Bunker.

Platt met Annie Corbin Hoe in Europe and they married in the spring of 1886. Both of their fathers died that summer, and Annie died in childbirth in early 1887. Platt recovered slowly, returning to his work in earnest in the summer of 1889 when living at the Cornish Arts Colony, where he had been invited by Walker. Founded by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1885, Cornish provided Platt with a vibrant community of artists, writers, and intellectuals, including the landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman and sculptors Herbert Adams and Paul Manship, as well as the land on which Platt designed and built himself a residence and garden in 1890. The following year, Platt received a commission for a house and garden from his Cornish neighbor, Annie Lazarus. Platt sought initial assistance from friend Stanford White and designed for Lazarus a residence patterned after an Italian villa and sited to frame views of Mount Ascutney. Platt further explored his ideas on villa architecture during his 1892 trip with his brother, William Platt, to photograph Renaissance gardens in Italy, the results of which he published in Italian Gardens in 1894.

After returning from Italy, Platt received house and garden commissions from several neighbors in Cornish, many of whom would remain lifelong patrons. Thanks to positive attention in the architectural press and the ties of his family and friends to influential patrons, Platt began to attract commissions beyond Cornish, first for gardens and then for entire country estates. Platt was published in Guy Lowell's AMERICAN GARDENS in 1902, in which his classically influenced garden designs were printed alongside those of Wilson Eyre and McKim, Mead & White and in contrast to the naturalistic designs favored by Frederick Law Olmsted. Herbert Croly, editor of ARCHITECTURAL RECORD and a friend of Platt, published a positive review of Platt's work in 1904. By 1913, Platt's substantial body of work was published in the MONOGRAPH OF THE WORK OF CHARLES A. PLATT by the Architectural Book Publishing Company.

Platt continued to design country houses throughout his career, but he devoted much of his time to important urban and institutional commissions after 1920. Many of these commissions came from the Vincent Astor estate office, which employed Platt from 1906 through 1932, and from residential clients with institutional interests. For the Astor estate, most of Platt's work consisted of converting Manhattan tenements to more luxurious middle- and upper-class apartment dwellings. Previous patron Charles Lang Freer commissioned Platt to design the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington DC in 1913, the first of Platt's nine museum commissions. Platt also completed or consulted on several large-scale campus planning projects, most notably for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and for Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.

Throughout his life, Platt maintained his house and garden in Cornish, New Hampshire, and an office and residence in Manhattan. With his second wife, Eleanor Hardy Bunker, whom Platt married in 1893, Platt had five children. Among the children were William (1897-1984) and Geoffrey (1905-1985), who followed in their father's footsteps and practiced architecture in New York City; the Department of Drawings & Archives also holds the William & Geoffrey Platt archive. Charles Platt died in Cornish in 1933.