|Avery Drawings & Archives Collections|
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At a Glance
Materials are arranged in four series: Lectures; Photographs; Olcott Papers-Mechanics' and Farmers' Bank; and Lyman Sturgis Correspondence. Series I contains materials received grouped in envelopes based on where the lectures were given. The envelopes did not appear to be in any particular order. The material is now arranged in chronological order, as best it could be determined, often referring to what appeared to be Sturgis' own dating after the fact, as indicated by his question marks or "I think" annotations. This chronological ordering does not much change the received arrangement of the material. The collection inventory describes the subject of each item in what appears to be the words of Sturgis, as indicated by quotation marks, or with a few descriptive words supplied by the archivist. Each item had been numbered in either the upper or lower right corner, corresponding to the numbering noted in the inventory. All dates are taken from either the lecture or the corresponding envelope. An exception to the chronological order is the House Lectures. Since it is unknown what "House" refers to, and although the materials spans two years, the archivist has chosen to place the materials together as items 2 through 6. The slide lists or notes accompanying lectures are given sub-letters, rather than separate identifying numbers. Series II contains one portrait photograph and many small albumen print photographs, most of which have minor creases at the edges, kept with original envelope marked "duplicates – or at least reductions of larger photos." These study images are arranged alphabetically by supplied title. Series III, the Olcott Papers, is arranged in chronological order by month and year. The monthly folders have been retained and contain a monthly item count, with brief description of the contents of selected contents of each month's correspondence. These letters are generally in good physical condition. The Lyman Sturgis correspondence in Series IV is arranged in chronological order, with related outgoing and incoming correspondence kept together where appropriate.
Scope and Content
This collection contains lectures, notes, photographs, correspondence, and architectural drawings documenting the work of Russell Sturgis, and, secondarily, his son, Lyman Sturgis. The materials were created between 1874 and 1932.
Items in the first gift, given by Lyman Sturgis or a close associate, include typescripts and manuscripts of lectures and addresses about architecture and fine art between 1884 and 1895, often accompanied by slide lists or notes. Occasionally, there are merely slide lists without corresponding lectures.
Also in the first gift is a small group of study photographs, including many images of French architecture, as well as examples of interior decoration. Additionally, there is one portrait photograph of Sturgis, dated 1905.
A second gift, known as the Olcott Papers, documents the planning and construction of the Mechanics' and Farmers' Bank in Albany, New York. The materials consist of five original architectural drawings and a group of more than 160 letters and telegrams, some of which contain small architectural sketches by Sturgis. The letters date from July 14, 1874 to July 16, 1875. Fifty-five of the letters are in Russell Sturgis' hand and the remainder are from the contractors and tradesmen involved in the construction.
Also received in the first gift is a small group of correspondence to and from Lyman Sturgis, a writer and literary agent for the Beacon Syndicate in New York City. This material relates to literary matters and dates from 1931 and 1932.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Permission to publish must be obtained in writing from the Director, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, 1172 Amsterdam Ave., MC 0301, New York, NY 10027.
Russell Sturgis architectural drawings and papers. Dept. of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York, N.Y.
Russell Sturgis Photograph Collection, 1853-1903. University Archives, Dept. of Special Collections, Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
This collection was a gift to Avery Library from two sources. The first group of materials appears to have been donated at an unknown date either by Lyman Sturgis, son of Russell, or by a relative of Lyman, perhaps his wife. A second group of materials, known as the Olcott Papers, was donated by Douglas W. Olcott in August 1962. Olcott was the grandnephew of Dudley Olcott, the original recipient of this collection and head of the Merchants' and Farmers' Bank in Albany, New York, at the time of Sturgis' architectural commission.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library
This collection was processed by Louise Kurlick for the Dept. of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, in 1977.
Much of the material in Box 1 was received in acidic brown envelopes. All the material was removed and placed in archival housing. If there was writing on the enveloped indicating the contents and assumed to be in the hand of Sturgis, those notes were excised, mounted on acid-free paper, and maintained with the contents of the envelope. The papers were generally in good condition, although the first and last sheets were in contact with the acidic envelopes and are usually badly discolored.
2007-10-15 File created.
2009-07-23 File revised.
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Russell Sturgis (1836-1909), architect, art historian and writer, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. After graduating from the Free Academy (later the College of the City of New York) in 1856, he studied with architect Leopold Eidlitz and received further architectural education in Munich, Germany. He returned to New York City in 1863 to begin his career as an architect and resided there until his death.
Sturgis' architectural style has been described as "New-Grec" and "Victorian Gothic." Among his best-known buildings are the Farnam, Durfee, and Lawrence dormitories and the Battell Chapel at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut; the Flower Hospital in New York City; and the Mechanics' and Farmers' Bank in Albany, New York.
His legacy remains, however, more closely tied to his role as an art and architectural historian, writer, and lecturer. In fact, Sturgis virtually abandoned the practice of architecture for these other activities after the early 1880s. He served as president of the Architectural League of New York from 1889 to 1893 and of the Fine Arts Federation from 1895 to 1897. His writings were extensive and, in addition to writing for various magazines and journals, Sturgis was the author of European architecture: a historical study (1896); Annotated Bibliography of fine art: painting, sculpture, architecture, arts of decoration and illustration (1897) for the American Library Association; the multi-volume Dictionary of Architecture and Building (1901-1902); How to judge architecture; a popular guide to the appreciation of buildings (1903); and was co-translator of Wilhelm Luebke's Outlines of the History of Art (1904). His manuscript for The History of Architecture (1906-1915) was only partially complete at this time of Sturgis' death in 1909. Sturgis lectured widely for various audiences, including Columbia College, Barnard College, the Metropolitan Museum, the Peabody Institute, the American Institute of Architects, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the College of the City of New York, among many others.
Finally, Sturgis played a significant role in the founding and development of the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. Avery Library was founded on June 23, 1890, by Samuel Putnam and Mary Ogden Avery in memory of their son, Henry Ogden Avery, who had studied earlier with Sturgis. In forming the library, the Averys stipulated that there were to be three people responsible for the development of the collection—the librarian of Columbia College, the professor of the Architectural Department, and Russell Sturgis. It appears that the other two members of this committee usually deferred to Sturgis and he was later remembered as "the second most important factor in the formation of the [Avery] library."