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James Grote Van Derpool papers, 1944-1974 (bulk 1962-1966)

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Preferred Citation

James Grote Van Derpool papers, 1944-1974, Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information


This collection documents, though partially, the professional life of architectural and art historian, librarian, and preservationist James Grote Van Derpool (1903-1979). Generally, this collection contains correspondence, office files, printed materials, photographs, slides, literary productions, and legal documents. A large portion of this collection consists of papers that reflect the activities of Van Derpool as "defender of the architectural treasures," including records and papers relating to research done for the National Parks Service. Also in the collection are records of lectures on the history of American architecture given at educational institutions, clubs, societies, business organizations, and religious and cultural group meetings. There are also papers relating to Van Derpool's research on the history of Avery Library at Columbia University and the life and work of Italian architect Leon Battista Alberti. Additionally, there is a group of records of the Advisory Committee of the University of Illinois for the time period when Van Derpool was chairman. Van Derpool's book collection was incorporated into the permanent collection of Avery Library after his death.

At a Glance

CLIO record: View CLIO record
Creator(s):Van Derpool, James Grote, 1903-1979
Title:James Grote Van Derpool papers, 1944-1974 (bulk 1962-1966)
Physical description:5 linear feet (in 10 manuscript boxes and 1 archival box)
Language(s): In English.
Access: The bulk of this collection is stored in Columbia University Libraries' off-site storage facility. Materials will be recalled by request. 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 call (212) 854-4110 or email  More information »



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Scope and Content

Series I: National Park Service Architectural Study Project "Mission-66"

This series relates to the National Park Service’s Architectural Study Project “Mission-66,” which was a capital improvement program in connection with the Historical American Buildings Survey. The material gathered in this series relates to JGV’s work for a Registry of National historic Landmarks on the sub-theme “Architecture” for the period 1962-1968. This series contains correspondence, printed material, literary production and legal documents, inventories of sites prepared by HABS, photographs, and research notes. There series includes the following subseries: Subseries 1: Correspondence, Subseries 2: Manuscripts, and Subseries 3: Miscellaneous Research Material.

Series II: Preservation of Historic and Architecturally Notable Buildings

The material gathered in this series relates to JGV’s work as an Executive Director of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The subject of this series is the preservation of the buildings in New York, with some material on preservation of buildings in other states. The series contains correspondence, office files, miscellaneous printed material, photographs and literary productions. The original filing order has been preserved, folders are arranged by subject and chronologically within each folder; typescripts of articles and lectures and some miscellaneous groups of material arranged by subject and then chronologically. There is a portion of records which are not dated in this series. Subseries 1: Landmarks Preservation Commission consists of correspondences, proceedings, printed material. Subseries 2: Preservation consists of correspondence, documents from office files, printed material, photos, and clippings. The material embodies miscellaneous records in New York on Landmarks Preservation, miscellaneous papers concerning activities of the Society of American Historians. Subseries 3: New York's History and Landmarks constitutes five groups of published and unpublished material on the history of New York and its landmarks. Includes Reports on The Hamilton Grange, and The Stadhuist. The material consists of booklets, reports, photographs, blueprints and includes correspondence. Subseries 4: Maine, Maryland, Virginia constitutes three groups of records arranged alphabetically by state. Consists of correspondence, printed material, and photographs. This subseries presents the documentation of JGV’s involvement in the restoration and preservation of St. Luke’s Church in Smithfield, Virginia. Subseries 5: Manuscripts and Speeches consists of handwritten drafts and typescripts of articles and speeches, photos and a few clippings. Arranged by topic and thereunder, chronologically within the original folders. Most lecture headings have the same or similar titles. Corrections, introductions and additions differ. The subjects are Historical Architecture of Manhattan, Frances Tavern, Landmarks Preservation Commission; the restoration of St. Luke’s Church, Greenwich Village, Percy Pyne project, Architecture and the Art. Includes typescript for Columbia television series.

Series III: The Architecture of Italian Renaissance

The material gathered in this series relates to JGV’s study of the Architecture of Italian Renaissance. This series contains manuscripts of his published works and speeches on Leon Battista Alberti, printed material, photographs, and miscellaneous records.

Series IV: Columbia University

This series contains pedagogic and administrative records of the School of the Architecture, Columbia University, and research material regarding Avery Library (collected by JGV while writing the History of Avery Library)

Series V: Miscellaneous

Contains miscellaneous professional material including papers from the University of Illinois’s Advisory Committee on Selection of a New President, brief biographical information, and some collected research material.

Series VI: Slides, Negatives, Microfilms

Primarily consists of travel slides, negatives and microfilms, mainly of New York and Italy.

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Using the Collection

Access Restrictions

 The bulk of this collection is stored in Columbia University Libraries' off-site storage facility. Materials will be recalled by request. 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 call (212) 854-4110 or email

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

James Grote Van Derpool papers, 1944-1974, Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

For Further Information

For more information about using the collections and conducting research in the Department of Drawings & Archives, please see our FAQ.

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Avery Architecture and Fine Arts Library. Department of Drawings and Archives; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Irina Kuharets in 1990. Allison Carafa (Bibliographic Assistant) completed the final arrangement of the collection in 2013.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion June 25, 2009 Finding aid written in English.
    2009-06-25 File created.

CLIO ID: 6267882 View CLIO record

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Index Terms

The names and terms listed below are represented 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 consortial/union catalog offered by OCLC that allows users to search the holdings of multiple archives and libraries.

All links open new windows.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Columbia University.--Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University.--School of Architecture--History.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Historic American Buildings Survey.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
New York (N.Y.).--Landmarks Preservation Commission.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign--History--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Society of Architectural Historians.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Alberti, Leon Battista, 1404-1472.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Architecture--Study and teaching.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Architectural libraries--New York (State)--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Architectural historians--United States.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Historic buildings--Conservation and restoration--United States.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note


Columbia University Professor Emeritus of Architecture, James Grote Van Derpool (JGV) was born in 1903. He received his bachelor of architecture degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1927 and his master's degree in fine arts from Harvard in 1940. Before completing his master's degree, he conducted research at the American Academy in Rome in 1928 and at the Atelier Gromort of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, in 1929. In addition, he practiced architecture in Boston and taught the history of architecture at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute before joining the faculty of the University of Illinois in 1932.

Professor Van Derpool was the head of the Department of Art at the University of Illinois from 1938 to 1946. In 1945 and 1946, he served as chairman of the committee for selection of a new president of the university. In 1946, he succeeded Talbot Hamlin as librarian of the Avery Library at Columbia University, serving as head of the library from 1946 to 1959. Between 1959 and 1961, Van Derpool was also Acting Dean and then Associate Dean of the School of Architecture at Columbia.

Van Derpool was president of the New York chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians from 1951 to 1956 and President of the National Society of Architectural Historians from 1955 to 1957. He was also National Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the Historic American Buildings Survey of the National Parks Service between 1956 and 1962. As well, he served as a trustee of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society from 1949 to 1965.

Van Derpool was a trustee of Columbia University Press from 1959 to 1962, was on the Advisory Board of the School of Painting and Sculpture at Columbia from 1959 to 1961, and served on the board of History of Art and Archeology from 1959 to 1966. Van Derpool was a member of the Committee on the Future of Columbia University for two years and the Committee on the Selection of Dean of Architecture in 1959-1960.

While on leave from Columbia University School of Architecture, Van Derpool organized the office of the New York Landmarks Preservation from 1961 to 1966. Also among his various achievements, he published widely, participated in or initiated numerous historic property restorations, and was the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Van Derpool retired from Columbia University in 1966 and died in 1979 at his home in Esopus, New York.

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