AIArchitectInstititute News
11/2005 The Second Decade, 1867-1876
The Community of Architects moves to educate itself and the public

by Tony P. Wrenn, Hon. AIA

The AIA’s first decade was a heady one, as architects, first from New York City and then from further afield, came together to look at their obligations—as architects, to clients—and then at how they might make the public (and each other) aware of those obligations. Architects from Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and the Northeast soon joined. The second decade also brought members from Illinois and Ohio in the Midwest, and from as far south as South Carolina.

Membership, which numbered 90 at the end of the first decade in 1866, swelled to more than 280 by 1876. Considering the high standards established for membership, such growth is surprising. At a meeting on June 2, 1868, it was decided that “Fellows of the Institute shall be such practicing architects as shall upon their nomination by the Board of Trustees be elected by the existing Fellows. Candidates may be presented to the Board of Trustees by two Fellows. The name and residence of every candidate, with information in regard to his professional education and length of practice shall be forwarded to the Secretary together with drawings or photographs and specifications of a proposed or executed building, accompanied by written statements that the works represented are the original designs of the candidate . . . Names, residence, and names of endorsers to be sent to each [current] Fellow. They vote and return [sealed envelopes] . . . to be opened before Board . . . Every candidate who receives four fifths of the votes cast . . . shall be declared elected.” Requirements for Associate membership were only marginally less demanding.

Inviting all to join
At the third convention, November 16–17, 1869, in discussing membership, R. M. Hunt spoke to “prevent the inference being drawn that we are shutting the doors. On the contrary we have been to considerable expense, and we do not like to waste money, to provide circular letters inviting everybody, and we have been sending them around everywhere. ...” At the fifth convention, Nov 14–15, 1871, “everywhere” was broadened by a vote that AIA circulars and publications be sent to all “the leading newspapers of the country.”

The American Architect and Building News (AABN) in its October 14, 1876, edition noted that, “the policy of the Institute is as far as possible from being exclusive,” and continued: “To the younger architects especially the Institute should look for support. The future of the profession is in their hands. Their opportunities of attainment are better than those of their predecessors; they have the freshness of interest that belongs to the beginning of a career. It is of the first importance that it should attract them to itself by giving them an example and encouragement to attainment and culture, and by laying before them work which they can attempt with interest.”

From the beginning, public relations were carefully managed, with notices of meetings and actions posted to Crayon, The Architects and Mechanics Journal, and other publications. The AABN presented a prospectus to the ninth convention on November 17–19, 1875, noting that the journal, to be published weekly beginning in 1876, would be “as general in its professional range as it is practicable to make it.” AABN solicited information, correspondence, and essays from the AIA and its members and sought AIA endorsement. As attractive as the magazine sounded, the Institute published its own convention proceedings and might, in the future, publish its own magazine, so the members only agreed to insure that the magazine got all its mailings. For the rest of the century, it would be a major source of information on the AIA.

Branching out geographically
That first formal convention, held in New York on October 22–23, 1867, signaled a second decade for the AIA. AIA President Upjohn noted in his address to the first convention, “It is now 10 years since a few architects of this city convened for the purpose of considering the expediency of forming a society of members of their profession. It was held as a certainty that, thus united, architects would assist each other, by friendly intercourse, in the acquirement of every branch of professional knowledge necessary for the progress, either of the individual member, or of the proposed association, and our experience, as a society, has not disappointed us.”

The first three conventions (1867–69) were in New York City; the fourth, in 1870, was held in Philadelphia; the fifth in 1871 in Boston; and the sixth in 1872 in Cincinnati. When, at the 1871 convention, J. D. Hatch of New York City questioned whether there were enough members in Cincinnati to justify holding a convention there, P. B. Wight of Chicago was ready with an answer. “There are eleven Fellows of the Institute in Cincinnati, and there are a great many Fellows of the Institute quite near to Cincinnati through Ohio and Illinois within less than a day’s journey.” The membership no longer resided and practiced just in New York.

Prior to the first convention in 1867, members celebrated on February 22, marking both George Washington’s birthday and the birth of the Institute on Feb. 23. They met at Delmonico’s to share good food, drink, and fellowship. The conventions begun in 1867 were more formal, held in the fall, with AIA business discussed, reports of AIA committees received, papers on topics of general interest to the membership read, and, beginning with the 1876 first convention, Chapter reports.

Local chapters are formed; national keeps national aspirations
It was clear that the small organization, with most of its members then from New York, had national aspirations, quite different from local ones. These needed to be addressed and Upjohn reported in his 1867 first convention speech “a radical change . . . effected in the organization of our society, consisting in the constitutional provision for chapters in affiliation with the general and national objects of the Institute, while yet, for local affairs, under the government of their own.” The New York Chapter was formally organized, it reported to the 1867 convention, “on the evening of March 19, 1867, at the Everett House.”

On March 24, at a subsequent meeting of the Institute, chapters were legalized through bylaws changes. Regulations adopted required that chapter membership requirements “not be inconsistent with those required for Associate membership of the Institute, and that in other respects . . . regulations . . . not conflict.” The AIA required that “all communications with Foreign bodies whether architectural or otherwise” be conducted through the Institute. Clearly, the international standing of the Institute was not to be diluted. Its reputation had been recognized that same year, 1867, when the Royal Institute of British Architects elected AIA President Upjohn an Honorary and Corresponding Member.

At the 1867 convention, the first chapter, New York, gave an annual report, and a telegram to the convention from S. E. Loring of Chicago was read. “We organize chapter tomorrow. I regret my detention here,” Loring telegraphed. The AIA Secretary responded “Convention in session. Your telegram just received and greeted with enthusiasm. God speed your undertaking. Philadelphia Chapter organized last week and delegates are present.” The Boston Society of Architects would soon follow, and agree to become an AIA Chapter, though not to change its name. By the time the annual convention was held in Cincinnati, in 1872, the Cincinnati Chapter was already two years old.

Early on, education offers a major challenge
One pressing question remained: How to adequately educate architects. Discussion topics during the conventions of the 1870s—chimney construction, fireproofing, terra-cotta, acoustics, cements and concrete, mansard roofs, apartment construction, the relations of science and art in architectural study, elementary training of the architect, Colonial architecture, the architecture of Washington, D.C.—could only partially fulfill the Institute’s need to educate, no matter how long the paper presented or how detailed the discussion. Hobart Upjohn, a third-generation Upjohn architect, later wrote, “course by course, the Institute built its program, and, as we study its progress, we see that in endeavoring to advance the profession and to interest the public, the real objective was, actually, education. Education of the members by association, of the individuals by the preparation, reading and discussion of papers, and by setting up a common library on architecture; education of the public by lectures and publicity on the practice of architecture; and education of students by organizing and giving courses on architecture in established schools and colleges.”

Indeed, education of the architect was among the first ideas discussed by the membership. On Oct. 20, 1857, Charles Babcock, AIA founder and son-in-law of Richard Upjohn, had read a paper titled “The Ways and Means of Accomplishing the Elevation of the Architect’s Profession.” He suggested “The education of a thorough architect requires as much time and study, and the application of as fine powers of mind, as are ever given by any department of human labor or learning.” The study of architecture, he argued, should be “esteemed by the side of divinity, medicine and law.”

AIA committees studied the topic and discussions continued regularly during the decade. In 1865 William Robert Ware, who joined the AIA in 1859 and was advanced to Fellow in 1861, apparently the first such advancement, according to available archival documents, was appointed as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to teach architecture. Ware took a year off to study architecture education abroad and, in 1868, opened a school of architecture at MIT, making it the first American college to offer an architecture degree. Charles Babcock, the AIA founder who spoke so fervently of architectural education in 1857, developed a program at Cornell in 1871, while N. Clifford Ricker began a program at the University of Illinois in 1873. Ricker did not become an AIA member until 1879, but all three men worked closely with the AIA and its members in advancing architecture education.

Though conventions, publications, chapters, and schools of architecture are signal accomplishments for any decade, there was more. Fees for architects were codified during that second decade, but competitions regulation proved a difficult and thorny issue for architects. Holding a competition was a popular way to choose building designs. Yet architects were seldom asked to serve on building committees that chose competition winners, were not paid for their drawings, and had no assurance that they would have any say in construction, even if their plans were chosen.

At the fifth convention, in Boston in 1871, in discussing competitions, S. J. Thayer, an 1870 Associate member and 1871 Fellow, asked approval of a resolution “that it shall be considered unprofessional for any member of the Institute to allow himself to be employed in cases where he is superseded in authority in the execution of his work.” Though some felt the resolution presented an insurmountable problem, Upjohn was not among them. “The architect is the master builder,” he said. “That settles it. I have always carried it out so, through the whole course of my professional life. I never would submit to any man, or allow any person to come on the premises and dictate to me . . .” Hunt agreed. “I will [not] make a design for any client without the distinct understanding and always in writing kept in a copy book, that . . . if it is to be carried out, I am the only man to carry it out.” Thayer’s resolution carried.

Vigilance for the public good
It surprises in reading the records of the Institute to learn how prescient members were 140 years ago. In discussing competitions for the New York Post Office on December 1, 1867, Upjohn opened with “an earnest protest [not against competitions but] against the proposed site. He thought that the commission had already gone too far, for in his opinion the site designated for the Post Office was not well selected, and no building designed for that ground, the southern end of the Park [City Hall Park] would be fitting. . . . He insisted most emphatically upon the fact that that ground should never be closed, but be forever kept open, for if a building were erected there then the whole park would soon be built upon.” In a February 9, 1867, interview published in the Tribune, he spoke publicly against the site, saying it “was not only of vital importance to the city as an open breathing-space, but it was of equal value on artistic grounds.” He insisted that the whole of City Hall Park “should be liberally adorned and forever kept open.”

At the end of the second decade, in 1876, the membership elected Thomas U. Walter, an AIA founder and the architect who had given the country a symbol of stability through the design and completion of the U.S. Capitol dome during the Civil War, to lead the Institute into its third decade. It could hardly have chosen, as its second president, a better successor to Upjohn.

The second decade brought approval of documents concerning fees and competitions; the first 10 conventions, each with published proceedings; the authorization and establishment of chapters; the establishment of schools of architecture; and the advance of membership from the Northeast to the Midwest and South. Not many 20-year-old organizations have so influenced American life and culture.

Copyright 2005 The American Institute of Architects. All rights reserved. Home Page Home Page

AIA150 Rolling History
 A Beginning, 1857-1866
 The Second Decade, 1867-1876
 1877-1886: Westward and Upward
 1887-1896: A Decade of Outreach, Inclusiveness, and Internationalism
 Women and Women Architects in the 1890s
 1897-1906: The AIA Moves to and Changes Washington
 The Institute's Influence on Legislative Policy
 At 50, the AIA Conceives the Gold Medal, Receives Roosevelt's Gratitude
 Spinning a Golden Webb
 1909-1917: The Institute Comes of Age in the Nation's Capital
 1917-1926: A New Power Structure: World War I, Pageantry, and the Power of the Press
 1927-1936: A Decade of Depression and Perseverance
 The AIA in Its Ninth Decade: 1937-1946
 1947-1956: Wright Recognition, White House Renovation, AIA Closes on 100
 The Tenth Decade: 1957-1966
 1967-1976: New HQ and a New Age Take Center Stage
 A New Home for the AIA in 1973; A Greener Home in 2007
 Diversity and the Profession: Take II
 'The Vietnam Situation Is Hell': The AIA's Internal Struggle over the War in Southeast Asia
 1977-1986: Activism and Capital-A Architecture Are Alive at the AIA
 1987-1996 Technology, Diversity, and Expansion

Tony Wrenn, Hon. AIA, who retired as the AIA’s archivist in 1998 after 18 years of service, is now a researcher/writer based in Danville, Va.

Some of the AIA’s best known members in its first two decades and their masterworks
• Hunt, Richard Morris (1827–1895), FAIA 1857, Biltmore, 1888–1895, Asheville, N.C.
• Renwick, James (1818–1895), FAIA 1857, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, 1858–1879
• Post, George Browne (1837–1913), Associate Member 1860, FAIA1864, New York Stock Exchange, 1901–1904, New York
• Richardson, Henry Hobson (1838–1886), Associate Member 1866, FAIA 1867, Trinity Church, 1872–1877, Boston
• Sloan, Samuel (1815–1884), FAIA 1869, Longwood Villa, 1854–1861, Natchez
• Smithmeyer, John L. (1832–1908), Associate Member 1875, FAIA 1876, The Library of Congress (with Paul Johannes Pelz), 1873–1892, Washington, D.C.
• Upjohn, Richard (1802–1878), FAIA 1857, Trinity Church, 1841–1846, New York
• Upjohn, Richard Michell (1828–1903), FAIA 1857, Connecticut State Capitol, 1872–1878, Hartford
• Van Brunt, Henry (1832–1903), FAIA 1857, Memorial Hall, Harvard 1865–1878, Cambridge
• Vaux, Calvert (1824–1895), FAIA 1857, Central Park 9with Frederick Law Olmsted) 1858–1876, New York
• Ware, William R. (1832–1915), Associate Member 1859, FAIA 1861, Organized and headed first American School of Architecture, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1865, Cambridge
• Walter, Thomas U. (1804–1887), FAIA 1857, U. S. Capitol, House and Senate Wings, Dome, 1851–1864, Washington, D.C.

Hunt and Upjohn Fight for Architects’ Legal Ownership of Drawings
In 1861, Richard Morris Hunt sued Dr. Eleazor Parmly for a percentage of the cost of plans for which Hunt had provided drawings. Parmly used them to build, insisting that he had purchased the drawings for a lump sum, and they were his. Hunt however insisted he only provided a professional service, that the drawings belonged to him, and, because they had been used, he was due as a professional fee, a percentage of the cost of the building.

Several architects appeared for Hunt, one of them Richard Upjohn. Under the heading “Important Trial,” The Architects and Mechanics Journal, for 16 March, 1861, reported this exchange between Parmly’s attorney and Upjohn. Upjohn had stated he charged one percent for sketches and required that sketches be returned to him:
“‘And return the sketches?’ the attorney demanded
‘Yes sir,” Mr. Upjohn replied, ‘he to pay me $600 for it, [for a building that cost $60,000] you will understand—the idea.’
‘One percent for the idea?’ the lawyer queried astonished.
Mr. Upjohn’s answer was succinct and definite: ‘You as a lawyer, when you give your opinion, do not charge for pen, ink and paper, but for your opinion.’”
The court found for Hunt, thus establishing the architects’ legal ownership of drawings they produce. For many years, the right of the architect to supervise construction of any building from the designs was thereafter understood and stoutly defended by architects and the AIA. Currently the architect is empowered to reject nonconforming work in the AIA documents. —TW

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