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League for Progress in Architecture records

 Collection
Identifier: MS2198

Collection Scope and Content

This collection contains correspondence, newspaper articles, a scrapbook, government documents, and a report. These documents are dated between 1937-39. Most of the material in this collection consists of letters both incoming and outgoing from the League for Progress in Architecture as members protested the design, location, and lack of design competition of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. These letters register the League's protest as they worked to enlist support from architects, politicians, and academics. There are also letters to news publications and drafts of letters to the Editor. The majority of the correspondence is from or to League members Julian E. Berla, a local architect, and Henry S. Hill, an architect and site-planner from New York City. Many of the correspondents are prominent architects such as William Lescaze and Ernest Grunsfeld; academics such as Joseph Hudnut, of Harvard University, and Talbot Hamlin and Leopold Arnaud of Columbia University; and politicians such as Charles Moore, Chairman of the Fine Arts Commission, Hon. Otha Wearing, Representative J. J. Boylan, and Frederic A. Delano.

This collection appears to have been created by Julian Berla a local Washington architect and an extremely active member of the League.

Dates

  • 1937-1939

Creator

Restrictions on Access

Some records may be restricted.

Restrictions on Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Historical or Biographical Note

In 1934, Congress passed a Joint Resolution to establish a Thomas Jefferson Memorial Commission. Congress gave the commission the authority to plan, design, and construct a memorial which was to be a tribute to Jefferson's many accomplishments. Without holding a nationwide competition the commission asked architect John Russell Pope to submit a design and in June 1937, the Tidal Basin was chosen as the site. This location as well as the method for choosing the design and the design itself all became elements of controversy throughout the nation. This controversy resulted in Congressional hearings and legislation meant to delay or alter the construction plans.

The League for Progress in Architecture, an organization composed of concerned citizens, formed in the Spring of 1937 in opposition to the proposed memorial and against the methods used by the memorial commission to choose a design. The League promoted itself as an organization primarily working to coordinate the protests of various groups and individuals. The work of League members Julian Berla and Henry S. Hill comprise the bulk of this collection.

While most people, including League members, supported the idea of a memorial dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, the concern revolved around the work of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Commission. The League protested the cost which they predicted would greatly exceed the budget and the fact that only one design by one architect, John Russell Pope was considered. Also of concern to the League was that "The site of the proposed memorial was chosen without formal approval of the official park, planning, engineering, and art agencies of the government; it will damage the natural glory of the Japanese cherry blossoms in their informal setting . . ." The League wrote editorials and sent many letters to prominent architects and politicians with the goal of enlisting support for their cause.

Prominent local organizations opposing some aspect of the memorial included American Sculptors Society, Greater Washington Board of Trade, Daughters' of the American Revolution, Democratic Women's Council, Designers of Shelter in America, Kalorama Citizens Association, and the D.C. Federation of Women's Clubs. In addition to organizations opposing the Memorial many prominent citizens also made their voices heard. These included William Lescaze, Ernest Grunsfeld, William Zorach, and Joseph Hudnut.

In August 1937 following the death of John Russell Pope, Architects Daniel P. Higgins and Otto R. Eggers took over construction. Criticisms from Congressional leaders and citizens did ultimately alter elements of the design and the Memorial's location. On November 15, 1939, a ceremony was held in which President Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the Memorial.

Frederick Gutheim, a GW professor, director of the University’s graduate program in historic preservation, city planner, urban historian and architectural critic was involved with the work of the League and wrote this brief description "The cry over the location and design of the Jefferson Memorial was a watershed event in the capital's public architecture that resulted in a reduction of nearly half of the memorial's projected size and its removal from the center of the Tidal Basin to its south shore. It was the last echo of the 1901 McMillan plan's proposals for the so-called "Washington Common" - redevelopment of the south grounds of the Washington Monument."

Extent

0.5 Linear Feet

Language

English

Abstract

Collection contains correspondence, newspaper articles, a scrapbook, government documents, and a report. These documents are dated between 1937-39. Most of the material in this collection consists of letters both incoming and outgoing from the League for Progress in Architecture as members protested the design, location, and lack of design competition of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Frederick Gutheim in 1987.
Title
Guide to the League for Progress in Architecture records, 1937-1939
Status
Completed
Author
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Date
2006
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

Contact:
2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America