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About our collections

Northwest Architectural Archives proudly hosts collections from architects to engineers, from landscape architects to interior designers of various genders, ethnicities, and specialties. Here is a list of some of the highlights from our archive. A detailed inventory of the collection is linked in the titles.

William Gray Purcell papers
The Prairie School tradition is magnificently represented by the William Gray Purcell papers (1814-1965). Purcell (1880-1965) and George Grant Elmslie's (1871-1952) highly successful partnership produced some of the finest Prairie School buildings in America. This collection preserves drawings and other documents for almost every commission, plus those designed by both men before and after the period of their partnership. Also included are drawings from the firm of Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924) as well as correspondence and other papers of Purcell's grandfather, William C. Gray, a prominent 19th century Chicago newspaper editor.
Louis W. Claude papers
The Louis W. Claude papers is another collection related to the Prairie School as Claude worked in the Adler & Sullivan Chicago office. Louis W. Claude (1868-1951) and Edward F. Starck (1868-1947) formed a partnership in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1896. They designed hundreds of residences, commercial buildings, and many Carnegie Libraries in small towns throughout the Midwest.
Association of Women in Architecture papers
This collection preserves the materials of the Twin Cities Beta Chapter of the Association of Women in Architecture and the Alpha Alpha Gamma national sorority (1921-1964). Included are Beta chapter meeting minutes and notices, Beta Chapter and national convention agendas, correspondence, financial records, membership records, newsletters, scrapbooks, and other materials.
John Howe papers
John Howe (1913-1997) joined the Taliesin Fellowship of Frank Lloyd Wright in Spring Green, Wisconsin in 1932. He became a charter member of the Fellowship and apprentice to Mr. Wright. Howe has often been called "the pencil in Mr. Wright's hand" for his work on hundreds of architectural renderings. Howe remained at Taliesin until 1964 as one of the Taliesin Associated Architects, during which time he designed more than thirty structures throughout the United States. Howe moved to Minnesota in 1967 and opened an office which he maintained until his retirement in 1992. After retirement, John Howe and his wife Lu Sparks Howe moved to California. He died in Novato, California on September 21, 1997. His collection consists of architectural materials and includes working drawings, renderings, prints, photographs, job files, contracts, correspondence, and specifications for over 300 commissions, built and unbuilt.
L.S. Buffington papers
The Leroy S. Buffington papers house more than 100 original drawings by the outstanding draftsman, Harvey Ellis (1852-1904). Buffington (1848-1931), who practiced in Minneapolis for almost 60 years, employed Ellis in the late 1880s. This is one of the largest existing assemblages of Ellis's work, whose beautiful artistic creations were executed in watercolor, pen and ink, pencil, and charcoal.
Edwin H. Lundie papers
The Edwin Lundie Papers document the career of a meticulous and skillful architect. Lundie (1886-1972) excelled in the design of finely-crafted residences and his papers include hundreds of highly detailed renderings and plans for almost all of them. The papers also contain his daybook diary/calendars, scrapbooks, and a portion of his personal library.
Liebenberg & Kaplan papers
The Liebenberg & Kaplan papers contain materials related to the work of Liebenberg and Kaplan's architectural firm. They are known as the designers of dozens of art deco movie theatres in the Upper Midwest. The firm also designed private residences, radio and television stations, commercial structures, hospitals, and synagogues, including Temple Israel in Minneapolis. The voluminous records of Liebenberg and Kaplan contain original drawings for some 2500 works, plus office files (correspondence, cost estimates, calculations, contracts) for about 5,000 jobs.
Wigington Pemberton family papers
Clarence "Cap" Wigington (1883-1967) was the first African-American registered architect to practice in Minnesota. He may have been the first black municipal architect as well, having practiced in the City Architect's office of St. Paul, MN from the late 1920s to the 1940s. He is responsible for some of the landmark structures in the city, including the Highland Park Water Tower (1928), the Harriet Island Pavilion now the Clarence W. Wigington Pavilion (1941), and the Holman Field Administration Building (1939) for the St. Paul Municipal Airport. This collection includes plans for these and over 100 other commissions.
Jack Lenor Larsen collection
The Jack Lenor Larsen Collection consists of the business and production records of prominent textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen, Larsen Design Studios, and Jack Lenor Larsen Inc. It contains almost 400 boxes of drawings, business files, and fabric samples. The collection is not yet available for research. For further information about Larsen's work, visit the Web site created by staff at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Larsen: A Living Archive.
Beverly Wachsmuth papers
The papers of Beverly Wachsmuth (1930-1994 ), an interior designer, contain drawings, photographs, and correspondence relating to her work with such companies as IBM, Hershey’s, Kodak and General Mills.
Morell and Nichols papers
The project files of the landscape architecture firm of Morell and Nichols constitute a very large collection. Anthony Morell (d.1924) and Arthur Nichols (1881-1970) established their firm in 1909 and it is continued today by successors. Together, they were responsible for the landscape designs in cemeteries, parks, private residences, and the corporate town of Morgan Park near Duluth. Their work is documented by drawings, photographs, and correspondence. As well as thirteen original letters written by H.W.S. Cleveland (1814-1900) during his stay in Minneapolis in the 1890s describe in rich detail his life, work, and philosophy as he neared the end of his career.
More to Explore
Other unique collections include the Trade Catalog Collection consisting of more than 6,000 pieces of literature for products associated with the building arts and materials from 1880 to 1960. The Stock Plan Book Collection, containing about 200 published compendia of plans for houses, commercial structures, garages, churches, small stores, lake cabins, and farm buildings from the same period. As well as the Minneapolis Plan Vault Collection, comprising plan sets deposited by builders with the Building Inspections Department from 1909 to 1990 as a prerequisite for obtaining building permits. This rich collection documents thousands of structures of all types in Minneapolis. The Architects Research File holds biographical information for some 600 architects, contractors and engineers who have practiced in the region. This unique file is continually being enlarged as additional information is received.