James Marston Fitch papers, 1933-2000

James Marston Fitch papers, 1933-2000
7 linear feet
(4 archives boxes)
Materials are arranged in nine series: Awards; Biographical; Committees and Associations; Correspondence and Travel; Correspondence and Writing; General Correspondence; Military Service; Published Works; and Reference Materials. Folders in the General Correspondence series are arranged and titled chronologically. Folders in all other series are arranged alphabetically and retain Fitch's titles and organization.
This small collection contains primarily correspondence, itineraries, and papers related to Fitch's publications, travel, and the administration of Columbia University's Historic Preservation program. There are copies and drafts of several articles and reports generated for various organizations authored by Fitch and others (all reports are noted in italics in the spreadsheet). Also included is the unfinished manuscript of Fitch's final book project on American architecture. Of particular note among the reference materials are fifty-two photographs of Richard Neutra's VDL Research House in Los Angeles, some taken by architectural photographer Julius Shulman.
Biographical / Historical Note
James Marston Fitch developed the academic field of historic preservation through his prolific career as a writer, architectural scholar, activist, and educator. Fitch was born in Washington, D.C., in 1909. He grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and attended the University of Alabama and Tulane in New Orleans. During the Depression he worked as a researcher at the Tennessee Planning Commission and as a low-cost housing analyst at the Federal Housing Authority. In 1936 he moved to New York City and began his career as an editor at Architectural Record, where he worked until joining the Air Force as a meteorologist in 1941. Following World War II, Fitch became an early proponent of the importance of the environment in architectural design while continuing his career in publishing at Architectural Forum (1945-1949) and House Beautiful (1949-1953). At House Beautiful he oversaw the Climate Control Research Project, which investigated environmental criteria for residential architecture.
From 1954 to 1977, Fitch served as a professor of architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture and Planning at Columbia University. At Columbia, Fitch founded the graduate program in restoration and preservation, which later became the masters program for historic preservation. He maintained close correspondence with many graduates of the program who went on to direct programs throughout the world to promote the preservation and study of historic architecture.
Upon his retirement from Columbia, Fitch became the director of preservation at the architectural firm of Beyer Blinder Belle in New York City, contributing to the restoration of Ellis Island, Grand Central Station, and South Street Seaport. He was also appointed the preservator of Central Park and established methods for the park to accommodate modern uses. As an activist, he was the colleague and friend of Jane Jacobs and Margot Gayle in their efforts to identify and preserve historic districts throughout New York.
Fitch was a founding member and active participant in several national and international preservation organizations, including the Association for Preservation Technology (APT) and Victorian Society in America. He was a fellow of United State Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and organized many symposia on architecture for various organizations. He established the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation to promote historic preservation. Among his published works are a biography of Walter Gropius (1960), American Building: The forces that shape it (1948), Architecture and the Esthetics of Plenty (1961), American Building: The environmental forces that shaped it (1972), and Historic Preservation: Curatorial Management of the Built World (1982). Among his numerous awards are five honorary degrees, including one from the Tulane School of Architecture in 1997. Fitch died in New York City in 2000.
This collection is stored in the Columbia University Libraries' off-site storage facility and will be recalled upon request 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
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. 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.
Cite As
James Marston Fitch papers. Located in the Dept. of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.
Language Note
Materials are in English and Italian.
Manuscript/Archive Manuscript/Archive, Conference Proceedings Conference Proceedings
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