William Lawrence Galvin Collection Architectural Drawings

In today’s post, our archives assistant Emily shares some of her favorite drawings from an enormous architectural collection in our archives. While this collection is still undergoing conservation work, much of it is available for research.


William Lawrence Galvin was an architect prominent in Cambridge during the mid-twentieth century. A native of Roxbury, his family moved to Cambridge so Galvin could prepare for Harvard. He graduated with a BA in Fine Arts in 1925 and a master’s degree in architecture in 1931. Galvin’s interest in architecture began during his undergraduate education. He opened a real estate office while still at Harvard and launched his own architecture firm following his graduation from the Harvard School of Architecture. Over his 50 year career, Galvin deeply impacted the landscape of Cambridge, contributing several well-known buildings to the city, including the Cambridge Federal Savings and Loan building which is no longer standing.

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Cambridge Federal Savings and Loan Ass’n front elevation, n.d. Negative photostat. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

Over the last 6 months, I have worked extensively with this collection, reprocessing and cataloging Galvin’s architectural drawings. Many of the buildings he designed were never built, including his proposal for a high-density apartment building at 680 Huron Avenue overlooking the Fresh Pond golf course.

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Apartments Overlooking Fresh Pond… Proposed apartment building at 680 Huron Ave, n.d. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

My favorite drawings, however, are student work. As part of his degree program, Galvin created several large scale drawings of buildings, like this “Bank for a Small City” which includes a cross section, front elevation, and floor plan.

 

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Bank for a Small City, n.d. Ink and watercolor on heavy paper. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

This front elevation was submitted to the Boston Society Competition.

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Boston Society Competition, n.d. Ink and watercolor on heavy paper. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

Another front elevation is labeled “Municipal Employment Bureau” as part of the design of the building.

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Municipal Employment Bureau, n.d. Ink and watercolor on paper. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

Galvin’s thesis project was a design for a Cambridge Memorial Auditorium to be built in Cambridge Common. Several drawings exist of his design, which he later revised to submit to the mayor Cambridge.

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Cambridge Memorial Theatre, ca. 1931. Ink on paper. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

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Cambridge Memorial Theatre, ca. 1931. Photostat. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

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Cambridge Memorial Theatre, ca. 1931. Photostat. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

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Cambridge Memorial Auditorium, Expanded for Mayor Russell, n.d. Original drawing. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

This unlabeled front elevation, probably of an apartment building, is a beautiful example of Galvin’s student work.

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Unlabeled front elevation, n.d. Watercolor on paper. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

My favorite of Galvin’s student works is this “Byzantine Church.” The detail is exquisite, especially the inclusion of frescoes in the dome of the church.

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A Byzantine Church of the First Golden Age, n.d. Watercolor on paper. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

Many of the drawings in this collection show evidence of damage due to the poor conditions they were found in. Galvin stored his drawings in rolls, and after his death in 1983 they were left untouched. The collection was donated by property developers Martin Hill and Lauren Harder who acquired the building from Galvin’s daughters in 2011. Several of the damaged drawings were in such poor condition that they couldn’t be restored, however efforts were made to restore many other drawings.

Processing and cataloging the collection has been a long process, and there is still more to be done. For more information, see the finding aid for this collection.

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