Architectural & Historical Resources

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia’s archives celebrate the rich and diverse history of architecture, urban planning, and historic preservation in Philadelphia. Practitioners, students, and homeowners rely on our in-house and digital collections to inspire and guide their research projects. Scholars use our collections to investigate the history of our built environment. Those with a passion for the past use our records to deepen appreciation of their neighborhoods.

From colonial master builders Robert Smith and William Palmer, through William Strickland, Thomas Ustick Walter, Samuel Sloan, Frank Furness, and T. P. Chandler, Jr., in the 19th century to Horace Trumbauer, Julian F. Abele, Louis Magaziner, Paul. P. Cret, Louis I. Kahn, and Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in the 20th century, Philadelphia architects have been leaders in their profession. Their building and the force of their educational institutions, societies, and writings have influenced the course of American architecture. MORE ABOUT THESE COLLECTIONS

Architectural Drawings

Prominent Architectural Collections that are available on the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Database (PAB):
(Dates are Collection Spans)
William Palmer (1788-1810)
Athenaeum Architectural Competitions (1836-1847)
Thomas Ustick Walter (1820-1890)
American Institute of Architects, Philadelphia Chapter (1869-1986)
Addison Hutton (1870-1938)
Theophilus P. Chandler, Jr. (1872-1917)
Benjamin Linfoot (1872-1912)
Horace Trumbauer (1890-1950)
Paul P. Cret Collection (1903-1945)
George I. Lovatt, Architect Collection (1895-1950)
William & Walter Price (1890-1951)
Mellor, Meigs & Howe (1905-1940)
Comprehensive Collection List – To review all of the Athenaeum’s architectural collections

The architectural photograph collection includes more than 300,000 images that range in date from the 1840s to the early 21st century. Many items document the completed commissions of architects represented in the drawings collection; others are the complete archives of professional photographers.

George Vaux Collection (1840-1870)
Thomas Ustick Walter Collection (1844-1890)
Thomas Hacker Collection (1859-60)
Jacob Stelman Collection (1938-1960)
Lawrence S. Williams Collection (1947-2000)
Peter Olson Collection (1990-1993)
Irvin R. Glazer Theater Collection (1890-1990)
Photographs in The Athenaeum’s General Collection (1875-1976)
Maps & Atlases

The Athenaeum’s cartographic collection begins with Philadelphia’s most important map, Thomas Holme’s 1683 Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia. Our collection includes thousands of maps and atlas plates, ranging in date from 1682 to the 1970s, that compose the core of our multi-institutional digital project, the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network.
Interior Design Collections

The interior design and domestic technology collection includes trade catalogs, pattern books, manuscript ledgers, domestic manuals, and periodicals documenting curtain, wallpaper, and carpet designs, paint colors, lighting fixtures, furniture design and arrangement, as well as such subjects as kitchens, heating, and plumbing. Allied designs arts are also represented. In addition to the new pattern books, sketches, and manuscripts of cabinet makers, silversmiths, and iron founders, the library preserves significant holdings on architectural stained glass including the extensive archives of the D’Ascenzo Studios, (1896-1958). Of particular significance are the designs of decorative painters, especially the archives of late-19th century decorators H. D. & J. Moeller and George Herzog (1851-1920).

Our library holdings include several hundred periodical runs in nearly every branch of the humanities with particular emphasis on Anglo-American literature, commerce, internal improvements, and architecture. In addition to fairly common journals such as Godey’s Lady’s Book, there are such rarities as Samuel Sloan’s Architectural Review and American Builders’ Journal (1868-1869), Benjamin Linfoot’s American Architect and Builders Monthly (1870), The Craftsman (1901-1911), The Artsman (1903-1907), the Yearbooks of the annual exhibitions jointly sponsored by the T-Square Club and the Philadelphia Chapter AIA (1894-1972), and the recently digitized and fully searchable Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide, (1886-1940).
Trade Catalogs

The publications of manufacturers and dealers of architectural elements and interior embellishments have been found to be useful to design professionals concerned with restoration or the re-creation of period interiors. The Athenaeum’s trade catalog collection is the third largest in the United States and consists of more than 2,000 items. Our holdings are particularly strong in areas such as paint colors, lighting fixtures, wallpaper, heating and kitchen equipment, plumbing, and household furniture. To search the Athenaeum’s trade catalogs search our online catalog.