American Landscape and Architectural Design 1850-1920

About This Collection

This teaching collection from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University comprises the lantern slides from the schools of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and City Planning, which were combined in 1936 to form the Graduate School of Design. Because Harvard was the first university to offer a degree in Landscape Architecture, the visual collections of that department contain an especially comprehensive assemblage of early nineteenth century American landscape design. It represents the work of Harvard faculty, such as Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., Bremer W. Pond and James Sturgis Pray, as well as that of prominent landscape architects throughout the country.

Although the documentation of canonical architectural design played a vital role in this collection, in order to train future professionals, the lantern slides also illustrate a variety of socioeconomic environments. The collection records environments of lower and middle class Americans along with the estates and mansions of wealthy members of society. Because of this, we can view the collection as a social document as well as an architectural survey. The lantern slides that represent turn of the century slum areas date from the period just before the creation of housing projects. They show the poverty and lack of sanitation that the new living environments were intended to relieve. While they were meant to condemn such conditions, they offer us a rare glimpse of the lives of poor families at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The digitization and presentation of these materials by the were supported by an award from the Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Competition. The source materials for this collection are housed at the Graduate School of Design (external link). The school's Visual Resources Librarian welcomes questions or information about the original materials, including requests for reproductions.


View of Central Park Terrace
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon Central Park Terrace, New York, Olmsted and Vaux, 1880

A run-down shack
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon Slum dwelling in Philadelphia Mainline District

Children in front of houses
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon Slum housing in early 20th century

Trinity Church
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon Trinity Church, Boston, H.H. Richardson, 1877