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William Lescaze Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: -
Date: 1982

Biographical History

William Lescaze (1896-1969) was a Swiss-born American architect, known as one of the pioneers in modernism in American architecture.

Born March 27, 1896 in Geneva, Switzerland, Lescaze studied architecture at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Zurich. He received his Master of Architecture in 1919, went to Paris, and worked briefly in the war-devastated areas of France before coming to the United States in 1920. He became a US citizen in 1929.

Lescaze worked initially for Hubbell & Benes in Cleveland, Ohio, but in 1923 moved to New York City and opened his own firm. In 1929 he entered into partnership with George Howe and established offices in New York and Philadelphia. In 1933 Lescaze married Mary Connick Hughes, with whom he had one son, Lee Adrien. In 1934 he re-established the firm under his own name and directed it until his death in 1969.

Among his earliest workds were a country house/hunting lodge for Comte Jean de Sieyes (Job #220), the nursery for Oak Lane Country Day School (Job #258), and soon afterwards the 33-story Philadelphia Savings Fund Society building (Job #284). In 1933 he designed his own town house and office in East 48th Street (Job #602), and in 1938 the California headquarters of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBC) in Hollywood (Job #515). His work with low-cost housing led to his appointment as senior architect for the Williamsburg (Ten Eyck) houses in Brooklyn (Job #388).

From 1949 to 1959 Lescaze served on the New York State Building Code Commission, and in 1951 he was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

His later work included the City and Municipal Courts Building in Manhattan (Job #1000), the Swiss Chancellery in Washington, DC (Job #1057), the Brotherhood House at 7th Avenue and 40th Street (Job #1108), the Church Peace Center at the United Nations Plaza (Job #1183), the 777 3rd Avenue building (Job #1194), the Chatham Plaza Center in Pittsburgh (Job #1284), the 1 New York Plaza Building (Job #1306), and One Oliver Plaze (Oliver Tyrone Building) in Pittsburgh (Job #1330).

An essay by Christian Hubert written to preface a 1982 exhibition catalog, and which places Lescaze in the history of modern architecture, has been copied as an appendix to this guide.

Lescaze was the author as well as the subjet of numerous essays, articles and reviews in both professional and popular journals. He spoke frequently and appeared on radio broadcasts often. Major early essays include his "A Community Theatre" in Edith J.R. Isaacs' Architecture for the New Theatre (New York, 1935), and his contribution to Augusto Centeno's The Intent of the Artist (Princeton, 1941). His book On Being an Architect appeared in 1942; a copy of this work is available in the Rare Book Collection, as are copies of the two major pieces of Lescaze scholarship to date, namely Lorraine Welling Lanmon's William Lescaze, Architect (doctoral dissertation, University of Delaware, 1979) and William Lescaze, published by the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies and Rizzoli International Publications. (New York, 1982).

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The William Lescaze Papers consists of biographical material, correspondence, drawings (renderings, sketches, etc), photographs, photo panels, slides, and other formats. It has been divided into ten series; items relating to a given project may therefore be found in several series; the researcher is advised to review the entire finding to ensure locating all relevant material.

Individual commissions contains blueprints, drawings (renderings, sketches, etc), photographs, photo panels and other formats relating to specific commissions executed by Lescaze either alone or in partnership with George Howe. Commissions without numbers are listed first, followed by numbered commissions.

Material relating to Lescaze's Architectural career consists of a comprehensive job listing, and school and miscellaneous material.

Biographical material contains biographical sketches and chronologies, resumes, exhibit lists, lectures and radio broadcasts, memberships and appointments, and a list of works executed.

Correspondence is entirely incoming, apart from one letter to the editor from Lescaze. Correspondents include academic institutions (Columbia, Harvard, Princeton), museums and galleries (Cincinnati Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art), publications (Architectural Review, New Republic), and individuals (Le Corbusier, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Pierre Soulages).

Drawings contains a selection of architectural drawings but also a number of industrial design drawings, such as designs for ashtrays, lamps, radiators, and so forth, plus some etchings and sketches.

Legal and financial papers include contracts, leases, passports, naturalization papers, and Lescaze's Swiss military service records.

Memorabilia includes certificates and awards, cards, photographs, printed material, and scrapbooks.

The Architectural works series contains material specifically relating to particular architectural projects. ranging from Ansonia High School to the Woods End apartments.

Writings contains primarily of works by Lescaze. There is a copy of his On Being an Architect as well as lectures, radio interviews, notes, and other material. There are also a few items by others, about Lescaze.

Arrangement of the Collection

Commissions are arranged in order by commission number, with unnumbered and unidentified commissions listed first. All other series are arranged alphabetically.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

See the "Howe and Lescaze Buildings Map" at for locations and photographs of Lescaze's buildings.

Subject Headings


Howe, George.
Lescaze, William, 1896-1969.

Corporate Bodies

Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.
Philadelphia Saving Fund Society.


Architectural design.
Architectural drawing -- United States -- 20th century.
Architectural firms.
Architectural practice.
Architecture -- Designs and plans.
Architecture -- Details.
Architecture -- United States -- 20th century.
Architecture -- United States.
Architecture, American.
Architecture, Domestic -- United States.
International style (Architecture) -- United States.
Swiss Americans.

Genres and Forms

Architectural drawings (visual works)
Blueprints (reprographic copies)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

William Lescaze Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of William Lescaze and Mrs. William Lescaze.

"Lord Algernon" etching, gift of Dwight Lanmon, 2013.

Norman House (#628) blueprints, gift of Abigail Norman, 2020.

Table of Contents

Individual commissions

Architectural career

Biographical material



Legal and financial


Architectural works


Alphabetical index of projects


Alphabetical index of projects

The index below lists all projects alphabetically, followed by their corresponding project number(s). Those with no number may be found in the inventory above, in the section entitled "Individual commissions : Unnumbered projects."