The Carrère & Hastings Digital Collection is a collaborative project with Flagler College. The collection was created through a Saving St. Augustine’s Architectural Treasures project grant to conserve and digitally preserve an irreplaceable collection of the earliest architectural drawings of John Carrère (1858-1911) and Thomas Hastings (1860-1929). Created for Henry Flagler in St. Augustine, Florida, these drawings had been “lost” for decades. The few people who knew of their existence were unaware of their historical significance. Stored in a basement boiler room under high Florida temperatures and humidity, and exposed to insects and rodents, this treasure trove remained unknown and endangered until its rediscovery in 2004.
Carrère and Hastings were two of the most significant American architects of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Their firm designed more than 600 buildings, including the New York Public Library (1902-11) and the House and Senate Office Buildings in D.C. (1908-09). According to Charles D. Warren, co-author of Carrère & Hastings Architects, they were "innovators in both technology and aesthetics." Regrettably, as Janet Parks, Curator of Drawings & Archives, Columbia University, states: "Most of the archive of [their] office was destroyed in the 1920s." The newly discovered St. Augustine collection offers significant potential to yield unique information with enduring value. Comprised of 267 original, fragile drawings on cloth, silk and paper, as well as blueprints and copies, the collection is the largest known archives documenting the firm’s earliest work.
The Carrère & Hastings Digital Collection will include over 200 architectural drawings from the 1880s-1920s for the Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College), the Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine, and select others by Carrère & Hastings, the Beaux-Arts architecture firm of John Merven Carrère and Thomas Hastings. In 1885 Flagler initiated a grand scheme to turn Florida into the “American Riviera” and St. Augustine into the “Winter Newport.” The Hotel Ponce de Leon (1885-1887), now Ponce de Leon Hall at Flagler College (National Register, 1975; National Historic Landmark, 2006), was the first and the flagship of Henry Flagler's resort empire. This palatial Spanish Renaissance Revival hotel is nationally significant as it was the first commission for Carrère & Hastings and is America's first large cast-in-place concrete building. The other Carrère and Hastings projects included in this project are the Memorial Presbyterian Church (1889-1890) (NR 1983) and the Hotel Alcazar (1888-1889) (NR 1971).
The Carrère & Hastings Digital Collection consists of 267 architecture drawings, blueprints and related material dating 1896-1957. About 55% are blueprints, 30% are pencil drawings on various types of paper, and 15% are other types of prints such as Vandyke prints, diazotype, ink on linen and a few printed materials. Many of the blueprints are working copies that contain notes, corrections and changes in pencil, pen, and red and blue grease pencil. A number of the drawings have hand applied color. Sizes range from 8x8 inches to over 4x8 feet. The majority of the collection was stored rolled, wrapped in craft paper. The condition of the collection ranges from good to very poor. It is possible that some of these drawings were not been unrolled since they were created at the end of the 19th century until this grant project began.
Funding for preservation and digitization of the early blueprints and architectural drawings by John Carrère and Thomas Hastings is provided in part by the National Park Service, through a "Save America's Treasures" grant awarded in 2009 and will complete in 2012 (full grant proposal). Project team members include faculty, staff, and students from the University of Florida in the UF Special Collections, Conservation, and the Digital Library Center and they are blogging about their work on this active project here.