School of Design. Office of the Dean Records. Warren Powers Laird Administration
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: University Archives and Records Center [Contact Us]3401 Market Street, Suite 210, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: University Archives and Records Center. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Warren Powers Laird was born to Mathew James and Lydia Powers Laird on August 8, 1861 in Winona, Minnesota. He was educated at the Winona State Normal School and Cornell University. After attending Cornell, Laird studied with architects in several cities including Boston and New York. In 1887, he returned to Cornell to teach before going to Paris to study.
Due to an increase in architectural practice in Philadelphia and the growing need for trained architects, the president of the local American Institute of Architects chapter, Theophilus P. Chandler Jr., successfully encouraged the University of Pennsylvania to create a School of Architecture. On October 7, 1890, the School of Architecture opened within the Towne Scientific School. Chandler acted as Chairman of the School of Architecture for the first year of its existence. He took this position on a temporary basis and sought out Laird, who was in Paris at the time, to take over as head of the School. Laird agreed and arrived at Penn at the age of 29. He served first as Instructor of Architecture beginning on December 31, 1890 and then became head of the School when Chandler stepped down in June 1891.
At the start of Laird's career at Penn, the School of Architecture was a fledgling enterprise. The School lacked many things, including proper equipment, financial support, teachers, students and many upper-level courses. Laird had to develop the School into a modern and competitive place. In the first years of his tenure, Laird changed the B.S. degree to B.S. in Architecture; he raised the entrance requirement standards; he started a 3-year Interior Decoration course and a 2-year course for draftsmen.
When the School was first opened, the curriculum focused on professional practice, which Laird changed to a Beaux Arts model of design-based instruction. Laird further raised the stature of the School by encouraging students to enter design competitions sponsored locally, nationally and internationally. In 1897, the School established the John Stewardson Memorial Scholarship in Architecture that awarded a $1,000 scholarship to one student for one year of travel and study in Europe. Students at the School also won prizes awarded by institutions such as the American Academy in Rome and the Society of Beaux Arts.
Laird increased popularity and support of architecture at Penn by bringing in well-known, talented professors. In 1894-95, Laird brought in Edgar V. Seeler who had been studying at the école des Beaux Arts in Paris. Seeler's training in the Beaux Arts method set the standard for the School's design program. Seeler left for private practice after three years. In 1903, Laird brought in Paul Phillipe Cret, an architect from Lyon, France who attended the école des Beaux Arts-Lyon and won the Paris Prize there, then was recognized as the best student in his class at the école des Beaux Arts-Paris.
Cret continued the Beaux Arts design tradition at Penn. His stature as an excellent designer and a respected professor increased enrollment and funding for the School. As the student body grew, Laird added a graduate year with a M.S. in Architecture and a 2 year professional course for draftsmen. In 1920, Cret returned from World War I service abroad and suggested that Penn form a School of Fine Arts that would model a French academic style that placed together the study of Architecture, Music and Fine Arts.
The School of Fine Arts was dedicated on April 4, 1921, independent of the Towne Scientific School, with its own Dean and faculty. Located in "Old Dental Hall" on Penn's campus, the School included the Departments of Architecture, Music, Fine Arts and beginning in 1924, a Department of Landscape Architecture. Laird became Dean of the School. He had supervision over chairmen who were named for each of the School's four departments. After creating the new School, enrollment soared to the point that it was limited 350 people. Laird served as Dean of the School of Fine Arts until he retired in June of 1932.
We can remember Laird for his roll of bringing the School of Architecture from a small program in its infancy to a thriving program that drew talented, award-winning students from around the world. In addition to his academic duties, Laird worked on significant professional projects. He became well-known nationally for his consultation on architectural building projects. Some of his projects included the Delaware River Bridge, Girard College Chapel, and numerous court houses. As a mark of people's regard for his professionalism, Laird was elected as a delegate to the Third Pan-American Congress of Architects in Buenos Aires in 1927. He was a member of many professional organizations including being a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Tau Sigma Delta, Tri-State Regional Planning Federation of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania State Art Commission. During his tenure at Penn, Laird was recognized for his leadership and accomplishments. In 1911, the Trustees awarded him and honorary Sc.D. and in 1932, they awarded him a second honorary degree, an LL.D. Laird died on February 18, 1948 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
The records of the Warren Powers Laird Administration document the administration of the School under Laird's long tenure. He served as head of the School of Architecture from 1891-1920 and Dean of the School of Fine Arts from 1920-1932. The records span the years 1900-1932. The Business Administration series (1906-1932) contains the records of high-level administrators within the University of Pennsylvania and the School of Architecture, later the School of Fine Arts. This series consists of mainly correspondence related to the administrative decisions made for the School and its facilities. Much of the correspondence is between Laird and other administrators such as the Provost, the Secretary, the Comptroller, the Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, etc.
The Educational Administration series (1906-1932) contains correspondence between Laird and deans or directors of other schools and departments within the University of Pennsylvania. This series has subseries titles such as College; Towne Scientific School, School of Education, etc.
The School of Architecture series (1900-1920) relates to the daily functioning of the school in terms of its finances, faculty, curriculum, students, and equipment. The series has subseries titles such as 20: Current Expenses; 43: Matriculates; 61: New Building, etc.
The School of Fines Arts series (1920-1932) relates to the daily functioning of the school after it changed from the School of Architecture to become the School of Fine Arts in 1920. This series contains folders similar to those of the School of Architecture, but also contains folders that reflect the different organization of the School of Fine Arts. For example, there are subseries titles such as 25: Department of Music; 26: Department of Fine Arts and 30: Department of Architecture.
The Boards, Committees, Faculties, etc. series (1906-1932) contains information regarding committee or board members of the University of Pennsylvania and their decisions or influence that relate to the development of the School of Architecture/School of Fine Arts. The subseries include titles such as 5: Board of Deans; 9: Committee on the School of Fine Arts, etc.
The Clubs, Institutes and Societies series (1908-1932) consists of organizations that have a relationship with the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture / School of Fine Arts. Examples of the subseries are 101: American Institute of Architects and 108: Civic Art Affairs Connected with the University.
The Building Projects and Competitions series (1906-1923) contains extracurricular professional work done by Laird. This series documents his competitions such as the 155: Madison Free Library; 153: Camden County Courthouse and 162: Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The records of the Laird administration contain correspondence between Laird and former students and between Laird and persons interested in the program. Below is a small sampling of the correspondence between Laird and others represented this collection.
NameSeriesand Folder Title
George Howard Bickley School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1906-1908, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates
William Boyd, Jr. School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1912-1913, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates
Brockie & Hastings Business Administration, 1906-1908, 1A: Provost and Vice Provost, General
James Chillman, Jr. School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1921-1922, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates, A-C
John T. Comes School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1906-1908, 23 E-P: Equipment, Photographs, Lantern Slides, Drawings, Casts
Paul Philippe Cret Business Administration, 1906-1908, 1A: Provost and Vice Provost, General
Christiano S. Das Neves School of Fine Arts, 1923-1924, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates-D (1) and School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1914-1915, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates-B-G
Frank Miles Day School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1906-1908, 37b-q: Nominations, Promotions, Appointments, etc. and in School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1906-1908, 37s: Nominations, Promotions, Appointments, etc., Assistants to Dawson
Thomas Harlan Ellett School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1906-1908, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates
Edward Glass School of Architecture, 1900-1920, 1913-1914, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates (1), School of Architecture, 1900-1920, 1914-1915, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates-B-G
Francis W. Kervick School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1910-1911, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates
Phyllis (Huiyin) Lin School of Fine Arts, 1925-1926, 43: Matriculates-L
Milton B. Medary Business Administration, 1906-1908, 1A: Provost and Vice Provost, General
Okie & Ziegler School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1906-1908, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates
A.A. Ritcher School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1919-1920, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates-M-R
Yunosuke Sakai chool of Architecture 1900-1920, 1906-1908, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates
W.H. Schumacher School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1914-1915, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates-S
Walter Smedley School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1906-1908, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates
Francis Palmer Smith School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1906-1908, 37r: Nominations, Promotions, Appointments, etc., Assistant to Nolan
Sidney Sondheim Educational Administration, 1926-1927, 2b: Graduate School, Dean Ames
William Macy Stanton School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1920-1921, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates-S-Z
Thomas, Churchman & Molitor School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1906-1908, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates
Henry D. Wood School of Architecture 1900-1920, 1906-1908, 40: Graduates and Past Matriculates
Yale University Business Administration, 1906-1908, 1A: Provost and Vice Provost, General
The records of the Warren Powers Laird Administration within the School of Design are organized into seven series: Business Administration, 1906-1932; Educational Administration, 1906-1932; School of Architecture 1900-1920; School of Fine Arts, 1920-1932; Boards, Committees, Faculties, etc., 1906-1932; Clubs, Institutes and Societies, 1908-1932; and Building Projects and Competitions, 1906-1923.
Warren Powers Laird created two known keys to his original records filing system. One key, dated 1901, reflects the organization of the School of Architecture. The other key, found among papers dated 1926, reflects the organization of the School of Fine Arts. In each key, file titles are arranged according to a numerical system. This numerical system changed over time as the School expanded and reorganized its administrative structure.
The current arrangement of this collection is a hybrid of both keys. All series are arranged chronologically, then are divided futher by subseries, which are Laird's folder titles. Each subseries is arranged by a number, which represents the number assigned to that folder in Laird's numerical key(s). The numbers may be further subdivided by letters a, b, c, etc. In the early records the presence of a number followed by a letter represented a futher subdivision within the folder heading. For example, the series School of Architecture, 1900-1920 has a subseries named 23:Equipment, so the subseries is divided into 23a: Equipment, books; 23b: Equipment, plates; 23c: Equipment, periodicals, etc. In the later records, the presence of a number followed by a letter simply represented Laird's new system of organization and did not indicate that the folder was subdivided. For example 1a, 1b, 1c, etc. are all separate folder headings unrelated to eachother.
Four series --Business Administration; Educational Administration; School of Fine Arts; and Boards, Committees, Faculties, etc.; --were named by Laird in his 1926 key. The series school of Architecture 1900-1920, Clubs, Institutes and Societies and Building Projects and Competitions were added by the archivist to show separation between the School of Architecture and the School of Fine Arts and to divide the long list of folder titles into smaller series
Transferred from the School of Fine Arts under the administration of Dean G. Holmes Perkins in May 1955.
- Sakai, Yunosuke
- Day, Frank Miles
- Cret, Philippe
- Das Neves, Christiano S.
- Chillman, James, Jr.
- Boyd, William, Jr.
- Bickley, George Howard
- University of Pennsylvania. Graduate School of Fine Arts
- University of Pennsylvania -- General subdivision--Planning.;
- University of Pennsylvania. Department of Architecture -- General subdivision--History;
- University of Pennsylvania: University Archives and Records Center
- Finding Aid Author
- DiAnna L. Hemsath
- Finding Aid Date
- February 2006