From skyscrapers to bungalows, the Charles F. Murphy Architectural Study Center at the Chicago History Museum has one of the nation's largest collections of architectural working drawings, as well as manuscript materials, photographs, architectural models, and building fragments that reflect metropolitan Chicago’s built environment.
The availability of the Museum’s architecture holdings vary by the type of material.
Photographs, Prints, and Documents
Most of the prints, photographs, archives, manuscripts, architectural drawings, and published materials in the collection are available to the public for research through the Museum’s Research Center.
The Research Center staff also welcomes written and email requests for information about these materials. Please allow several weeks for a reply.
Architectural Fragments and Models
Requests for information about architectural fragments, models, and other objects can be submitted online. Research inquiries by telephone are not accepted. Please complete the Object Research Inquiry Form to submit your request. You will receive a response to your inquiry from a member of the Museum’s staff within two weeks.
In-person research of objects is available by appointment only. To inquire about the availability of research appointments, complete the Object Research Inquiry Form and check the appropriate box. Please note the in-person research guidelines.
Requests for images of architectural objects can be made directly through the Rights and Reproductions Office if you have any of the following information: object accession number; creator name and title; or image reference number. If this information is not available to you, please submit an object research Inquiry.
Where possible, the entire archives of architectural firms or architects, not just individual drawings or projects, have been collected; documents may include job files, correspondence, ledgers, and field notes. To document more fully the built environment, the holdings also include business papers of builders, construction engineering firms, and real estate development companies.
Architectural drawings in the collection date from the 1870s to the present. The vast majority of drawings are working drawings on drafting linen or tracing paper, but the collection also contains design sketches and rendered presentation drawings.
Highlights of the Architectural Drawing Holdings
- Holabird & Roche / Holabird & Root, 1885–1980
- Harry Weese Associates, 1952–78
- C.F. Murphy & Associates
- Graham, Anderson, Probst & White
- C.W. and George L. Rapp / Rapp & Rapp
- John Lloyd Wright
- Francis Barry Byrne
- Mary Ann Crawford
- John Reed Fugard, Thielbar & Fugard, and Fugard & Knapp
- Alfred Alschuler and Friedman, Alschuler & Sincere
- Graceland Cemetery
Approximately 70 architectural models are also part of the collection. Some are highly finished presentation models, others are crude constructions used by the architects to explore design possibilities. The collection also includes approximately 175 fragments of buildings that have been demolished or remodeled and were collected to document the built environment (Note: The Museum no longer collects building fragments).
Highlights of the Model and Building Fragment Holdings
- Model of the Travel and Transportation Building designed by Holabird & Root for A Century of Progress International Exposition, 1933–34
- Model of Lake Point Tower designed by Shipporeit-Heinrich, 1968
- Fragments from Troscher Building designed by Louis Sullivan, c. 1885
- Fragment from the Francisco Terrace Apartments designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1895
- Rosette from Home Insurance Building entrance designed by William LeBaron Jenney, 1885
The Museum's architectural collection also contains thousands of photographs. These images were part of the archive of an architectural firm, or from the business papers of builders, construction engineering firms, and real estate development companies.