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Finding aid for the James De Long Papers 0000340
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Collection Details
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  • Biographical/Historical note
  • Scope and Contents note
  • Separated Materials note
  • Preferred Citation note
  • Conditions Governing Access note
  • Arrangement note

  • Title: James De Long papers
    Identifier/Call Number: 0000340
    Contributing Institution: Architecture and Design Collection, Art, Design & Architecture Museum
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 53.21 Linear feet
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1939-1997
    Date (inclusive): circa 1939-2013
    Location note: Boxes 1-25/ ADC -regular; 9 Flat File Drawers/ADC- flat files
    creator: De Long, James
    creator: Guerrero, , Pedro E.
    creator: Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959

    Biographical/Historical note

    James E. De Long was born in 1921 in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, and attended Eagle Rock High School, Pasadena Junior College and, for six months in 1940, the Chouinard Institute of Art. He began an apprenticeship with the architect Harry Schwartz and started studies in architecture (reportedly at Berkeley) before switching to civil engineering. He dropped out in May 1941 to work in Alaska as a surveyor for an engineering firm engaged in heavy construction. He returned after a year to serve in the Army Air Corps. At some point during these early years he also worked with building projects in Boulder City, Nevada.
    Since his early teens – inspired by the Millard House near his home – De Long harbored a desire to train with Frank Lloyd Wright. He apprenticed briefly with an architectural office before joining Wright’s Fellowship at Taliesin in July 1946, where he remained until May 1947. His schooling at Taliesin was largely as a draftsman on projects at hand, but guided by Wright’s chief draftsman and building superintendent Jack Howe, he undertook a detailed analysis of Wright’s Goetsch-Winckler House and studied several other early Usonian projects in depth. These included the All-Steel Community for Los Angeles, the Wall house, the beach cabin for Franklin Watkins, and the Baird house. The Goetsch-Winckler study drawings served as his qualifying thesis for the fellowship, and he went on to work as a project draftsman and detailer for Wright, working under Jack Howe on a number of projects including Wright’s first passive-solar hemisphere house, for Jacobs, and the unrealized proposal for Ayn Rand.
    Leaving Wright in May 1947, De Long returned to Los Angeles and worked for an engineering company and under contract for architects, to include A. Quincy Jones, while working on his first solo project, a minimal house on Mt. Washington for his friend Richard Wolford, built in 1949-1950. A second minimal house on Mt. Washington, for Robert Scholfield, seems to have been designed almost contemporaneously, and appeared in 1950-1951. By then he had opened a one man studio, primarily for residential practice, and maintained it singlehandedly, without recourse to hired draftsmen, technicians or contract renderers, for the next 50 years.
    The practice falls into three main phases: pre-1962, with freestanding houses in a Usonian language; a second period during which much of his attention went to an editorial role in New York at House Beautiful; and post-1974 with work largely devoted to additions, adaptation, remodels and restoration, the field of "adjustment," as De Long called it, that he found especially appealing.
    DeLong's importance as a designer rests largely in the continuity that he represents, the sober and faithful ways in which he continued to develop the original Usonian ideas for different settings and circumstances; and, as editor and writer, to recognize and introduce us to the echoes and principles of Wright’s great small houses in landscapes of 1937-1947 where he could find them, as in such vitally important new work as Erickson-Massey’s Catton House. Where other Wright apprentices leapt into new geometries and materials, or into over-detailed Wrightian fancy and extravaganza, De Long remained anchored to the fundamental idea of the Usonian house – a formal language, building system and material palette which could be varied with great originality and imagination to different conditions.
    The Wolford and Scholfield houses were widely noticed and published and remain points of reference for the Wrightian small house and for the regionalist tradition in postwar modernism. Notable other projects included his own home on Avenue 43 in Los Angeles; a small cross planned house for his parents in Altadena in 1956, published in and claiming the cover of House Beautiful’s memorial issue on Frank Lloyd Wright in 1959; the McHale house in West Covina, 1956; the Walter Keller House of 1958; a number of small office complexes; and the Jacobs house in Redlands, 1959. The Nowling Residence in La Habra Heights, another widely recognized work, marked a point of transition. A more elaborate work, designed in 1962, it incorporated the design of extensive cabinetry, movable furniture, and gardens.
    In 1963, the editor Elizabeth Gordon invited him to join House Beautiful as architecture editor. He remained with the magazine until 1974. For ten years he divided his time between LA and New York, assuming greater responsibilities after Gordon’s retirement at the end of 1964. An accomplished writer, he had an important list of notable assignments of his own for the magazine, including such forays into theory and criticism as a major essay in appreciation of Mies van der Rohe’s American career after his death in November 1969.
    Notable projects during the period from 1963 included the completion of a Japanese house for Adams (which he took on after the death of Albert Cooling in 1967); a large studio project for the horse ranch of the noted painter and muralist Jirayr Zorthian; and the Hackett house in Studio City, designed in the 1960s but not built until 1979. Much later work in alteration, addition, and remodel was work of substantial design and conservation significance: houses by John Byers, Carl Maston, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Thornton Abell and others, along with such historical sites as the Glen Tavern Hotel in Santa Paula. These restoration and remodellings were noted for their sensitivity to the original design and were widely published in the 1970s and 80s. Nationally noted were the conversions of the Frager barn in the Berkshires into a studio for a musician and composer and the restoration and remodel of 1920s southern California houses in the Andalusian manner.
    De Long seems to have gathered photographs and other material related to Frank Lloyd Wright for memoirs and reflections from at least the late 1970s onwards; and he played a large role as contributor to the Journal of the Taliesin Fellows from its founding in 1990 serving as editorial advisor from 1996 until 1998, when ill health effectively ended his editorial and architectural career. His two small houses on Mt. Washington for Wolford and Scholfield were honored as Los Angeles City cultural monuments in 1995, and he received a Modern Master Award from the L.A. Conservancy in 2011.
    - Nicholas Olsberg

    Scope and Contents note

    The James De Long papers contain personal papers, architectural drawings and photographs of De Long's design practice from 1946-1988, as well as materials related to his training and work at Taliesin as a Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice and Fellow, 1946-1947. Publications, photographs, and letters cover De Long's years as architecture editor at House Beautiful in 1963-1974, as well as his work for the journal of the Taliesin Fellowship. The De Long papers hold approximately 5,000 drawings and 10 linear ft. of documents, photographs, and publications.

    Separated Materials note

    Removed 8 drawings for the offices of Charles Cruze at 2340 West Third Street, Los Angeles and added to the Harwell Hamilton Harris collection #249.
    Removed 5 drawings of guest house for Judson Stone and WM. O. Melcher, and added to the Garrett Van Pelt Collection #189.

    Preferred Citation note

    James De Long papers, Architecture and Design Collection. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Conditions Governing Access note

    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Arrangement note

    The following arrangement scheme for this collection was imposed during processing in the absence of a usable original order. The collection is organized into six series: personal papers, professional papers, office files, Taliesin Fellows, House Beautiful, and architecture and design projects.
    The contents of the personal papers, professional papers, office files, Taliesin Fellows and House Beautiful series are arranged chronologically by date of the materials, with the exception of the subseries of photographs and negatives within the House Beautiful series, which are organized by the last name of the subject. The materials within the architecture and design projects series are divided into subseries by client and subsequently organized by format (for example: architectural drawings, photographs, project files, and slides).

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    De Long, James
    De Long, Marilyn
    Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959
    Architects -- California
    Architectural drawings
    Architectural photographs
    Architecture -- California
    Architecture -- California -- 20th century
    Architecture -- California -- Los Angeles -- 20th Century
    Architecture, Modern -- 20th century -- California
    Architecture, Modern -- 20th century -- California -- Los Angeles
    Architecture--California--20th century--Designs and plans
    Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)
    Commercial buildings
    Conceptual drawings
    Detail drawings
    Exterior elevations
    Exterior views
    Floor plans
    Los Angeles (Calif.) Buildings, structures, etc.
    Photographic prints
    Plot Plans
    Presentation drawings (proposals)
    Reprographic copies