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William Rotch Ware archway drawingWilliam Rotch Ware archway drawing

William Rotch Ware Collection

Early drawings by William Rotch Ware, the first MIT student to attend the École des Beaux-Arts and one of the most influential architecture editors of the nineteenth century.

After graduating from Harvard in 1871, William Rotch Ware studied architecture at MIT in the department that his uncle William Robert Ware had founded several years earlier. After studying at MIT and working for his uncle’s firm Ware & Van Brunt, Ware traveled to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts—at the time considered the best architecture school in the world. Although attending the École would become common for Americans in the following decades, Ware was the first MIT graduate and part of the first generation of Americans to study there. After returning from Paris, Ware only designed a few buildings and instead focused on architectural criticism and journalism, serving a long tenure as the editor of American Architect and Building News from 1880 until 1908. Under his editorship, the journal set the standard for architectural publications in the United States and was an essential proponent of some of the most influential American architects of the last quarter of the nineteenth century—like Henry Hobson Richardson and McKim, Mead & White—and also pioneered the use of photographic reproductions in architecture periodicals.

The William Rotch Ware collection at the MIT Museum contains drawings made by Ware as a student and draftsman as well as other material he collected in the 1870s. The drawings in the collection range from quick charcoal sketches of ornamental fragments to more fully rendered designs. The collection also includes drawings of houses, travel sketches, and furniture designs. The collection also contains nine programmes, or assignment sheets, that Ware retained from the École. In Paris he also collected several periodical publications about Charles Garner’s Paris Opera, which caused a sensation when it was completed in 1875 and clearly inspired some of Ware’s own student work. That Ware acquired and subsequently retained these materials perhaps indicates an early interest in architectural publishing. Through the drawings, documents, publications, and photographs in this collection we can gain a glimpse of the intellectual and artistic formation of an influential figure in the history of American architecture.

Title: William Rotch Ware Collection

Creator: William Rotch Ware

Dates: 1871–1886, bulk 1871–1875

Extent: 75 drawings, 9 documents, 3 prints, 3 periodicals and clippings, and 3 photographs

Languages: English, French

Repository: MIT Museum

Reference Code: 1994.046

Access: Online and by appointment

Copyright: No known restrictions

Credit: William Rotch Ware Collection, MIT Museum

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