Papers of Architect Shepherd Stevens

The Shepherd Stevens Papers (MS 865) is one of many collections in Manuscripts and Archives that document the career of an architect affiliated at one time in his or her life with Yale.  Stevens, who was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1880 and died in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1962, taught architecture at Yale from 1920 until his retirement in 1947.   The papers include extensive lecture notes and other materials from Stevens’s teaching career, but what is equally fascinating and historically significant is what these papers reveal about Stevens’s education and training as an architect.  From 1899 to 1903, Stevens studied architecture at Columbia University, and in 1905 he went on to the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris—at the time one of the world’s premier schools of art and architecture. While Stevens was one of many Americans enrolled at the École, he was among a more limited number of foreigners to complete the full course of study in architecture and earn an École diplôme.

Shepherd Stevens in his room at 5 rue Palatine, Paris, France, winter 1904-05

Students outside Beaux Arts, Paris, France, about 1906

The papers offer a rare insight into the life of an American architecture student at the École and the particular educational requirements of the Beaux-Arts curriculum.  Included in the collection are many photographs of Stevens and classmates; original drawings and sketches Stevens completed for competitions, credits, and entrance to the school; and sketchbooks in which Stevens captured the various architectural sites he encountered during his extensive travels – journeys of discovery that were expected of students learning the history of design.

Admission drawing by Shepherd Stevens, July 1905

Sketch of Taj Mahal, from Shepherd Stevens's sketchbook, 1903-04

The papers also comprise numerous diaries in which Stevens recorded his daily activities; correspondence with friends, colleagues, and family members; travel documents and itineraries; and drawings of some of the architectural projects Stevens pursued as a practicing architect.  A finding aid listing the contents of this rich and valuable collection of architectural records is available on the Yale Finding Aid Database.