COLLECTION GUIDES

1865-1957

Guide to the Collection

Restrictions on Access

The Arthur Asahel Shurcliff papers are stored offsite and must be requested at least one business day in advance. Contact the Library at library@masshist.org or (617) 536-1608 to request materials. Please discuss your request with the reading room staff before requesting cartons by barcode.


Collection Summary

Abstract

This collection includes journals, diaries, genealogical accounts, family papers, published and unpublished writings, biographies, and the autobiography of Arthur A. Shurcliff, a Boston landscape architect. There is also correspondence, both personal and pertaining to professional work including Metropolitan District Commission (Boston) projects, Colonial Williamsburg, Old Sturbridge Village, Plymouth Rock, and Quabbin Reservoir (Mass.) as well as private estate work. Correspondents include his father Asahel M. Shurtleff, his brother Rev. Alfred D.K. Shurtleff and sister Gertrude H. Shurtleff, Alexander and William James, Langdon Warner, Jacques Barzun, Albert B. and J. Cheney Wells, Joseph G. Deering and Nelson A. Rockefeller.

Biographical Sketch

Arthur Asahel Shurcliff (1870-1957) was born Arthur Asahel Shurtleff in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1930 he changed his name to Shurcliff to conform to the old English spelling. He pursued engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated in 1894. After conferring with Charles Eliot and Frederick Law Olmstead he enrolled at Harvard University to do graduate work in landscape architecture. When he graduated in 1896 he went to work for the Olmstead firm in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 1899 he and Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. formed the first four year course of landscape architecture in the country at Harvard. In 1905 he married Margaret Homer Nichols, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Arthur Howard Nichols of Boston and Cornish, New Hampshire. In that year Shurcliff also established his own landscape practice in Boston.

Shurcliff served as President of the American Society of Landscape Architects from 1928-1932. His work included major work for the Metropolitan District Commission and the Metropolitan Planning Board in Boston in the fields of town planning, engineering, and landscape and park design. He was the chief landscape architect for the restoration at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia from its inception in 1928 until 1941. He served also on the Boston Arts Commission.

He practiced landscape architecture, designed and built furniture (with his wife, Margaret), painted and sketched and invented various labor saving devices until within a year of his death in 1957.

Collection Description

The Shurcliff collection consists of eleven record cartons of papers. A portion of it is devoted to family history, records, photographs, and personal correspondence. Several boxes contain his correspondence with his sister, Gertrude Hope Shurtleff, and with his brother, Rev. Alfred D.K. Shurtleff. Also included in his correspondence are exchanges with his two friends Alexander and William James (sons of the philosopher William James) and with Langdon Warner, professor of Asian art at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University.

Correspondence with J.G. Deering and Nelson Rockefeller reflects his work for them. With Albert B. Wells and J. Cheney Wells the letters combine his personal relationship with them, his work on their private estates and his work on their restoration/reconstruction village, Old Sturbridge Village. Several boxes contain general correspondence which runs from personal interchanges to professional dealings.

Correspondence also reveals aspects of his work at Plymouth Rock, Plymouth, Massachusetts and at Williamsburg. Included in the Williamsburg material is a book called "Southern Palace" which is a portion of the large tome he produced for the Williamsburg Corporation to aid in the restoration process. His work for the Metropolitan District Commission, specifically at the Quabbin Reservoir is also revealed through correspondence.

Represented in the collection are samples of his writings, published and unpublished, including the process of writing and publishing two of his books.

One of the chief sources of his personal and professional activities is found in his diaries spanning the years 1922-1956. Personal and agency accounts are preserved in the collection.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Alice W. Shurcliff, Sidney N. Shurcliff, William A. Shurcliff, John P. Shurcliff, Mrs. Francis P. Lowell (Elizabeth Shurcliff) and Mrs. Franz J. Ingelfinger (Sarah P. Shurcliff), May 1969.

Restrictions on Access

The Arthur Asahel Shurcliff papers are stored offsite and must be requested at least one business day in advance. Contact the Library at library@masshist.org or (617) 536-1608 to request materials. Please discuss your request with the reading room staff before requesting cartons by barcode.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Carton 1SH 15Q9 0
Client list, 1943-1953
Carton 1SH 15Q9 0
Office inventory, 1957
Carton 1SH 15Q9 0
Miscellaneous papers, 1950s-1969
Carton 1SH 15Q9 0
Asahel M. Shurtleff Journal, 1865-1872
Carton 1SH 15Q9 0
Journals of Asahel M. Shurtleff, Made in the office of Arthur A. Shurcliff, April, 1949Bound Typescripts

Portion of a Journal by Asahel M. Shurtleff, Nov. 21, 1886- Sept. 29, 1911

Fragmentary Notes from the life of Asahel M. Shurtleff, dictated Nov. 14, 1914

Brief Outline of the Life of Asahel M. Shurtleff, 1832-1915. Written by Arthur A. Shurcliff, Nov. 1947

Carton 1SH 15Q9 0
Autobiography of Arthur A. Shurcliff , Written Winter of 1943-1944 with additions Summer of 1946, Summer of 1947Typescript with photographs.
Carton 1SH 15Q9 0
"Shurtleff Family History"Bound manuscript with photographs
Carton 1SH 15Q9 0
"Reminiscences of Dentistry by Joshua Tucker, M.D."
Carton 1SH 15Q9 0
"Home Letters," 1893-1924Scrapbook of correspondence
Carton 2SH 15QA 1
Family information
Carton 2SH 15QA 1
Alfred D.K. Shurtleff correspondence, 1930-1955
Carton 2SH 15QA 1
Gertrude Hope Shurtleff correspondence, 1906; 1928-1937
Carton 3SH 15QB 2
Gertrude Hope Shurtleff correspondence, 1938-1942; 1948-1958
Carton 3SH 15QB 2
Alexander James and family correspondence, 1941-1956
Carton 3SH 15QB 2
William James correspondence, 1941-1957
Carton 4SH 15QC 3
J.G. Deering correspondence, 1948-1955
Carton 4SH 15QC 3
Nelson Rockefeller correspondence, 1941-1957
Carton 4SH 15QC 3
Langdon Warner correspondence, 1942-1955
Carton 4SH 15QC 3
Albert B. Wells correspondence, 1938-1949
Carton 5SH 15QD 4
J. Cheney Wells correspondence, 1939-1955
Carton 5SH 15QD 4
"Special" correspondence, 1927-1939
Carton 5SH 15QD 4
General correspondence, 1888; 1907-1923
Carton 6SH 15QE 5
General correspondence, 1924-1925; 1934; 1935; 1946; 1950-1955
Carton 7SH 15QF 6
Diaries, 26 Dec. 1922-26 Nov. 1956Loose typescripts
Carton 7SH 15QF 6
Travels, 1930-1940Loose typescripts
Carton 8SH 15QG 7
Duplicate diaries, 1922-1955
Carton 8SH 15QG 7
Publications
Carton 8SH 15QG 7
Printed Material
Carton 9SH 15QH 8
Publications
Carton 9SH 15QH 8
Duplicate Printed Articles
Carton 9SH 15QH 8
Reports
Carton 9SH 15QH 8
Publications and correspondence about New England Journal, 1929-1931
Carton 9SH 15QH 8
Publications and correspondence about A Man Walks the Earth , 1951
Carton 9SH 15QH 8
Writings: Published and Unpublished, 1927-1941
Carton 10SH 15QI 9
Landscape work: Plymouth Rock, 1916-1952
Carton 10SH 15QI 9
Landscape work: Williamsburg

"Southern Places," 1931

"Palace Parking," 1937

Histories and Interviews for "Southern Places"

Garden Symposia

General correspondence

Carton 10SH 15QI 9
Landscape work: Metropolitan District Commission, Boston

Quabbin Reservoir, 1940-1945

General, 1939-1956

Carton 11SH 15QJ A
Accounts, 1940-1957
Carton 11SH 15QJ A
Agency accounts, 1927-1938; 1941; 1950-1955
Carton 11SH 15QJ A
Windmill data

Preferred Citation

Arthur Asahel Shurcliff papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.

Persons:

Barzun, Jacques, 1907-
Deering, Joseph G.
James, Alexander R. (Alexander Robertson), 1890-1946.
James, William, 1882-1961.
Rockefeller, Nelson A. (Nelson Aldrich), 1908-1979.
Shurtleff, Alfred D. K.
Shurtleff, Asahel M.
Shurtleff, Gertrude H., b. 1872.
Warner, Langdon, 1881-1955.
Wells, Albert B.
Wells, Joel Cheney, 1874-1960.

Organizations:

Old Sturbridge Village.
Colonial Williamsburg, Inc.
Metropolitan District Commission (Boston, Mass.)

Subjects:

Landscape architecture.
Account books--1927-1955.
Plymouth Rock (Plymouth, Mass.)
Quabbin Reservoir (Mass.)

Photographs Removed from the Collection

Photographs and glass plate negatives were removed from the collection to the MHS Photo Archives.