Smith, Henry Atterbury, ed. The Books of a Thousand Homes. vol. 1. New York : Home Owners Service Institute, 1927.
While doing a little bit of research on our collection, I came across this title and was intrigued by it – The Books of a Thousand Homes. I thus pulled it from Special Collections this morning. (The book was also reprinted by Dover, as 500 Small Houses of the Twenties.) When I pulled our copy from the shelf, I was delighted by the house on the cover. I also loved that reproductions of blueprints are included in the section, “From Plan Book to Finished Home.”
The AIA Historical Directory of American Architects has a brief biography of the editor, Henry Atterbury Smith. The Acknowledgement by the President of the Home Owners Institute, preceding the collection of plans and drawings, provides greater background on Smith. He writes:
Henry Atterbury Smith has become internationally known for his unusual and successful work in the development of practical forms of multi-family housing, being the originator and designer of the open-stair type of apartment and tenement housing the masses at low rental. The East River Homes designed for Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, Sr., at a cost of over $2,000,000 to house originally 400 tubercular families, are a monument to his efforts. (Acknowledgment)
While the book is valuable for those researching American homes in 1920s and 1930s, I am curious about the origins and history of our copy. When we think about books as objects, we see them as distinct from other copies of the work, each with their own histories and stories – though sometimes hidden. For this reason, I am always excited to stumble upon one of the works for which we know the former owner.
The Books of A Thousand Homes at Architecture and Planning:
Several different types of tape have been used to repair the pages of A Thousand Homes, while other significant tears were left untreated. Someone created a thin bookmark that I missed on my first pass through the book, because it was tucked neatly into the spine. The note on the bookmark reads: 110 comfortable + pretty. Some of the pages have been torn away and are missing, while several of the houses have been checked in pencil. A book plate for the Library of the University of Texas has been affixed to the front cover’s end papers and the call number is Dewey, suggesting it was not a recent addition to the collection. No record exists for how this copy came into our collection, however. I can only speculate about who might have been responsible for the additions and subtractions to this work.