Giorgio Cavaglieri (1911-2007)

This substantial collection includes original and reprographic architectural drawings, project files, photographs, and professional papers related to prominent New York preservation architect Giorgio Cavaglieri’s architectural work, professional associations, and writings. This collection was given to Avery Library in four separate (1975, 1990, 2001, and 2005).

Born in Venice, Italy in 1911, Giorgio Cavaglieri studied at the Superior School of Engineering in Milan, graduating magna cum laude at the age of twenty-two. During the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, Cavaglieri was drafted into the Italian Air Force and completed his first architectural projects designing airfields in Tobruk, Libya. In March of 1939, upon his release from service, Cavaglieri immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland. During World War II, Cavaglieri was drafted into the United States Army and won the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement for his adaptations of captured German barracks for Allied use. After the war, a colleague referred him to New York architect Rosario Candela and Cavaglieri moved to Manhattan and began work under him. In 1946 with the aid of the G.I. Bill, Cavaglieri opened his own private practice.

As early as 1955, Cavaglieri explored the reuse of historic buildings for new purposes beginning when he adapted an old warehouse into offices for a local union. By the mid-1960s, his renovation of the Jefferson Market Courthouse into a public library had attracted the attention of the renowned architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable. She later recommended him to Joseph Papp for the renovation of the Astor Library into the New York Shakespeare Public Theater, one of the earliest alterations made to a historic building under the recently passed New York City landmarks law. Among his most noted projects, in addition to the Jefferson Market library and New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater, Cavaglieri was responsible for the restoration of the incoming train room at Grand Central Terminal, the preservation of the historic structures on Roosevelt Island, and the restoration of the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.


Though his projects were heavily concentrated in New York City, Cavaglieri also took commissions from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco. His projects won numerous awards and were extensively published in major architectural periodicals. He collaborated on some of the most important and large-scale preservation projects in New York City, yet he also continued to design small-scale new work throughout his career. His preservation projects demonstrate his firm belief that historic architecture was not only important and merited preservation, but that it could be repurposed or restored to achieve the same ends as new construction. As one of the first preservation architects, Cavaglieri proved in his work that the destruction of historic buildings was unnecessary, and he helped develop the nation’s growing historic preservation movement.

Giorgio Cavaglieri was influential in New York City’s architectural community not only because his designs but because of his involvement with organizations, panels, juries, and preservation advocacy. His writings show that he gave many speeches and lectures on the topics of historic buildings, landmarks, architectural restoration, and the relationship of preservation and modern architecture. He often argued for the saving of historic buildings by sending letters to the editor of the New York Times, the Mayor of New York City, the New York State Senate and providing statements on behalf on various organizations. Cavaglieri served as president of the Municipal Art Society from 1963 to 1965, president of the Fine Arts Federation from 1972 to 1974, and chairman of the Board of Trustees for the National Institute of Architectural Education from 1956 through 1958. He was a member of the American Institute of Architects and was elected to the AIA College of Fellows in 1965, and he presided over the New York AIA chapter from 1970 to 1971. Cavaglieri continued his architectural practice and community involvement well into his nineties, finally ending his practice at the age of 93. He died in New York City on May 15, 2007.

This large and diverse collection shows the range of Giorgio Cavaglieri’s professional work. It contains project files, drawings, photographs, clippings, proposals, correspondence, lectures, and architectural journals. Ranging in date from his earliest works in 1934 through 2005, the collection illustrates the body of Cavaglieri’s work and includes lesser-known projects as well as his most seminal works.


The majority of the project files document Cavaglieri’s larger projects, such as the Jefferson Market Library, the New York Shakespeare Public Theater and Delacorte Theater, the United States Pension Building, the Chapel of the Good Shepherd on Roosevelt Island, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts building, the New York Public Library projects including the main library’s periodical room and Gottesman Exhibition Hall, the New York University Grey Art Gallery and Study Center and the Fine Arts Department, and the Grand Central Terminal incoming train room restoration. Some of his new construction projects like his showroom for the Olivetti Corporation in San Francisco, the Kips Bay Branch Library, and the Mid-Manhattan Branch Library are also featured in the collection. The architectural journals include articles featuring his work, and the correspondence relates to Cavaglieri’s activities with the Municipal Art Society, the AIA, and the Fine Arts Federation.

Battery Park City, Pier A Clock Tower, renovation and restoration, New York City, 1974-1975. Battery Park City, Pier A Clock Tower, renovation and restoration, New York City, 1974-1975.