BACKGROUND — In 1919 an architecture firm named Polhemus & Coffin formed in New York City. The duration of their tenure generated a body of work that contains many buildings and designs considered to be of meaningful significance to Architectural history, and American history.
For me, another layer of importance is that Lewis A Coffin, Jr was my paternal grandfather, whom I never met, as he died in 1963, one year after my birth. To be able to walk in his shoes and recreate such a significant part of his life's journey—for a very good cause—is an immensely valuable opportunity.
OK, SO HERE IS WHAT IS HAPPENING — One of the books that Polhemus & Coffin, Architects - NYC published in 1921, has lost copyright ownership and is being poorly reproduced and sold by fly-by-night print on demand publishers.
The new edition will only be produced using a matte finish hardcover, printed on premium paper. In addition to the original text and photos, it will also include new photos shot during the journey to France, as well as a side story that documents the journey. I will include a special page dedicated to those who believed in the project and contributed a donation making it possible.
THIS IS HOW WE'LL MAKE IT HAPPEN— I want to recreate the journey to France, retrace the footsteps and explorations that renowned architects H M Polhemus and L A Coffin, Jr undertook in 1920, thus becoming, SMALL FRENCH BUILDINGS - THE ARCHITECTURE OF TOWN AND COUNTRY.
I intend to take photographs of the same buildings as they are today, as well as capture images of buildings that exhibit the same representative characteristics. I've counted over 100 houses and buildings, and only a few are located in the same town. So it will be quite a scavenger hunt.
WHY IS THIS AN IMPORTANT BOOK? — The main reason this book plays such a role in history, is it documents the origins of a rapidly growing French Provençal and Colonial Revivalist trend in American, between World War 1 and World War 2. Polhemus & Coffin were particularly passionate about this trend and ultimately played a prominent role as key interpreters and historians of this style, which today is considered a quite familiar and popular in many neighborhoods in America.
Polhemus & Coffin also drew inspiration from this journey to create some really cool mansions mostly found in the New England area: Falaise and Mille-Fleurs on the Guggenheim Estate, Long Island. Champ Soleil, Newport Rhode Island. They also focused on high-rises in the city, 232 Madison Ave. NYC and the MIlitary Park Building, Newark, NJ (once NJ tallest building) - both showing some really cool neo-Gothic influences.
BACK TO THE HOW— I'll fly to France with photography equipment, two eager assistants (2 of my kids, Zane and Madeline), a cheese knife, a laptop (my map), an iPhone and a level of nostalgia and connection to my grandfather I could never otherwise experience. I could never have dreamed up such an incredible opportunity. Ever.
During the trip, we will document the journey with a journal, part of which will be updated to a blog which interested folks can easily follow. Our journey and process will also be included as a side-story in the republished edition of the book.
WHEN WE RETURN— We'll return with documentation, photography and anecdotal content to produce an updated version of the original 1921 edition. I will then design and produce the book in a manner that celebrates the firm's original spirit of the project, design detail, glorious typography and include an adjunct storyline that describes and documents the entire adventure.
WHY US?— As a veteran art director, photographer and graphic designer (20+ years), I have the capability to authentically add to and recapture part of a legacy, not only for Polhemus & Coffin, but another chapter in the Coffin Family dating back to William the Conqueror, 1066. My genealogy lineage goes straight back (15 generations) to Tristram Coffyn, who was one of the 9 founders of Nantucket Island in 1649. There is a link below if you're interested.
Original Collector's Edition
Google Books Scraped versions
Polhemus & Coffin on Wikipedia
Military Park Building, Newark, NJ
Falaise - Guggenheim Estate, Long Island
Champ Soleil, Newport RI
"Small Buildings" current version (not even the right cover)
GoogleBooks version (scanned)
The Coffin Family - back to Tristram Coffyn 1642