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Herschel Gustave Anderson Elarth Papers

Identifier: Ms-1984-182

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the papers of architect Herschel Gustave Anderson Elarth, a professor at University of Oklahoma (1938-1942), University of Manitoba (1947-1954), and Virginia Tech (1954-1977). The collection includes such materials as correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, artwork, printed materials, course materials, architectural drawings, and ephemera relating to Elarth's personal life, experiences in World War II with the 826th Engineer Aviation Battalion, teaching career, private practice, organizational activities, and awards and honors.


  • 1885 - 1988


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials. Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

Herschel Gustave Anderson Elarth, son of Gustave and Amanda Anderson Elarth, was born in Omaha, Nebraska on October 15, 1907. Elarth attended the University of Illinois, earning a bachelor's degree in architecture in 1929. That same year, he submitted an entry for the Prix de Rome in architecture and was awarded first alternate. While attending college, Elarth also apprenticed with Omaha architect Thomas R. Kimball. Continuing his studies at the University of Illinois, Elarth earned a master of science in architecture in 1930, and in 1931, he took second place in the Society of Beaux Arts Architects' Paris Prize.

From 1931 to 1936, Elarth worked as an architectural designer in the Omaha firm of John and Alan MacDonald, playing a significant role in the final design of the Joslyn Art Museum. Moving to Los Angeles in 1937, Elarth worked for a year as a draftsman in the office of architect Richard J. Neutra. In January, 1938, Elarth took a position as professor of architecture at the University of Oklahoma. He married Wilhelmina van Ingen (1905-1969) in Norman, Oklahoma on April 2, 1942.

Elarth joined the U. S. Army in November, 1942. A first lieutenant, he served with the 826th Engineer Aviation Battalion, supervising the construction and maintenance of airfields. Following his honorable discharge in March, 1946, he took special studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

During the summer of 1947, Elarth worked for two months as an architect for the Los Angeles City Planning Commission before being hired as an associate professor of architecture at the University of Manitoba. While there, he served as a consultant to the Winnipeg Town Planning Commission and designed the university's bus terminal and bookstore. He also designed the Fort Garry home in which the Elarths would live while in Manitoba.

In 1954, Elarth was hired as a professor of architecture at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. In addition to teaching and advising students, Elarth served as a member of the University Council, the VPI Self-Study and University Library Committee, the Judicial Committee, and the Wine Awards Committee. He also provided design consultation on what would eventually become Cowgill Hall. Early in his career at Virginia Tech, Elarth entered into a partnership with fellow architectural professor Charles S. Worley Jr., and among the projects they designed were the Montgomery County Public Health Center in Christiansburg and the Elarth residence in Blacksburg. Throughout the 1970s, Elarth was active in several architectural organizations, and was particularly involved in the environmental efforts of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). His contributions to architecture were recognized when he was elected a Fellow in the AIA in 1978.

Elarth married Eva Robert Frook (1917-1984) in Blacksburg, Virginia, in 1971, and he retired from the university in 1977. He continued, however, to be active as professor emeritus and in several architectural organizations. In 1984, Elarth sold his Blacksburg home and moved to Warm Hearth Village retirement community, where he also served on the board of directors. Herschel Elarth died in 1988.


13 Cubic Feet (8 boxes, 1 oversize folder)


Papers of Herschel G. A. Elarth, professor of architecture, including correspondence, subject files, class materials, photographs, printed materials, artwork, scrapbooks, and ephemera chronicling Elarth's personal life, teaching and military careers, private practice, and participation in various architectural organizations.


The collection is arranged in five series:

Series I. Personal Papers, 1885-1987. In this series are such items as biographical and genealogical materials, legal and financial documents, personal correspondence, and family photos. The series also includes materials (documents, insignia, photographs, and scrapbooks) relating to Elarth's service in the 826th Engineer Aviation Battalion during World War II. A collection of Elarth's artwork, consisting largely of studies of scenes in Omaha, the surrounding area, the greater Midwest, and Europe, rendered in watercolor, chalk, and crayon, completes the series.

Series II. Correspondence / Subject Files, 1919-1987. A collection of files maintained by Elarth on various artists and architects--most of whom were Elarth's personal acquaintances--may be found in this series. The files contain such materials as correspondence, original artwork, personalized greeting cards created by artists, and printed materials. (Note: The file on Frank Lloyd Wright contains only printed materials.)

Series III. Professorial Career, 1938-1987. Elarth's teaching career at the University of Oklahoma, University of Manitoba, and Virginia Tech is chronicled in this series. Included are lecture background materials, class assignment handouts and records, student projects, and student correspondence. The series also contains materials relating to Elarth's non-teaching duties, particularly his participation in committees and campus / local planning studies.

Series IV. Private Practice, 1927-1987. This series contains materials relating to various projects designed by Elarth, both individually and in partnership with Charles S. Worley Jr. The series begins with files devoted to a mural designed by Elarth, several competitions for which he submitted entries, and two projects on which he worked during the Great Depression. Covered in greater detail are three projects: the University of Manitoba bus terminal / bookstore; the Elarth residences in Fort Garry, Manitoba, and Blacksburg, Virginia; and the Montgomery County Public Health Center. The series also contains materials relating to other projects on which Elarth provided consultation and concludes with Elarth's awards, honors, and drafting kit. Note: Except where otherwise identified, all files in this series relate to Virginia Tech.

Series V. Architectural Organizations, 1961-1988. The materials in this series relate to Elarth's participation in several architectural organizations. The bulk of the material is devoted to the American Institute of Architects--both at the national and state levels--and reflects Elarth's interest in environmental policy. The series includes such materials as correspondence, memoranda, reports, and printed material, much of it devoted to such topics as surface mining, water quality, acid rain, and deforestation. The series also contains materials relating to other AIA committees on which Elarth served. Files relating to Elarth's participation in the Society of Architectural Historians--particularly regarding various society-sponsored tours--may also be found in this series.

Physical Access

Please note: This collection is in off-site storage and requires 2-3 days notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Source of Acquisition

The Herschel Gustave Anderson Elarth Papers were donated to Special Collections in 1988.

Related Archival Materials

  • Wilhelmina van Ingen Elarth Papers (Ms1969-004). Finding aid available on the Virginia Heritage database.

  • Charles S. Worley, Jr., Collection, 1950-1982, undated (Ms1996-017).

  • Herschel Elarth-Charles Worley Architectural Firm Drawings (Ms2019-036).

Separated Materials

The following items were removed from the collection, to be added to the Rare Book Collection:

"The Blue Ridge Parkway studies: policy, development, environmental, visual." Blacksburg, VA: Omnibus Studio, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, [1984].

The Roanoke Fine Arts Center history, 1952-1977. Roanoke, VA: Roanoke Fine Arts Center, [1978].

Land, issues and problems. (nos. 45-46, 50, 55-56). Blacksburg, VA: Cooperative Extension Service, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1979-1981.

Mt. San Angelo's artists: a touring exhibition of works from the collection of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts: September, 1985 - August, 1986. [Sweet Briar, VA: Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, 1986].

Shippee, Elizabeth Wright. "On receipt of a Stephan Lochner Madonna." [S.l.: s.n., 1936?].

Taliesin: the Taliesin Fellowship publication (vol. 1, no. 2). Spring Green, WI: Taliesin Fellowship, 1941.

Taliesin square-paper (no. 6). Spring Green, WI: Taliesin Press, [1941].

Taliesin square-paper (no. 8). Spring Green, WI: Taliesin Press, [1945].

Taliesin square-paper (unnumbered). Spring Green, WI: Taliesin Press, [1941].

World's Columbian Exposition, 1893: official catalogue. Part X. Department K. Fine Arts. Chicago: W. B. Gonkey, 1893.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Herschel Gustave Anderson Elarth Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Herschel Gustave Anderson Elarth Papers commenced in November 2014 and was completed in January 2016.

A Guide to the Herschel Gustave Anderson Elarth Papers, 1885-1988
John M. Jackson
2016 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2019-07-02: Added bidder instructions and contracts to Box 3, Folder 25 from materials received from Art & Architecture Library. No revisions made to finding aid.
  • 2020-08-07: Finding aid notes updated to new department standards. juliags

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US