In Memoriam - James Marston Fitch

The Historic Preservation program at Columbia University is well-known for being the first graduate program in the United States, but it is the individuals associated with the Program that add to its prestige. While we continue to honor the alumni who show excellence and provide leadership within the field through our annual Preservation Alumni Leadership Award, we must first honor James Marston Fitch for his role in establishing the Historic Preservation program at Columbia University in 1964 and for his vast contributions to the field of Historic Preservation.

Fitch with students in 1974. Photo by Michael Tomlan

James Marston Fitch
James Marston Fitch (1909-2000) was an architect, writer, and the principal figure behind the establishment of the Historic Preservation program at Columbia University in 1964. A faculty member of the Architecture school from 1954 until his retirement in 1979, Fitch educated and inspired countless students who went on to lead the rise of the Historic Preservation movement in the United States. He was an internationally renowned theorist of the preservation of the historic built environment, and his published works, including Historic Preservation: Curatorial Management of the Built World, remain seminal reference points for the Historic Preservation field in the United States.

In many ways Fitch was a man ahead of his time. He was an early student of the interaction between climate and architecture, and in 1947 he authored his first book, American Building: The Environmental Forces that Shape It. During the Great Depression Fitch worked for New Deal agencies such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Federal Housing Administration, and served as Director of Population Statistics for the state of Tennessee. In 1974-75 he served as the first conservator of Central Park in New York, and in the 1980s, as an architect, he participated in many pioneering restoration projects in New York and the rest of the country.

Today, his important legacy is maintained by the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation. In his honor, Preservation Alumni annually awards the Cleo and James Marston Fitch Prize and the Cleo and James Marston Fitch Thesis Grant, honors that continue to recognize the tradition of excellence established for Columbia by James Fitch.
Copyright © 2011-2019 Preservation Alumni, Inc.
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software