The Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (Andrew Carnegie Mansion)
Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. The Museum presents compelling perspectives on the impact of design on daily life through active educational and curatorial programming. The museum is located in the mansion that once belonged to Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie lived in the mansion between 1903 and his death in 1919.
Backstory and Context
Andrew Carnegie, an industrialist who helped advance the steel industry, purchased the land for this mansion in 1898. The mansion began construction in 1899 and was completed in 1902. The architectural firm of Babb, Cook & Willard designed the mansion, which was modeled after a Georgian country house. The mansion was innovative at the time because it was the first residence in the United States to be built with a steel frame and one of the first in New York to incorporate an Otis passenger elevator.
The Cooper-Hewitt Museum was established in 1897, which was well before it found a home in the Carnegie mansion, by Eleanor Garnier Hewitt, Sarah Cooper Hewitt, and Amy Hewitt Green. They were granddaughters of the industrialist, Peter Cooper. The three sisters ran the Museum until Sarah's death in 1930, at which time the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art appointed a board of directors. However, the Cooper Union took over full administrative responsibilities in 1938 when Edwin S. Burdell became the director of the Union.
Over time, the financial security of the Museum was threatened, and it was almost closed in 1963. Luckily, public outcry led to the establishment of a Committee to Save the Cooper Union Museum. This Committee was able to negotiate an agreement with the Cooper Union and the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian Institution received the Museum's collection and library, and in 1968, the Cooper Union Museum became a legal entity of the Smithsonian Institution.
In 1970, the Museum moved into the Carnegie Mansion, which remains its present home, and its name was changed to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Decorative Arts and Design a year before the move. This Museum became the first Smithsonian museum located outside of Washington, D.C. The Museum received its present name, the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, in 2014. From 1994 to 2014, it was called the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
About. Cooper Hewitt. Accessed 4/23/17. https://www.cooperhewitt.org/about/.
McCarty, Cara. McQuaid, Matilda. Making Design: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Collections. New York, NY. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 2015.