Modeling the organization's name after the Art Students League of New York, the Architectural League of New York was founded in New York City in 1881 by a group of architects who wished to gather and discuss architecture and its relationship to the arts. The group elected D.W. Willard as the first President of the League and they began gathering regularly to discuss and critique each other's sketches and hold competitions. The organization grew quickly and soon the League rented a room in a building on 14th Street between University Place and Fifth Avenue.
However, by the mid-1880s the founders and more active League members left New York, and membership began to falter. The League was reorganized in 1886, expanding membership beyond professional architects, and incorporated in 1888 with 166 members. In 1889, the League joined with the Art Students League of New York and the Society of American Artists to form the American Fine Arts Society. Thus, in 1892 the three organizations were able to erect a building at 215 West 57th Street where the League remained until 1927 when it moved to 115 East 40th Street.
The League was run by the Executive Committee and its officers, elected every two years. The beginning of each League season kicked off with an annual dinner in the spring. The League also formed numerous committees to organize activities and manage administrative tasks. Noteworthy committees include the Current Work Committee, House Committee, Finance Committee, Exhibition Committee, Membership Committee, and Scholarships and Special Awards Committee.
The League's interdisciplinary approach to architecture and the arts was expressed through sponsored forums and discussions with architects and artists. From the League's beginning, the Current Work Committee was established to organize educational forums for members. Recognition of achievement was awarded by an Annual Exhibition from the late 1880s until 1938. In 1950, the League began awarding the annual National Gold Medal Exhibition in various fields, including landscape architecture, engineering, and sculpture. Additionally, the League awarded numerous other scholarships each year. Architects, artists, and arts-related organizations could also rent space in the League building to hold meetings, discussions, and exhibitions.
The League admitted its first female member in 1934. Notable members of the League included Arnold W. Brunner (President, 1903-1905), Cass Gilbert (President, 1913-1915), Philip Johnson, Robert A.M. Stern, and Russell Sturgis (President, 1889-1893).
The Architectural League of New York continues to provide educational opportunities and scholarships to students and professionals.
Background information was gathered from a written history of the League by Cass Gilbert found in this collection and the Architectural League of New York website (http://archleague.org/category/archive/history-archive/).