NESAH: Chelsea Spencer Lecture

  • 16 Jan 2024
  • 7:00 PM
  • Zoom


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The Contract, the Contractor, and the Capitalization of American Building, 1870-1930 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024


Lecture by Chelsea Spencer

Presented via Zoom; Pre-registration required. 

The 2022 John Coolidge Research Fellowship supported Chelsea’s archival fieldwork, sending her to Pittsburgh to study the construction records of the Frick Building (bottom right), a twenty-story office building still standing in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Managed by the George A. Fuller Company, construction of the Frick Building began in 1901 and was completed by 1903, leaving behind an unusually voluminous archive and an acrid dispute between the Fuller Company and its client, the wealthy industrialist Henry Clay Frick. Chelsea used this archive as a window onto the operations of what was then the largest, most well-capitalized construction company in the United States at a pivotal moment in the firm’s history. On January 16th, Chelsea will give a virtual talk to share more about what she found in the archive and how it will contribute to her dissertation project.

Chelsea Spencer is a PhD candidate in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art at MIT. Her dissertation, titled “The Contract, the Contractor, and the Capitalization of American Building, 1873–1930,” traces the rise of general contracting in the United States. Her research more generally concerns the histories of information, capitalism, and the built environment. Chelsea received an MDes in History and Philosophy of Design from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she cofounded the zine Open Letters, and a BA in art and architectural history from Emory University. Before beginning her studies at MIT, she was the managing editor of Log.

NESAH is a non-profit organization.

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