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The Charles Frederick Hummel papers

The Charles Frederick Hummel papers

Portrait of Charles Frederick Hummel

Charles F. Hummel circa 1994.
Photo by Burns Studio, Boise.

Special Collections and Archives in Albertsons Library has recently acquired a unique set of materials, spanning three generations of Boise history and architecture: the Charles Frederick Hummel papers. These papers were donated to the library by the Hummel family after Mr. Hummel’s passing in 2016. Although the papers are still being prepared for research, I am writing to give you a taste of what they contain.

I, by the way, am Joe Hess; a humble intern working with Special Collections over the summer to prepare this collection for research. Through this process, I have learned much about Mr. Hummel and his predecessors, as well as the content of the papers themselves. So, let’s jump into that.

The papers span the lives of Charles Hummel, his father Fritz Hummel, and his grandfather Charles Sr. Also included are records from other various Hummel family members, friends, and business acquaintances. This gives the papers a time span from 1895 through 2017, a period far in excess of Hummel’s lifetime. However, most of the records were either created or collected by Charles, placing his name at the forefront of the collection.

However, this collection is not the only thing with the Hummel name on it. The Hummel family have been architects since Charles Sr. immigrated to the United States from Germany. He was the architect behind St. John’s Cathedral, his son Fritz designed the Egyptian Theater, and the younger Charles designed and remodeled the downtown Boise Public Library, just to name a few well known buildings in the Boise area. Charles Hummel was also instrumental in the renovation and restoration of many of his predecessors’ projects, and was a vocal and active participant in the urban planning of a still growing Boise.

Now, a brief tour of the collection. It spans twenty-five boxes of papers, photos, and slides, plus a large collection of oversized items which include, but are not limited to: some of the original pencil sketches for the design of Boise’s St. John’s Cathedral, other architecture diagrams, family portraits, and military photos.

Black and white photo of Charles Frederick Hummel

Charles F. Hummel studying at Columbia University where he received his MS in Architecture in 1953

The oldest materials in the collection are some of Charles Sr.’s report cards from Germany. One of the most interesting items is Fritz’s glasses, which I found in an old cigar box. They do not match my own lens prescription. Despite that disappointment, it was cool to handle the glasses I see him wearing in so many photos. Mary Hummel spent part of her early life working in Hollywood, and the records and photos of her time there are fascinating to browse as well.

The collection contains documents relating to Mr. Hummel’s personal life and military service including birth-certificates, baptismal documents, his marriage license, extensive military records, educational materials and personal letters. Hummel was also an avid proponent of biographies, and wrote his own autobiography, the drafts of which are part of the collection.

Although the firm has gone through numerous iterations and names, Hummel Architects still exists today. The collection contains early records for the architectural firm and its projects that were found in Mr. Hummel’s papers. It is by no means a comprehensive collection of such records, but it gives a good cross-section of the activities of the firm and Charles’ work.

The papers also contain Mr. Hummel’s extensive presentation slide collection, which he used for all sorts of things. The man had boxes upon boxes of slides which he used mainly for educational lectures. Holding the dark slides up to a light to see what they contain was a special treat of mine while working through this collection.

There you are; a full, though heavily abridged, tour of the Charles Frederick Hummel Papers. While not ready yet for researchers, the papers will be available to the public soon. Special Collections and Archives will put out an announcement when they are, and then I hope you all enjoy them as much as I have.

Joe Hess,
Special Collections and Archives Intern Summer 2018


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