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Guide to the Melvin Dwork papers, 1933-2012

Collection Overview


Kellen Design Archives

Collection Identifier



Dwork, Melvin

Creator - Photographer

Vitale, Peter


Melvin Dwork papers, 1933-2012


3.2 linear ft: 6 boxes, 29 illustrations


Named one of Architectural Digest’s top 100 designers in 1990 and 2002, Melvin Dwork (1922- ) attended Parsons School of Design in the 1940s, and later served on the Parsons Advisory Committee. The collection (1930s through the 2000s) includes student work, slides, photographs, news clippings, press releases, brochures, showroom catalogs, personal correspondence and awards.

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Melvin Dwork papers, KA.0034, box __, folder __, New School Archives, The New School, New York, New York.

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Biographical note

Melvin Dwork was born in Kansas City, Missouri on February 9, 1922. After graduating from Southeast High School in 1939, he attended the Kansas City Art Institute for two years before moving to New York City, where he enrolled in Interior Architecture and Decoration classes at Parsons School of Design. Dwork served in the U.S. Navy's Hospital Corps beginning in 1943, but he was labeled "undesirable" and dishonorably discharged in 1944 after it was discovered he was involved in a homosexual relationship. Dwork returned to Parsons with the assistance of the school's president, Van Day Truex, and commenced a personal campaign to have his veteran's status changed. In a landmark 2011 decision, the Board for Corrections of Naval Records formally altered his status to "honorable."

In 1946, Dwork was hired as an assistant for designer James Pendleton, his first interior design position in New York. Three years later, he obtained a job as a decorator for Edward Garratt, Inc., a position he held for six months before starting his own business, Melvin Dwork Interiors, in 1950, sharing office space with friend and Parsons alumnus Sheridan Kettering. His first commission as head of his own company was completed in 1951 -- a penthouse apartment in the Hotel Lexington belonging to a former Parsons classmate, Gorda Klein, and her husband, Harold. In 1953, the Herbert Charles Company invited Dwork to design a model apartment for a co-operative across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1025 Fifth Avenue. His designs for the apartment garnered him national visibility, as well as several new clients.

In 1956, Dwork closed his business and started working with Irving M. Altman. Later that same year, Altman and Dwork initiated a partnership that included an antiques store and interior design firm located on East 57th Street. This partnership lasted for three years before Dwork joined Yale R. Burge Associates (later Burge-Donghia, Inc.) in 1960. He remained there until 1970, when he re-launched his own business. Frpm 1979 until 1982, Dwork partnered with James Maguire, a Parsons graduate, to form Dwork-Maguire. In 1993, Dwork was inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame. Corporate clients included Aetna Life Insurance and Shearson Lehman Hutton. Dwork designed interiors for numerous executives and artistic figures. By 2011, he was semi-retired.

While managing his design business, Dwork also served on the Advisory Committee at Parsons School of Design from 1992 to 1995. In 1997, he established the John Butler Foundation to promote the work of his former partner, a choreographer, who died in 1993.

Melvin Dwork died on June 14, 2016 in New York City.


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Scope and Contents of Collection

The collection consists of clippings, correspondence, photographic materials, and student work documenting the education and interior design career of Melvin Dwork.

Personal materials include family correspondence and photographs, in addition to certficates from the U.S. Navy and a set of sketches accompanied by an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem.

Professional work is divided between project-specific documentation and general publicity. Projects encompass commercial and residential interiors in addition to museum and gallery exhibitions and show houses. Commercial projects include the Aetna Life Insurance's executive offices in Hartford, Connecticut and the Shearson Lehman Hutton executive dining room in New York. Residential projects include properties belonging to Gene Moore of Tiffany & Company, Robert Sarnoff and Anna Moffo, film director Milos Forman, and the choreographer John Butler. Also present are materials about Dwork's own Manhattan apartments and offices, as well as vacation homes on Fire Island and Shelter Island. Approximately a hundred stereo slides of commercial and residential projects and a working stereo slide viewer are included in this series.

Most projects featured in the collection are located in Manhattan, Long Island, Florida, and Dwork's birthplace of Kansas City, Missouri. A number of projects are located in the Village of Kings Point, part of Great Neck, Long Island. Files may contain magazine and newspaper clippings about specific projects, negatives, photographs, slides, and transparencies. Some files only contain professionally photographed images of finished projects, many by Jaime Ardiles-Arce and Peter Vitale. The bulk of the projects date from 1970 onwards, following Dwork's departure from Yale R. Burge Associates, although substantial documentation for certain clients, such as Dwork's long relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Cohen, is present. The collection is noteworthy for documenting how Dwork integrated his clients' art collections into commercial and residential spaces, as well as showing how modern works of art have been privately displayed. Pieces by American Abstract Impressionist Joseph Glasco can be seen throughout the files documenting Dwork's own residences.

Publicity includes advertisements for Dwork's firms, clippings featuring profiles and interviews with Dwork, and other materials that do not pertain to a particular identified project. It also includes materials relating to Dwork's induction into the Interior Design Hall of Fame.

Student work consists of drawings, renderings, and sketchbooks created during high school and college courses at the Kansas City Art Institute and Parsons School of Design. It also includes report cards, awards, and correspondence from Van Day Truex, who was president of Parsons from 1942 until 1952. Much of the student design work is undated and unlabeled. Some items feature the penciled notation "KC" indicating they were executed in Kansas City, before Dwork moved to New York to attend Parsons School of Design. Drawings and renderings are executed in ink, pencil, and watercolor, and feature interiors, furniture, and decorative elements.

Following Dwork's death in 2016, the executor of his estate, Alan Salz, identified design records in Dwork's office for transfer to the New School Archives. These primarily consist of furniture design sketches, plans, and photographs. Other materials transferred at this time include two original renderings of interiors by J. Hyde Crawford and photographs of Melvin Dwork with James Maguire, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, and as a young boy. These items decorated the walls of Dwork's office area.


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Organization and Arrangement

Organized in 3 series:

  1. Personal, 1933-1991
  2. Professional work, 1950s-2003
  3. Student work, 1930s-1945

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Kellen Design Archives - September 14, 2010

66 5th Ave./
lobby level
New York, NY, 10011

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Melvin Dwork papers, KA.0034, box __, folder __, New School Archives, The New School, New York, New York.

Revision Description

  January 3, 2013

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Initial donations by Melvin Dwork, 2006. Additional records donated in 2012, 2013. The New School Archives received a final accretion from the executor of Melvin Dwork's estate following Dwork's death in June 2016.

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Keywords for Searching Related Subjects


  • Catalogs.
  • Clippings (information artifacts).
  • Photographs.
  • Slides (photographs).
  • Student projects.


  • Interior designers.

Personal Name(s)

  • Ardiles-Arce, Jaime
  • Georges, Alexandre
  • Maguire, James


  • Interior decoration firms -- New York (State) -- New York -- 20th century.
  • Interior decoration -- Study and teaching -- New York (State) -- New York -- 20th century.
  • Interior decorators -- United States -- 20th century.

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Other Finding Aids note

For selected item-level description and images from the Melvin Dwork papers, see The New School Archives Digital Collections at http://digitalarchives.library.newschool.edu/index.php/Detail/collections/KA0034.

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Collection Inventory

Series I. Personal 1933-2000 

Box Folder
General, 1960s, 2000, undated 
1 1
Correspondence, 1933-1944, 1991 
1 2
Military certificates, 1943-1944 
1 3
Photographs, 1940s-1950s, 1991 

Slides from 1991 consist of photographs taken at friend Dan Keiner's house in France.

1 4
Poem and sketches, undated 
1 5

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Series II. Professional work 1946 

Box Folder

Projects 1951-2010 

Unless otherwise noted, projects are situated in Manhattan. Several commercial and residential projects in the late 1970s were designed with James Maguire when the two designers formed the partnership, Dwork-Maguire. These include the Jacomo cosmetics retail space, the Michael Kahn apartment in the Dakota building and a Robert Sarnoff-Anna Moffo apartment.

Client names and project location have been supplied by Melvin Dwork, in some cases taken directly from Post-It notes adhered into publicity books, or communicated directly to the processing archivist.


Box Folder
General, circa 1992 

Includes transparencies of a bar stool and an FAO Schwartz package, as well as transparencies of interior illustrations by Robert Martin for unidentified Yale-Burge projects.

1 6
Commercial 1951-1992 

Included here are photographs of two offices occupied by Melvin Dwork early in his career. His first office, located at 57th Street and Lexington Avenue, was shared with a former Parsons classmate and designer, Sheridan "Bud" Kettering. This was in approximately 1951 or 1952. The two designers only rented the space for a half year before moving to a space in the former Peter Stuyvesant carriage house. A later office was located on 51st Street.

Photographic documentation of the Loeb and Riker offices and the Herbert Charles Company's Grand Concourse apartment house lobby also exist in stereo slide format.


Aetna Life & Casualty Financial Division (Hartford, CT), 1985-1986, 1992   Clippings, correspondence, photographs (prints, slides, transparencies)
1 7-9
Cohen, Arthur: Office, circa 1972   Photographs (slides, transparencies)
1 10
Dwork, Melvin: Office (57th Street and Lexington Avenue), 1951 or 1952   Photograph (print)
1 11
Dwork, Melvin: Office (Beekman Place), 1970   Clippings, photographs (prints, transparencies)
1 12
Dwork, Melvin: Office (Navajo rug), undated   Photographs (slides)
1 12
Herbert Charles Company: Apartment house lobby (Grand Concourse, The Bronx), circa 1955   Clipping, photographs (prints)

Clipping indicates that a painting depicted in the apartment house lobby was executed by Dan Arje, whose papers are also held by the Kellen Design Archives.

1 13
Herbert Charles Company: Executive offices (55th Street and Madison Avenue), 1950s   Clippings, photographs (prints)
1 14-15
Jacomo, mid-1970s   Photographs (slides, transparencies)

Designed in partnership with James Maguire.

1 16
Loeb private office (57th Street and Lexington Avenue), mid-1950s   Photographs (prints)
1 17
Riker real estate office, 1950s   Photographs (prints)
1 17
Ritz Tower, 1950s 

Consists of two reversed stats of renderings by Robert Martin of Yale-Burge. According to Dwork, these renderings were made for a design proposal submitted to the Ritz Tower at 57th Street and Park Avenue. Ultimately, the job was awarded to another designer, but Dwork believed these two to be superior.

1 17
Schwadron, Jack: Executive office (51st Street and Fifth Avenue), circa 1970   Clippings, photographs (prints, transparencies)

Schwadron was an executive for Best & Company. The site of this office would later become the Olympic Towers, constructed in 1973. Dwork had clients in the new building.

1 18
Shearson Lehman Hutton, Inc. executive dining rooms, 1989-1990   Clippings, floor plan, photographs (prints, slides, transparencies)
1 19
Exhibitions 1956-1990 
General, [dates to be determined] 

Flooring institute

1 20
k_9 12
American Rayon Institute, 1956   Clipping
Cotton Council, 1950s   Photograph (print)
Fiberglass/Corning, 1959-1960   Clipping, photograph (print with caption)
Best Dressed Tables, 1963 
1 20
Brunschwig & Fils, 1982   Correspondence, photographs (prints, transparencies)

This exhibition may have traveled to Parsons School of Design [need to verify].

1 21
High Museum: "Art in Decoration" (Atlanta, GA), 1978   Clippings, correspondence, photographs (transparencies)
1 22
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: "Starry Night" (Kansas City, MO), 1989   Clippings, correspondence, photographs (prints), publicity materials
1 23-24
Royal Copenhagen/Georg Jensen table settings: "Setting the Scene", 1990   Clippings, correspondence, photographs (print), publicity materials
2 1
Tiffany & Company: unidentified, circa 1979 

Dwork partnered with Tiffany & Company on designer projects during four different years.

2 2
Tiffany & Company: Gene Moore's Windows of Edward Acevedo's Miniature Rooms, 1979   Clippings, correspondence, photographs (prints), publicity materials

Includes documentation on a miniature penthouse designed by Dwork for Mikhail Baryshnikov.

2 2
Tiffany & Company: Designer Table Settings, 1980   Correspondence, photographs (prints, transparencies)
2 2
Venetian Blind Institute (with Irving Altman), 1958-1959   Clippings, publicity materials
2 3
k_9 12


Box Folder
Custom-made furniture transparencies 
A Furniture Collection Design by Melvin Dwork [1 OSx folder] 

According to label on portfolio, these constitute original pencil drawings by Chuck Frew for tables, sofas and beds designed by Dwork.

Design drawings by Dwork and C. Langwith, 1985 [3 OSxxx folders] 
Plans, 1972-193, 1978 

Plans in map case consist of a television and Betamax unit for client Arthur Cohen (1978) and an etagere (1972) and breakfast area table and island counter (1973) for the Horowitz family.

Map Case C 5 4
Residential 1951-2010 

Photographic documentation of Belloch, Bergson, Klein, and Dwork's own residences also exists in stereo slide format.

Unidentified penthouse apartment, 1955 Jul   Clipping from Interior Design, photographs (prints)
2 4
Unidentified photographs, 1980s-1990s 
2 5
Asnes, 1960s   Clipping, photographs (print, slides, transparencies)
2 6
Backer (59th Street and 7th Avenue), 1960s   Photographs (prints)
2 6
Bakst (Great Neck, NY), 1960   Clipping, photographs (prints, transparency)
2 6
Belloch (Schwab House apartment and Harrison, NY house), 1955, early 1960s   Clipping, photographs (prints, transparencies)

The Schwab House, depicted in the 1955 color prints, was constructed by the Herbert Charles Company, one of Dwork's earliest clients.

2 7
Bergson (Scarsdale, NY and Hampshire House), 1960s   Photographs (prints, slides, transparencies)
2 6
Block, 1960s   Clipping, photograph (transparency)
2 6, 8
k_9 11, 13
Boslow (Hewlett Harbor, NY), 1971   Clippings, photograph (print)
2 8
Boyer (Stonington, CT), 1980s   Photographs (slides)
2 8
Brawer (Fort Lee, NJ and Florida), circa 1962   Clipping, photographs (prints)
2 9-10
k_9 11-12
Brown, M. Richard (Kansas City, MO and CA), circa 1991 [check dates]   Clipping, photographs (slides)

According to Melvin Dwork, M. Richard Brown moved to a town outside of Palm Springs, CA in 1974 and then moved to New Mexico in 1978.

2 11
Brown, Robert (Kansas City, MO), 1980-1982   Correspondence, photographs (transparencies)
2 12
Butler, John (East 55th Street), 1977, undated   Clippings, photographs (slides, transparencies)

Includes slides of John Butler in his home.

2 13
Butler, Marshall (King's Point, NY house, Long Island beach house and 78th Street apartment), 1985-1986, 1991   Clippings, photographs (prints, slides, transparencies)
2 14-15
Cohen, Arthur (Kings Point, NY house and Olympic Tower apartment), 1962, 1978   Clippings, photographs (prints, slides, transparencies))

Dwork began designing for Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Cohen in 1962 while he was a designer at Yale-Burge. To date, Dwork considers the Cohen residence at King's Point his largest residential project, spanning over five decades. According to Dwork, the black and white prints by Peter Fink were made approximately six months after the color photographs of the Cohens' Olympic Tower apartment. Dwork also designed a pool house for these clients. The Olympic Tower was built in 1973, and Dwork was involved with design from the beginning.

2 16-18
k_9 11, 13
k_OSx-4 17
Cohen, David (Montreal), early 1980s   Photographs (prints, transparencies)
2 19-20
Cohen, I. (68th Street), 1993   Clipping, photographs (slides)
3 1
Dwork 1968-2002 
East 56th Street, 1974-1976   Clipping, photographs (prints, slides, transparencies)
3 2
Fire Island Pines Treehouse, 1968-1988   Clippings, photographs (negatives, prints, transparencies)

Architect Harry Bates (Bates Architects, Sag Harbor, New York) built this weekend house for Dwork in 1967. He was the first and only occupant when these photographs were taken.

3 3-4
k_9 12
Shelter Island, 1993-2002   Clippings, photographs (slides)

In the late 1980s, Dwork sold his Fire Island weekend house and purchased a small one-room cottage on Shelter Island, which he later expanded.

3 5
k_9 11
Soho, 1990   Clipping, photographs (slides)
3 6
Table setting, 1964 
k_9 11
Tribeca, 2003-2010   Clippings (New York Spaces and Architectural Digest magazines), photographs (prints))
3 7
West 77th Street, circa 1986-1990   Clipping, photographs (prints, slides, transparencies)
3 8
Feinman (Westchester, NY), 1993   Clipping, photographs (slides)
3 1
Forman, 1984   Clipping
3 1
Horowitz (Rosyln, NY), 1969-1972   Clippings, photographs (prints, transparencies)
3 9
k_9 11-12
Joseph (61st Street and Lexington Avenue), 1963   Clipping, photographs (prints)

According to Dwork, this was a bachelor apartment.

3 9
k_9 12
Kahn (Dakota Apartments), 1979-1980   Clippings, photographs (prints, slides)
3 10
k_9 12
Klein (Hotel Lexington penthouse), 1951   Photographs (prints)

Dwork notes that this project was his first commission and the start of his own company. Located in the Hotel Lexington, the penthouse apartment of Harold and Gorda Klein represents Dwork's inaugural solo design project.

3 11
Moore, 1986   Clipping, photographs (transparencies)
3 12
Peck, 1960s   Photographs (print, transparency)
3 12
Regen (East 58th Street), 1967   Clipping, photographs (slide, transparency)

Was on 1st Avenue near Sutton Place.

3 12
k_9 13
Sammes (Waverly Place, NY), 1980s   Photographs (prints)
3 13
Sarnoff and Moffo, 1978-1979, 1991   Clippings, photographs (slides), publication

The first apartment Dwork designed for Sarnoff and Moffo was at 2 East 65th Street. Dwork also designed a penthouse for the same clients at 59th Street and First Avenue. Folder includes a book titled, RCA Art Collection.

3 14
k_9 12
Schwadron: "Bachelor" apartment (East 75th Street), circa 1976   Clipping, photographs (slides, transparencies)
3 15
Schwadron: House (Kings Point, NY), circa 1970   Clippings, photographs (prints), real estate brochure
3 16
k_9 12
Serchuck (Kings Point, NY), 1990   Clipping, photographs (slides)
3 17
Sontag (Boca Raton, FL), 1988   Clipping, photographs (prints, slides)
3 18
Stark (New York, NY), 1982   Clipping, photographs (slides)
4 1
Strann (Easthampton, NY house and New York apartment), 1990, 1994   Clipping, photographs (negatives, slides, transparencies)

Dwork designed two apartments in New York City for Strann, one on East 9th Street and one on 65th and Madison. Only the latter is represented in this folder.

4 2
Strauss: House (Kansas City, MO), 1970-1975, 1988   Clippings, photographs (negatives, prints, slides)
4 3
k_9 11-12
Strauss (Kansas City, MO), 1990-1994   Clipping, photographs (prints)
4 4
Show houses 1955-1996 

Photographic documentation of Grosfeld House and the Herbert Charles Company model apartment also exists in stereo slide format.

Bedford (Decorator's Show House at Orchard Hill), 1974   Photographs (negatives, prints, slides, transparencies), publication
4 5
k_9 9
Grosfeld House furniture collection, 1958   Clippings, photographs (print), publication, tear sheet
4 6
Herbert Charles Company model apartments (1025 Fifth Avenue), 1955   Clippings, photograph (print), press releases, tear sheet
4 7
Kips Bay, 1982-1983, 1996   Clipping, photographs (transparencies), publications
4 8
New York Coliseum Home Show, 1957-1958   Clippings, photographs (prints), press release

Designed under Altman-Dwork. This exhibit garnered attention from House and Garden and  Life magazines.

4 9
Oyster Bay "Woolworth" mansion, 1977   Photographs (prints, slides)
4 10
Stonington, 1989   Clipping, photographs (transparencies)
4 11
Stereo slides and viewer, probably 1950s-1960s 

Case includes approximately 100 color slides and a slide viewer. Projects documented in stereo slide format include: model apartment at 1025 Fifth Avenue and lobby of 800 Grand Concourse (both Herbert Charles Company), Belloch, Bergson, Dwork, Grosfeld House, Kimmel, Klein, Knowlton, Lampert, Lexington House, Loeb office, Mermelstein, and Riker office.

6 1-3

Publicity 1946-2012 

Box Folder
Biography, 1982 Sep, after 1993 
4 12
Brochures for properties featuring Melvin Dwork's work, circa 1976, 2003 
4 13
Clippings: Magazines, 1946-2012 

Includes clippings about James Pendleton as well as clients for whom Dwork designed while working for Pendleton. Also includes the following client projects:

Blittman, Howard (NYC)

Bloom (NYC), 2001

Ferkauf, Eugene (Jamaica Estates, NY), circa 1967

Kaufman, Robert (King's Point, NY), 1967

Regan, 1960s

Thorn, David, 1967

Beneroff (Purchase, NY), 1980; Bernstein; Kahn (Kansas City, MO), 1979-1980; Neissen (York, PA), 1970s; Unger.


4 14-16
k_9 10-11
Clippings: Newspapers, 1955-1988 

Unger, Sy (East End Avenue), 1960s

Kaufman, Robert (King's Point, NY), 1966


4 17
k_9 12-13
Interior Design Magazine Hall of Fame, 1993-1994 
4 18
Print advertisements, circa 1956-1992 
4 19-20
Print advertisements: Photograph for an Altman-Dwork advertisement, between 1956 and 1960 
k_9 14
Print advertisements: Program for Abigail Adams Smith Museum & Gardens' Designers' Fare, 1997 
5 1
Smithsonian lecture, 1991 

Includes Spring 1991 course catalog and introduction by Thomas Mallon.

5 2

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Series III. Student work 1930s-1945 

Box Folder
General: Artwork, 1930s-1940s 
5 3
k_9 15
k_OSx-1 5
k_OSxx-1 8-9
Advertising design project, 1930s or 1940s 
k_OSx-1 6
High school artwork and awards, circa 1939 
5 4
High school and college report cards and commencement program, 1934-1942 
5 5
Ink drawings, 1930s or 1940s 
5 6
Interior renderings, 1930s or 1940s 
5 7
k_OSx-1 7
Kansas City Art Institute: History of Furniture notebook, 1941 
5 8
Parsons School of Design: Correspondence from Van Day Truex, 1944-1945 
5 9
Paseo High School: Art Term 1 sketchbook, circa 1939 
5 10
Paseo High School: Drafting Department sketchbook, 1937-1938 
5 11
Sketchbook, 1930s or 1940s 
5 12

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Series IV. Accretion 

The materials in this series were added to the collection following Melvin Dwork's death in 2016. The photographs of Dwork and interior design renderings by J. Hyde Crawford had been framed and hanging on the walls of Dwork's home office. Many of the furniture design drawings in this series document projects in Series II.

Box Folder

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Collection Guide Last Updated: 02/28/2017

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