The Black Book— NEWS

Black Book-01

When Leonard Starks first started this firm 100 years ago, he kept a single “black book” that listed all of his projects. The book was recorded by Mr. Starks’ lifelong secretary, Bernice Garobotta. At the time, a typewrite was the only way of filling projects’ information. These projects were subsequently given a name and a number with nothing more. The name would usually correspond to the client or owner. Oddly, the first project is not numbered “1” but is numbered “1756 Paramount Theater”. The black book was maintained, by the subsequent partners, and continued to be used until 1988, when computers and more modern ways of tracking projects were used. Today we have countless electronic software programs and spreadsheets of all kinds that track this information and much, much more.

This 6” x 3” notebook with quarter inch lined paper would later serve as a treasure map of historical projects that our firm has completed over its 100 years. Along with a small number of other items from our archive, it is the main resource for developing our Project History page on our website. The book is one of the most valuable and priceless pieces of history in our firm’s possession.

The book represents the full breadth of project types the firm has completed. It is amazing how much history and how many great projects are listed in the book. Only a small fraction of them have been identified and displayed on our website. One of the most interesting projects that have caught my attention are the projects I still cannot locate. In particular, I was never able to locate or clearly define the #1877 Sun Mount Preventorium, Colfax. The project was a joint design effort by Hemmings and Starks in the mid 1920’s. There are 7 campuses that the project entails but I could never pinpoint with absolute accuracy which ones Hemmings & Starks did. Time seems to uncover more information about the projects just as more information is lost at the same time. Yet the book remains not only a map but a window into the past, with much of it still to be discovered.


Written by: Anthony Arroyo

February 28, 2022

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