Graham Erskine Records

Identifier: 83-08

Scope and Contents

The Graham Erskine Records are mainly specifications and contracts for commercial and institutional building projects mainly in Reno and Carson City. Included are many governmental buildings for the cities of Reno and Sparks, remodeling of the state Legislative Building in Carson City, numerous Nevada Bell offices, hospitals, elementary and high schools, and University of Nevada, Reno buildings. A small number of personal papers are also present, including a lecture series delivered at the University of Nevada, Reno in 1965.

The collection is divided into two series. Series 1 contains projects files and covers the years from 1948-1985. Most specifications are bound and include job numbers if known. Some records are on microfilm but the film is not on reels.

Personal papers, located in Series 2, consist of various job listings and applications, a lecture series on the city of Reno’s architecture, as well as three plaques. These plaques reflect some of the honors Graham Erskine collected over the course of his professional life.


  • 1948-1989


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. According to Nevada Revised Statutes, Chapter 239C—“Homeland Security,” some documents in this collection are considered “restricted documents” which are defined as “…any blueprint or plan of a school, place of worship, airport other than an international airport, gaming establishment, governmental building or facility which is likely to be targeted for a terrorist attack” (NRS 239C.090). Due to these restrictions, only qualifying individuals, as outlined in NRS 239C.220, are permitted to access these documents. Please contact the department for further information.

Biographical Note

Graham Erskine, a native of New York, was born on March 5, 1911, to Pauline Ives and John Erskine. He received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University. In 1938, he was awarded his doctor of architecture degree from the University of Rome, Italy.

In 1946, Erskine moved to Reno to obtain a divorce and found temporary work with the architect, Lehman “Monk” Ferris. His first assignment was to produce preliminary designs for Reno High School; those designs were selected by the School Board which led to Ferris offer Erskine a permanent position with the firm in Reno. In 1957, Erskine became Ferris’ partner, founding the firm Ferris and Erskine (which changed its name to Ferris, Erskine, and Calef in the early 1960s). From 1970-1983 Erskine was partner with Esley D. Harden in the firm Erskine and Harden Architects, and, from 1984 until his death, sole owner of Graham Erskine Architect.

Graham Erskine was the author of Nevada’s licensing act for architects which was enacted in 1947 and strengthened every year until it became in Erskine’s mind, “one of the best registration laws among the fifty states” (Adkins 1990). He also founded the northern Nevada chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and taught architectural design at the University of Nevada, Reno, from 1954-1956.

Erskine's practice consisted primarily of commercial and institutional buildings in and around Reno and Carson City, rather than residences. As examples of his diversity, he designed Reno and Hug High Schools, Harold's Club, the Nevada Legislative Building, additions to St. Mary's Hospital, the College of Education building at the University of Nevada, Reno, the Nevada Employment Security Division administration building in Carson City, the administration building for Bell Telephone Company of Nevada in Reno, many First Interstate and First National Banks in Reno, and the Senior Citizens’ Center in Reno.

A memorial endowed scholarship fund was established in honor of Graham Erskine by the Northern Nevada Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The scholarship fund supports undergraduate students in the Architecture Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Erskine died in Reno, Nevada on April 23, 1991.

[Source: Richard D. Adkins, “Oral History Interview with Graham Erskine.” Nevada Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, 1990, p.4. Manuscript available in the UNR Special Collections Department.]


9.1 Linear Feet (20 boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



Graham Erskine (1911-1991) was an architect who came to Reno, Nevada in 1947 and was active in designing commercial and institutional buildings in Reno and Carson City during the middle twentieth century. His papers consist primarily with specifications and contracts for his architectural work as well as a small number of personal papers, and photographs. Materials from 1948-1989.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Specifications and Contracts; 2) Personal Papers

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Graham Erskine in 1983.

Separated Materials

Photographs have been transferred to the Special Collections Department photo archive as collection number UNRS-P1993-19.



Guide to the Graham Erskine Records
Susan Searcy
November 1994
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)