4.6. THE A.I.A. TRIES TO BACK OUT

The W.A.A. and A.I.A. committees finally met in New York for three days in January 1889, to hammer out the constitution and by-laws for the new organization.  Root and Adler, now abandoned by Burnham, succeeded in getting the A.I.A. to concede the two major points of contention that had led to the formation of the W.A.A. five years earlier: a hierarchical structure of local, state and national associations, and only one rank of membership, that of Fellow.  The significant articles of the new constitution and by-laws were:

Constitution:

Art. III. Sec. 1.  The Institute shall consist of fellows, of corresponding and of honorary members.

Art. IV.  The officers of the Institute shall be as follows: A president, a first and a second vice-president [which the A.I.A. did not have, but the W.A.A. did], a treasurer, a secretary, and a board of directors [the W.A.A. term, instead of the A.I.A.’s Board of Trustees]…

By-laws:

Art. X.  The Institute shall encourage the formation and continuance of state and local associations, which shall be known within the Institute as chapters.

Art. XII.  The associates and fellows of the American Institute of Architects and the fellows of the Western Association of Architects shall become fellows of the reorganized American Institute of Architects,…

The term “reorganized American Institute of Architects,” that was used in Articles VIII, XII, XIII, and XIV of the By-laws, revealed the reality of the situation, namely that the two groups were forming a new organization that would use the name and charter of the old A.I.A., and not that the W.A.A. was rejoining or being absorbed into the old A.I.A.  Article XII, Section 2 further clarified the issue: “All property, belonging to the American Institute of Architects and to the Western Association of Architects shall upon consolidation become the property of the reorganized body.”  Article XIV stated when such consolidation would occur: “This constitution and these by-laws and the consolidation of the two organizations into the reorganized American Institute of Architects therein provided for shall not take effect until the meeting of the two organizations in joint convention.” However, Sullivan’s concern over the issue of a previously agreed-to plan to formally disband both organizations was not addressed and would come back to haunt the W.A.A. at the Consolidation Convention, for nowhere in these documents was it detailed just how the two corporate entities, each with its own charter, were to be legally merged into the new organization that would still operate under the existing charter of the old A.I.A.

The final two steps to consummate the union required the approval of the new documents through mail ballot by two-thirds of the membership of each organization, and then, finally, by the joint convention.  The ballots were counted on May 20, the A.I.A. getting just the necessary two-thirds majority, while the W.A.A. overwhelmingly approved the new constitution.  Agreeing on a time, and more importantly, a place for the convention, however, would be quite another matter altogether.  While the consolidation committees at the joint meeting in January had recommended that the consolidation convention be held in Cincinnati because of its central geographical location, no formal action was taken by the A.I.A. as it dragged its feet for the next seven months.  While the W.A.A. directors attempted to get the A.I.A. trustees to respond to the issue during this period, the A.I.A.’s secretary, A.J. Bloor, attempted to sidestep the consolidation committees’ recommendation of Cincinnati by holding out for Washington, D.C.  Out of sheer frustration, Adler took the issue to the membership with an open letter that McLean published in the August issue of Inland Architect, that chided the A.I.A.’s trustees for their reluctance to get on with the business of forming the new organization:

“By virtue of the resolutions adopted by the American Institute of Architects and Western Association of Architects, the selection of a convention city rests jointly with the board of trustees of the one and the board of directors of the other. These bodies have as yet had no joint meeting; let us hope that, when they meet, their eyes will be opened to the fact that we are at peace…  I take it for granted, however, that it is impossible to induce our ultra-conservative friends of the East to consent to a convention held at the West; and should this opinion be verified by the action of the joint meeting of the two boards, I trust our western representatives will yield readily to the selection of New York as a convention city.  For our convention and its utterances must be something more than a repetition of a certain one held once upon a time in Tooley street. [A contemporary reference to a British saying that meant a small group thinking they represent and control the consensus of a larger group of people than they in reality do.]  Nor should it be a repetition of the snug and cozy so-called conventions of the institute as held at Nashville, Albany, Newport, etc.  It must be a mass meeting of architects from every part of our country-and we’ll get that at New York almost as easily as at Chicago or at Cincinnati.”

Adler’s pressure succeeding in persuading the A.I.A. trustees to meet with their W.A.A. counterparts in New York on September 19 to plan the joint convention.  Cincinnati was reaffirmed as the location, with the date of the W.A.A.’s annual convention, November 20, chosen as the time for the event.  A joint circular was therefore issued to the memberships of both organizations, inviting them to the joint convention of the “reorganized Institute,”  with the following order of proceedings:

First, Separate action by the Western Association of Architects.

Second, Separate action by the American Institute of Architects.

Third, Joint and continuous action by the consolidated organization.

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

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