Architectural Photographer Joseph W. Molitor 1907-1996

While reading Malvaney’s post regarding the Lyle Cashion Company building, one of the names mentioned in the article rang a bell: “Photos by Joseph W. Moliter.” Even though misspelled “Moliter” in the original article (it was in the original article so its totally not Malvaney’s fault), Molitor is a name that is highly recognizable in mid-century Architectural Photography, on par with the likes of Julius Shulman, Balthazar Korab, and Ezra Stoller.

Joseph W. Molitor c. 1950(?) Courtesy: Avery Library Columbia University

Originally trained as an architect, Molitor’s career as a photographer spanned 50 years with the bulk of his work being from 1946 to 1980.  Based just outside of New York City, his career would focus on the eastern seaboard, but he would photograph buildings professionally in at least 40 states and Canada.  He photographed the work of many of the greatest mid-twentieth century architects.  This list includes I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson, Louis Kahn, Eero Saarinen, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Minoru Yamasaki, Paul Rudolph, and Marcel Breuer.  The Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University has an extensive collection of Molitor’s work.  According to the library’s inventory of work, he would make four trips through Mississippi during his career.  The first trip being in 1952 and the last being in 1969.

The first trip was in March and April of 1952.  Photographing buildings for architects Bill Archer, N. W. Overstreet, James T. Carizano.  That first trip south in the winter of 1952 must have been successful as Molitors’ next trip through Mississippi was a whirlwind of activity in February of 1954. This was his longest time in Mississippi and he photographed buildings for architects William R. Allen, Milton B. Hill, James T. Carizano, Biggs, Weir & Chandler, John Mattingly, M-N-O Associates (a combination of Malvaney, Naef, and Overstreet), Jones & Haas, and N. W. Overstreet.

In October of 1956 Molitor was just in Jackson for 3 days in when he photographed buildings for James T. Carizano, N. W. Overstreet, and Jones & Haas.  This was the trip during which he photographed the Lyle Cashion Company building for Jones & Haas.  It’s interesting that the building was photographed in October of 1956, seven years before the article would run in Mississippi Architect.  Molitor must surely have done work for the magazine’s publisher, New York-based Construction News Inc.

His last trip as documented by the Columbia University collection was in October of 1969 to photograph a building in Jackson for Curtis & Davis of New Orleans.

While he slowed down in the early 1980’s he did not retire completely until 1985.  Has anyone ever heard of any other work done by Joseph Molitor for a Mississippi Architect working out of state?  Who knows, maybe his photographs of buildings in Mississippi got him a commission with a nationally renown architect?  I can’t wait to do more research, dig deeper and share with y’all.



Categories: Architectural Research, Historic Preservation, Modernism, Recent Past

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  1. Molitor’s Mississippi: February 3, 1954 « Preservation in Mississippi
  2. Molitor’s Mississippi: February 11, 1954 « Preservation in Mississippi

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