Cincinnati’s iconic Union Terminal is a time capsule of Art Deco design. Its unmistakable silhouette, its vibrant tile mosaics, the gently flowing font of its lettering, even its furniture was designed in the prominent Art Deco style of the era. And, thanks to a recent donation, more of that Art Deco furniture are coming home, along with the personal papers, drawings and business records of its designer, French-American architect and interior designer Edgard Sforzina.
Denise Allen recently donated the drawings, photographs and professional records of her grandfather, Sforzina, along with pieces of furniture designed by the artist beyond Union Terminal, including a music cabinet and his daughter Lulu’s childhood bedroom set. Union Terminal was among his most prominent projects, along with the furniture and interior design for George Gershwin’s Art Deco Riverside Drive apartment.
Though Sforzina was not publicly credited with the interior design of Union Terminal, articles and trade magazines recognized his work. His influence is most prominently seen today in the historic Union Terminal President’s Office suite, adorned with metal-trimmed wood furniture across the secretary’s office, president’s office and board room. Comparisons to Sforzina’s drawings and other design work strongly suggests he influenced the design of the Rookwood Tea Room (now ice cream parlor) walls and ceiling fixtures, as well as the terrazzo floor patterns throughout the Rotunda and concourse, directing passengers with curved lines to encourage directional flow.
Sforzina was born in Paris in 1881 and studied four years there at the L’École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs. After working as a designer for 22 years in France – minus a two-year stint in the French Army during World War I – Sforzina moved to America and eventually started his own design company on Madison Avenue in New York City. He was hired by Fellheimer & Wagner, Architects in 1929 as the interior designer for a new project – Cincinnati’s Union Terminal. Following the completion of his work on Union Terminal in 1933, Sforzina worked primarily to modernize department and specialty stores while also collaborating periodically with Fellheimer & Wagner. He fell ill and died unexpectedly in 1941.
Sforzina’s papers will be housed in the Manuscripts Collection while his furniture pieces will be part of the History Objects and Fine Art Collection. Together they will be valuable resources for researchers studying the Art Deco movement and may be part of future exhibits.
For more information, visit cincymuseum.org