Edmund V. Gillon, Jr.

Edmund "Buddy" Gillon was born in 1929 and grew up in Southbridge, Massachusetts. He received training in commercial art from the Vesper George School of Art in Boston. After graduation he moved to New York City and found work at an advertising agency as a packaging designer. Later he began working for Dover Publications designing book covers.

Gillon had always been interested in history and architecture. As a teenager he worked as a tour guide at nearby Old Sturbridge Village, an open-air museum of early Massachusetts structures which opened in the early 1940s. By bicycle and other means, Gillon explored New England in search of remnants of early history. These explorations led to the publication of his first book, Early New England Gravestone Rubbings, published by Dover in 1966, featuring black and white reproductions of folk art images from old cemeteries.

Gillon edited and art-directed numerous other architecture and art history books for Dover, gathering vintage illustrations and photographs, sometimes from his own collection. At home in New York, he photographed architecture and street life throughout the city, creating a valuable archive of the city at a time when urban renewal was rapidly erasing its past. Recently Gillon's photographs have become part of the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

A few of the simple structures from Cut & Assemble an Early New England Village (1977)

In 1977 Gillon published the first of Dover's long-running "Cut and Assemble" series of paper model cutouts. Cut & Assemble an Early New England Village featured twelve simple HO-scale models based on real-life historic buildings in various towns of New England. The models are drawn with precise lines and flat shading, a bit simplified from the real-world examples they are based on. Gillon developed his own system of symbols to show how the models were to be assembled, with dots on tabs to be glued and folds implied by solid rather than dotted lines. Later in more complex models he added arrows outside the pieces to help show the fold lines and notes for reverse folds. This system of symbols was continued in the later Dover Cut and Assemble models by artist A.G. Smith.

Detail of the First Bank Building model from Cut & Assemble an Early New England Village (1977)

In a curious connection of influences, this New England Village model directly inspired Alan Rose to create his popular Empire State Building model kit, which was a hit and popularized paper models for a larger audience. In response to the success of Rose's books, in turn Perigee Books asked Gillon to design "The Way Things Work," a series of mechanical models of early technology, which was a slight detour from his mostly architectural creations.

After flirtations with other publishers, Gillon returned to Dover in 1986 with Cut and Assemble a Victorian Seaside Resort, a similar book to his first, with nine protoypical structures based on real examples in Martha's Vinyard and other places in New England. Subsequent titles published by Dover vary between collections of simple structures at open-air museums and more complex studies of individual houses. New England is heavily featured, as well as a few houses in Illinois, California and Louisiana. The Old Irish Village model from 1991 represents the designer's only jaunt across the Atlantic. Perhaps the most popular of Gillon's books is the Robie House from 1987, but its celebrity architecture is not representative of his main interest in models of humbler vernacular structures.

Detail of Plate E from Cut & Assemble Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House (1987)

The Robie House model is quite complex, in contrast to the simpler boxes-with-gable-roofs style architecture of the historic village books. The dots on the tabs in the detail above indicate where to glue each part and arrows indicate folds. Each small nook of the original structure is included, as in this bay window with its multiple front- and reverse-scoring indicated by plain arrows and arrows labeled "RS". No doubt Gillon's Robie House model has frustrated and bedeviled many a beginning model-maker. How many dusty and never-completed Robie House models lie abandoned in the closets of America?

Sadly unfinished model of the Robie House

The house is assembled counter-clockwise, adding all the detailed walls and staircases along the way before the walls are enclosed, rather than by starting with a box-like core and adding smaller details afterwards as many other model houses are designed. Is this a deliberate homage to Wright's conception of architecture made of dynamic intersecting planes rather than as static boxes enclosing rooms? Many of the wall pieces fold into complex shapes connected by abundant use of slots (the heavy lines next to the door above) and tabs (the octagonal cornered tab on the left of the bay window).

The last of Edmund Gillon's Dover Cut & Assemble books was published in 1996. He passed away in October 2008 in New York City.

A complete list of published paper model work by Ed Gillon:

June 1977 Cut & Assemble an Early New England Village, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 048623536X
August 1978 Cut & Assemble a Western Frontier Town, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486237362
October 1979 Pennsylvania Dutch Farm To Cut Out and Assemble, Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN: 0684163411
December 1979 Cut & Assemble Victorian Houses, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486238490
April 1981 The Way Things Work: Build Your Own Guillotine, Perigee Books ISBN: 0399506209
October 1981 The Way Things Work: Build Your Own Windmill, Perigee Books ISBN: 0399505687
November 1981 The Way Things Work: Build Your Own Sawmill, Perigee Books ISBN: 0399505601
July 1982 The Way Things Work: Build Your Own Catapult, Perigee Books ISBN: 0399506365
1982 Cut & Assemble Colonial Houses in Full Color: Five Historic Buildings in H-O Scale, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486277143
1985 Block Island Lighthouses: H-O Scale Cut-and-Assemble Models of North Light and Southeast Light, Block Island Historical Society  
June 1986 An Early New England Seaport: 10 Cut and Assembly Buildings in H-O Scale, Schiffer Publishing Ltd. ISBN: 0887400639
July 1986 Cut & Assemble Shaker Village: Authentic Architectural Models in H-O Scale, Schiffer Publishing Ltd. ISBN: 0887400779
August 1986 Cut and Assemble a Victorian Seaside Resort, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486250970
December 1987 Cut & Assemble Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486253686
June 1989 Cut & Assemble a Southern Plantation, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486260178
November 1989 Cut & Assemble the House of the Seven Gables, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486261506
June 1990 Cut & Assemble Lincoln's Springfield Home, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486262790
October 1990 Cut & Assemble Early American Buildings at Old Bethpage Village Restoration, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486265471
February 1991 Cut & Assemble an Old Irish Village: Six Full-Color Buildings in H-O Scale, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486263371
November 1991 Cut & Assemble the Paul Revere House, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486268993
November 1991 Cut & Assemble the Old Sturbridge Village Meeting House, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486269108
January 1992 Easy-to-Make Lighthouse, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486269434
November 1992 Cut & Assemble a Victorian Cottage, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486273113
March 1993 Cut & Assemble a Nineteenth Century Mill Town - An H-O Scale Model, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 048627473X
October 1993 Cut & Assemble Suburban Houses of the Twenties: Four Buildings in H-O Scale, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486277143
July 1994 Cut & Assemble a Victorian Railroad Station, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486280454
October 1995 Cut & Assemble a Victorian Gothic House, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 048628770X
July 1995 Cut & Assemble a New England Farmhouse, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486285650
October 1996 Cut and Assemble a Victorian "Painted Lady", Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486292762
May 1996 Cut and Assemble a Victorian Shingle-Style House, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0486290824


Edmund V. Gillon Jr. Obituary, Auburn News (Massachusetts), Oct 29, 2008

"Edmund V. Gillon's Vision of 1970s and '80s New York," Jillian Steinhauer, Hyperallergic, Jan 15, 2014