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Title: American Architecture; Studies
Author: Schuyler, Montgomery
Language: English
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                          MONTGOMERY SCHUYLER

                          WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                               NEW YORK
                     HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS

                Copyright, 1892, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

                        _All rights reserved._


                               K. L. S.



THE POINT OF VIEW                                                      1

CONCERNING QUEEN ANNE                                                  6

THE VANDERBILT HOUSES                                                 52

THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE AS A MONUMENT                                     68

AN AMERICAN CATHEDRAL                                                 86


     I. CHICAGO                                                      112

    II. ST. PAUL AND MINNEAPOLIS                                     168




    RECESSED BALCONY, W. H. VANDERBILT’S HOUSE                        13

    DOORWAYS ON MADISON AVENUE                                        17

    ORIEL OF HOUSE IN FIFTY-FIFTH STREET                              19


    HOUSE IN FIFTY-SIXTH STREET                                       22

    HOUSES IN MADISON AVENUE                                          25



    FROM GOVERNOR TILDEN’S HOUSE                                      37

    ORIEL IN W. K. VANDERBILT’S HOUSE                                 39


    DOORWAY OF GUERNSEY BUILDING, BROADWAY                            44

    UNITED BANK BUILDING                                              46

    POST BUILDING                                                     47

    GATEWAY OF MILLS BUILDING                                         49


    HOUSE OF W. K. VANDERBILT                                         53

    HOUSE OF CORNELIUS VANDERBILT                                     59

    HOUSES OF W. H. VANDERBILT                                        63

    POST AND RAILING, W. H. VANDERBILT’S HOUSE                        67


    THE BRIDGE FROM THE BROOKLYN SIDE                                 69

    BRIDGE AT MINNEAPOLIS                                             75

    SECTION OF BROOKLYN BRIDGE TOWER                                  77

    SECTION OF ANCHORAGE. (SIDE VIEW.)                                81


    PROPOSED CATHEDRAL AT ALBANY                                      87

    WEST ELEVATION                                                    91

    EAST ELEVATION                                                    95

    GROUND-PLAN                                                       99

    TRANSVERSE SECTION THROUGH CHOIR                                 105


    CLOCK TOWER, DEARBORN STATION                                    112

    FROM THE CITY AND COUNTY BUILDING                                118

    THE ART INSTITUTE                                                121

    ENTRANCE TO THE ART INSTITUTE                                    123

    BALCONY OF AUDITORIUM                                            125

    TOWER OF AUDITORIUM                                              127

    THE FIELD BUILDING                                               131

    ARCADE FROM THE STUDEBAKER BUILDING                              135

    THE OWINGS BUILDING                                              139

    CORNER OF INSURANCE EXCHANGE                                     141

    ENTRANCE TO THE PHŒNIX BUILDING                                  145

    ORIEL, PHŒNIX BUILDING                                           147

    JANUA RICHARDSONIENSIS                                           152

    ORIEL OF DWELLING                                                154

    DWELLING IN LAKE SHORE DRIVE                                     156

    DWELLING IN PRAIRIE AVENUE                                       158

    FRONT IN DEARBORN AVENUE                                         163

    A HOUSE OF BOWLDERS                                              165

    A BYZANTINE CORBEL                                               166


    PUBLIC LIBRARY, MINNEAPOLIS                                      176

    ENTRANCE TO PUBLIC LIBRARY, MINNEAPOLIS                          177

    THE PEOPLE’S CHURCH, ST. PAUL                                    178

    UNITARIAN CHURCH, MINNEAPOLIS                                    180

    PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, ST. PAUL                                    182

    WEST HOTEL, MINNEAPOLIS                                          183

    LUMBER EXCHANGE, MINNEAPOLIS                                     187

    ENTRANCE TO BANK OF COMMERCE, MINNEAPOLIS                        188

    CORNER OF BANK OF COMMERCE, MINNEAPOLIS                          190

    THE “GLOBE” BUILDING, MINNEAPOLIS                                191

    ENTRANCE TO “PIONEER PRESS” BUILDING, ST. PAUL                   192

    CORNER OF “PIONEER PRESS” BUILDING                               193

    BANK OF MINNESOTA, ST. PAUL                                      195





MINNEAPOLIS                                                          201

    DWELLING IN MINNEAPOLIS                                          202

    DWELLING IN ST. PAUL                                             203

    PORTE-COCHÈRE, ST. PAUL                                          204

    PORCH IN ST. PAUL                                                205

    FROM A DWELLING IN ST. PAUL                                      206

    DWELLINGS IN ST. PAUL                                            207

    PORCH IN ST. PAUL                                                209

[Illustration]_THE POINT OF VIEW_

The connection between the papers here collected, in addition to their
common subject-matter, is their common point of view. Of this I do not
know that I can make a clearer or briefer statement than I made in a
speech delivered, in response to the toast of “Architecture,” at the
fifth annual banquet of the National Association of Builders, given
February 12, 1891, at the Lenox Lyceum, in New York. Accordingly I
reprint here the report of my remarks:

     “Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the National Association of
     Builders,--You will not expect from me, in responding to this
     toast, any exhibition of that facetious spirit with which some of
     my predecessors have entertained you. It has, indeed, been said
     that American humor has never found full expression except in
     architecture. It has also been said by an honored friend of mine,
     himself an architect, whom I hoped to see here to-night, that
     American architecture was the art of covering one thing with
     another thing to imitate a third thing, which, if genuine, would
     not be desirable. But I hope you will agree with me that, though
     the expression is comic, the fact, so far as it is a fact, is
     serious even to sadness. It is a great pleasure and a great
     privilege for me to speak to this sentiment, and it is especially a
     privilege for me to speak upon it to an association of builders,
     because it seems to me that the real, radical defect of modern
     architecture in general, if not of American architecture in
     particular, is the estrangement between architecture and
     building--between the poetry and the prose, so to speak, of the art
     of building, which can never be disjoined without injury to both.
     If you look into any dictionary or into any cyclopædia under
     ‘architecture,’ you will find that it is the art of building; but I
     don’t think that you would arrive at that definition from an
     inspection of the streets of any modern city. I think, on the
     contrary, that if you were to scrape down to the face of the main
     wall of the buildings of these streets, you would find that you had
     simply removed all the architecture, and that you had left the
     buildings as good as ever; that is to say, the buildings in which
     the definition I have quoted is illustrated are in the minority,
     and the buildings of which I have just spoken are in the majority;
     and the more architectural pretensions the building has, the more
     apt it is to illustrate this defect of which I have spoken.

     “It is, I believe, historically true, in the history of the world,
     with one conspicuous exception, that down to the Italian
     Renaissance, some four centuries ago, the architect was himself a
     builder. The exception is the classical period in Rome. The Grecian
     builders, as all of you know, had taken the simplest possible
     construction, that of the post and lintel, two uprights carrying a
     crossbeam, and they had developed that into a refined and beautiful
     thing. The Romans admired that, and they wished to reproduce it in
     their own buildings, but the construction of their own buildings
     was an arched construction; it was a wall pierced with arches.
     They did not develop that construction into what it might have
     been. They simply pierced their wall with arches and overlaid it
     with an envelope of the artistic expression of another
     construction, which they coarsened in the process. According to
     some accounts, they hired Greek decorators to overlay it with this
     architecture which had nothing to do with it, and there was the
     first illustration in all history of this difference between the
     art of architecture and the art of building. In every other country
     in the world the architect had been the builder. I think that is
     true down to the Italian Renaissance; and then building was really
     a lost art. There hadn’t been anything really built in the
     fifteenth century; and they began to employ general artists,
     painters and sculptors and goldsmiths, to design their buildings,
     and these men had no models before them except this Grecian-Roman
     architecture of which I speak.[A] These men reproduced that in
     their designs, and left the builder to construct it the best way he
     could, and that, I am told, is a process which sometimes prevails
     in the present time. But before that everything had been a simple
     development of the construction and the material of the building,
     and since that men have thought they perceived that architecture
     was one thing and building was another, and they have gone on to
     design buildings without any sort of reference to the materials of
     which they were composed, or the manner in which they were put
     together. That is the origin of the exclusively modern practice of
     working in architectural styles, as it is called. Why, before the
     fifteenth century, I don’t suppose any man who began to build a
     building ever thought in what style he should compose it any more
     than I thought before I got up here in what language I should
     address you; he simply built in the language to which he was
     accustomed and which he knew. You will find this perfect truth is
     the great charm of Grecian architecture, and ten or fifteen
     centuries later it was the great charm of Gothic architecture; that
     is to say, that it was founded upon fact, that it was the truth,
     that it was the thing the man was doing that he was concerned
     about, even in those pieces of architecture which seem to us the
     most exuberant, the most fantastic, like the front of Rouen, or
     like the cathedral of which Longfellow speaks, as you all remember:

    “‘How strange the sculptures that adorn these towers!
       This crowd of statues, in whose folded sleeves
       Birds build their nests; while, canopied with leaves,
     Parvis and portal bloom like trellised bowers,
     And the vast minster seems a cross of flowers.’

     Even in those things there was that logical, law-abiding, sensible,
     practical adherence to the facts of construction, to the art of
     building, which we have so long lost, and which I hope we are
     getting back again.

     “There are examples, in the work of our modern architecture, of
     architects who design with this same truth, with this same reality,
     with this same sincerity that animated the old builders before the
     coming-in of this artificial and irrelevant system of design, and
     one of them is the building in which I am informed a great many of
     you spent last evening; I mean the Casino. I don’t know any more
     admirable illustration of real, genuine, modern architecture than
     that building; and among all its merits I don’t know any merit
     greater than the fidelity with which the design follows the facts
     of structure in the features, in the material, in everything. It is
     a building in baked clay; there isn’t a feature in it in brick or
     in terra-cotta which could be translated into any other material
     without loss. It is a beautiful, adequate, modern performance. I
     say this without any reservation, because unfortunately the genius
     who, in great part, designed that building has gone from us; and
     there are many things by living architects, whom I cannot mention
     because they are living, which exhibit these same merits. There is
     one other example that I would like to mention here, because many
     of you know his work; I mean the late John Wellborn Root, of
     Chicago. I shouldn’t mention him either if he hadn’t,
     unfortunately, gone from us. Mr. Root’s buildings exhibit the same
     true sincerity--the knowledge of the material with which he had to
     do, the fulfilment of the purpose which he had to perform. I don’t
     know any greater loss that could have happened to the architecture
     of this country and to the architecture of the future than that man
     dying before his prime. These are stimulating and fruitful examples
     to the architects of the present time to bring their art more into
     alliance, more into union, more into identity, with the art of
     building; and it is by these means, gentlemen, and by these means
     only, that we can ever gain a living, a progressive, a real
     architecture--the architecture of the future.”


The new departure is an apt name for what some of its conductors
describe as the new “school” in architecture and decoration. It has
still, after nearly ten years of almost complete sway among the young
architects of England and of the United States, all the signs of a
departure--we might say of a hurried departure--and gives no hint of an
arrival, or even of a direction. It is, in fact, a general “breaking-up”
in building, as the dispersion of Babel was in speech, and we can only
and somewhat desperately hope that the utterances of every man upon whom
a dialect has suddenly fallen may at least be intelligible to himself.
From a “movement” so exclusively centrifugal that it assumes rather the
character of an explosion than of an evolution, not much achievement can
be looked for. In fact, the “movement” has not, thus far, either in
England or in the United States, produced a monument which anybody but
its author would venture to pronounce very good. Not to go back to the
times when Gothic architecture was vernacular in England, it has
produced nothing which can be put in competition with the works either
of the English classical revival, or with the works of the English
Gothic revival--with St. Paul’s and the Radcliffe Library, on the one
hand, or with Westminster Palace and the Manchester Town-hall, on the
other. Before the “movement” began, the architects of Europe and America
were divided into two camps. They professed themselves either
Renaissance or Gothic architects. The mediævalists acknowledged a
subjection to certain principles of design. The classicists accepted
certain forms and formulæ as efficacious and final. They were both,
therefore, under some restraint. But the new movement seems to mean that
aspiring genius shall not be fettered by mechanical laws or academic
rules, by reason or by revelation, but that every architect shall build
what is right in his own eyes, even if analysis finds it absurd and
Vitruvius condemns it as incorrect.

“Queen Anne” is a comprehensive name which has been made to cover a
multitude of incongruities, including, indeed, the bulk of recent work
which otherwise defies classification, and there is a convenient
vagueness about the term which fits it for that use. But it is rather
noteworthy that the effect of what is most specifically known as Queen
Anne is to restrain the exuberances of design. Whoever recalls
Viollet-le-Duc’s pregnant saying, that “only primitive sources supply
the energy for a long career,” would scarcely select the reign of Queen
Anne out of all English history for a point of departure in the history
of any one of the plastic arts. The bloated Renaissance of Wren’s
successors, such as is shown in Queen’s College and in Aldrich’s church
architecture in Oxford, was its distinctive attainment in architecture.
The minute and ingenious woodcarving of Grinling Gibbons was its
distinctive attainment in decoration. Nothing could show more forcibly
the degeneracy of art at the period which of late years has been
represented as an æsthetic renascence than the acceptance of these
wood-carvings, which in execution and all technical qualities are as
complete, and in design and all imaginative qualities are as trivial and
commonplace, as contemporary Italian sculpture, as works of art
comparable to the graceful inventions of Jean Goujon, and clearly
preferable to the sometimes rude but always purposeful decoration of
mediæval churches.

The revivalists of Queen Anne have not confined their attentions to the
reign of that sovereign. They have searched the Jacobean and the
Georgian periods as well, and have sucked the dregs of the whole English
Renaissance. Unhappily, nowhere in Europe was the Renaissance so
unproductive as in the British Islands. It was so unproductive, indeed,
that Continental historians of architecture have scarcely taken the
trouble to look it up or to refer to it at all. Not merely since the
beginning of the Gothic revival, but since the beginning of the Greek
revival that was stimulated by the publication of Stuart’s work on
Athens, in which for the first time uncorrupted Greek types could be
studied, what contemporary architects have ransacked as a treasury was
considered a mere lumber-room, and fell not so much into disesteem as
into oblivion. During two generations nobody any more thought of
studying the works of English architecture from Hawksmoor to
“Capability” Brown, than anybody thought of studying the poetry of
Blackmore and Hayley. The attempt within the past ten years to raise to
the rank of inspirations the relics of this decadence, which for years
had been regarded by everybody as rather ugly and ridiculous, is one of
the strangest episodes in the strange history of modern architecture.

Mr. Norman Shaw has been the chief evangelist of this strange revival.
Mr. Shaw is a very clever designer, with a special felicity in piquant
and picturesque groupings, which he had shown in Gothic work, especially
in country-houses, before the caprice seized him of uniting free
composition with classic detail, and the attempt at this union is what
is most distinctively known as Queen Anne. Whoever considers the
elements of this combination would hardly hope that the result could be
a chemical union, or more than a mechanical mixture. Classic detail is
the outcome and accompaniment of the simplest construction possible,
which was employed by the Greek architects in the simplest combination
possible, and precisely because it was so simple and so primitive they
were enabled to reduce it to an “order,” and to carry it to a pitch of
purity, lucidity, and refinement to which the most enthusiastic
mediævalist will scarcely maintain that more complicated constructions
have ever attained. But this very perfection, which was only attainable
when life was simple and the world was young, this necessary relation
between the construction and the detail of Greek Doric, makes it forever
impossible that Greek detail should be successfully “adapted” to modern
buildings. A late writer on the theory of architecture has said of Greek
architecture: “As partisans of its historical glory, we should desire
that it remain forever in its historical shrine.” We laugh at the men of
two generations ago who covered Europe and America with private and
public buildings in reproduction as exact as they could contrive of
Grecian temples. But, after all, if the Greek temple be the ultimate,
consummate flower, not only of all actual but of all possible
architectural art, were not these men wiser in their generation than
their successors who have taken the Greek temple to pieces and tried to
construct modern buildings out of its fragments? There is even
something touching and admirable, in this view, in the readiness and
completeness of the sacrifice to beauty which the reproducers of the
Greek temples made of all their merely material comforts and
conveniences, something that we miss in the adapters. The Romans can
scarcely be said to have attempted this adaptation. They built Roman
buildings for purposes and by methods which had never entered the minds
of Greek architects to conceive, and they built them with no more
thought of art than enters the mind of a modern railway engineer in
designing a truss bridge. After they were designed according to their
requirements it was that the Roman engineer overlaid them with an
irrelevant trellis of Greek architecture, debasing and corrupting the
Greek architecture in the process. And it is this hybrid architecture,
which analysis would at once have dissolved into its component parts,
that was accepted without analysis as the starting-point of “the new
departure” of the fifteenth century, and the ultimate English debasement
of which in the eighteenth is taken by the contemporary architects of
England and America as the starting-point of the new departure in the
nineteenth. It cannot be said that Mr. Norman Shaw and his followers
have succeeded in the task of combining free composition with classic
detail, which the Romans forbore to attempt, and in which the French
architects of the sixteenth century failed. Every attempt to fit antique
detail to a building faithfully designed to meet modern requirements
shows that it cannot be so fitted without being transformed, and--since
the sole excuse for the attempt is that it cannot be bettered--without
being debased. What the Queen Anne men have done is virtually what the
Romans did. They have shirked the impossible problem they unnecessarily
imposed upon themselves, and have either overlaid or inlaid their
buildings with their architecture. Of course the result of this process
can no more be accepted as an architectural organism than if they had
hung water-proof paper on the outer walls instead of decorating them
with carving, or moulding, or what not, built in the walls, but no more
architecturally related to them than the paper-hanging. But this is
precisely what has been done in every “free classic” building, with more
or less skill and dissimulation of the process. It is seldom done with
the winning candor with which it has been done in the house of Mr. W. H.
Vanderbilt in New York, which is officially described as a specimen of
the “Greek Renaissance,” possibly because its architectural details are
all Roman. In that edifice two bands of exquisite carving--exquisite in
execution, that is to say--which girdle the building, simply occur on
the wall at levels where they are quite meaningless in relation to the
building; where, consequently, they would not help the expression of the
building, if the building could be said to have any expression beyond
that of settled gloom; and where the irrelevant carving, not being
framed by itself, would contradict the expression of a structure which
was architecturally, and not alone mechanically, a building. How much
this carving would gain by being framed away, so that if it did not
help, it should at least not injure, the architecture to which it is
attached, may be seen by comparing these Vanderbilt houses with a
brown-stone house, in formal Renaissance, in upper Fifth Avenue, near
Sixty-ninth Street, where the carving is neither better cut nor more
abundant than that of the Vanderbilt houses, but where its disposition
at least appears to be premeditated, and not casual.

It would scarcely be worth while to point out the faults of designs, if
they can even be described as such, so generally disesteemed as those
of the two houses built for Mr. W. H. Vanderbilt, “those boxes of brown
stone with architecture appliqué.” But it is worth pointing out that the
radical error, which in these appears so crudely and naïvely as to be
patent to the wayfaring man who has never thought about architecture, is
latent in all the works of the Queen Anne movement--to which these
houses do not specifically belong--and must vitiate every attempt to
adjust classic detail to free and modern composition. Classic detail
cannot grow out of modern structures faithfully designed for modern
purposes as it grows out of antique structure, or as Gothic ornament
grows out of Gothic structure, like an efflorescence. It must be
“adjusted” as visibly an after-thought, and to say this is to say that
in all Queen Anne buildings the architecture is appliqué.

However, to disparage Queen Anne is not to explain its acceptance. It
looks like a mere masquerade of nineteenth-century men in
eighteenth-century clothes, and with many of its practitioners it is no
more. In England it seems to have originated as a caprice by which a
clever and dashing but by no means epoch-making architect misled the
younger and weaker of his brethren. In this country, which had never
been much more architecturally than an English colony, there seemed
special reasons for following the new fashion of being old-fashioned.
American architects, and American builders before there were any
American architects, had been exhorted, as they have lately been
exhorted again, to do something distinctively American. The colonial
building, which was done by trained English mechanics, was of the same
character as the contemporary domestic work of England, and showed in
its ornament the same unreflecting acceptance of a set of forms and
formulæ bequeathed as a tradition of the trade and


Herter Brothers, Architects.]

part of the outfit of a journeyman. Although Jefferson complained that
in his time and in rural Virginia it was impossible to “find a workman
who could draw an order,” it is evident that there was no difficulty of
that kind in other parts of the country. These trained workmen, it is to
be noted, were all carpenters, and there is probably no work in stone
which shows an equal precision and facility in workmanship. Such
buildings as the New York City Hall and the Albany Academy were clearly
the work of architects of culture according to the standard of the time.
The only architectural qualities of the works of the mechanics were the
moderation and respectability of detail, which they had learned as part
of their trade, and it is quite absurd to ascribe to these buildings any
value as works of art. It is particularly absurd to assign the
degradation of house-building which undoubtedly followed, and which made
the typical American house, after the Greek temple had spent its force,
the most vulgar habitation ever built by man, to the substitution of
book-learned architects for handicraftsmen. People talk as if the middle
part of Fifth Avenue, the brown-stone high-stoop house with its bloated
detail, which displaced the prim precision of the older work, had been
done by educated architects. In fact, there was hardly a single building
put up in New York after the design of an educated architect between the
works we have mentioned and the erection of Trinity Church by Mr. Upjohn
in 1845, which not only marked a great advance over anything that had
been done before, but began the Gothic revival to which we directly or
indirectly owe whatever of merit has been done since, including so much
of Queen Anne as, not being Queen Anne, is good. But the bulk of the
building which gave its architectural character to New York and to the
country continued to be done by mechanics, who continued, so far as
they could, to supply the demand of the market, who gradually lost the
training their predecessors had enjoyed, and who lost also all sense of
the necessity for that training in the new demand that their work should
be, above all things, “American.” As the slang of to-day puts it, they
were exhorted, as the architects are still sometimes exhorted, to “talk
United States.” They might have answered that there was no such
language, and that a few bits of slang did not constitute a poetical
vocabulary. The feeling which urges an artist to be patriotic by being
different from other people not long ago led Mr. Walt Whitman to resent
the absence of an “autochthonous” poetry, and has lately led a newspaper
writer to call the attention of a New England building committee to the
log cabin as the most suitable motive for a town-hall they are going to

The Northern reader notes with mild amusement the occasional resentment
in the Southern press of the absence of a “distinctive Southern
literature,” and perceives the plaint to be provincial; but he is not so
quick to perceive that his own clamor for an American this or that is
equally provincial. The hard lot of the American painter has often been
bewailed, in that, when he has tried to rid himself of his provincialism
by learning to paint, and has learned to paint more or less as other men
do who have learned to paint, he is straightway berated for not being
provincial. If American literature or painting or architecture be good,
the Americanism of it may safely be left to take care of itself. But a
man cannot be expected to innovate to much purpose upon usages with
which he is unfamiliar; and the effects which Mr. Whitman’s admonition
to his fellow-poets to “fix their verses to the gauge of the
round-globe” would probably have upon an aspiring young poet, conscious


G. E. Harney, and McKim, Mead, & White, Architects.]

of genius, but weak in his parts of speech, are the effects which the
demand for aboriginality actually had upon the race of builders, whether
they were content with that title, or without any sufficient provocation
described themselves as architects. They undoubtedly attained
difference, and their works did not remind the travelled observer of any
of the masterpieces of Europe. It is quite conceivable and not at all
discreditable that the wild work of Broadway and of Fifth Avenue should
have led architects of sensibility to cast many longing, lingering looks
behind at the decorum of the Bowling Green and Washington Square, and to
sigh for a return of the times when the common street architecture of
New York was sober and respectable, even if it was conventional and

This justifiable preference for Bowling Green and Washington Square and
St. John’s Park over Broadway and Madison Square and Murray Hill, for an
architecture confessedly colonial over an architecture aggressively
provincial, is no doubt the explanation why so many of our younger
architects made haste to fall in behind the Queen Anne standard. What we
really have a right to blame them for is for not so far analyzing their
own emotions as to discover that the qualities they admired in the older
work, or admired by comparison with the newer, were not dependent upon
the actual details in which they found them. To be “content to dwell in
decencies forever” was not considered the mark of a lofty character even
by a poet of the time of Queen Anne. If virtue were, indeed, “too
painful an endeavor,” and if there were no choice except between the
state of dwelling in decencies and the state of dwelling in indecencies
forever, we could but admit that they had chosen the better part. But
they were not, in fact, confined to a choice between these alternatives.
The Gothic revival in England, after twenty years, had succeeded in
establishing something much more like a real vernacular architecture
than had been known in England before since the building of the
cathedrals--an architecture which, although starting from formulas and
traditions, had attained to principles, and was true, earnest, and

C. C. Haight, Architect.]

alive. It was quite inevitable that it should be crude in proportion as
it was alive, according to the frankness with which it recognized that
we live in times unknown to the ancients, and endeavored to respond with
changes in its organism to changes wrought in its environment by new
requirements and new knowledge, with forms necessarily rude, inchoate,
embryonic, as beseems the formative period of letters and of arts as of
life, in contrast with the ultimate refinement which is the mark of a
completed development. But that these crudities would be refined was
also inevitable; that they were in process of refinement was apparent.
Another generation of artists as earnest as those who began the Gothic
revival might have brought this rough and swelling bud to a splendid
blossom. But in an evil hour, and under a strange spell, the young
architects of the United States followed the young architects of England
in preferring the refinements of a fixed and developed architecture to
the rudenesses of a living and growing architecture. Because they did
not see their way at once to “supply every deficiency and symmetrize
every disproportion,” they did not leave this for their successors, but
abandoned the attempt at an expression of the things they were doing for
the elegant expression in antique architecture of meanings that have
grown meaningless to modern men.

They have had their way in New York for seven or eight years, during a
period unprecedented in building activity, and out of all comparison in
the profusion with which money has been lavished upon building and
decoration. What have they gained for architectural art? They have,
indeed, subjected many miles of sandstone to the refining influence of
egg-and-dart mouldings (the designer of a house in Fifth Avenue has so
much faith in the efficacy of that ornament that he has belted his
street front with three rows of it, one above the other), and triglyphs
(faithfully to have contemplated which softens the manners, nor suffers
to be rude) have been brought within the reach of the humblest in the
decoration of tenement-houses. They have built so much and so
expensively that they have produced in minds--like some of their
own--which do not reflect much upon these things the impression that if
luxury and art be not synonymous, they are at least inseparably
connected, with the latter in the capacity of handmaiden. But will any
educated architect assert that the characteristic monuments of the last
five or six years--greatly superior in quantity, and superior by a great
multiple in cost--are equal in architectural value to the work of the
decade preceding? Suppose that Mr. Norman Shaw had not bedevilled the
weaker of his brethren, and that this unprecedented building activity
and this unparalleled spending of money that have fallen under the
control of architects had been directed along the lines laid down by the
Gothic revivalists, and had extended, consolidated, and refined the work
begun and carried on here by such architects as Mr. Upjohn, Mr. Eidlitz,
Mr. Withers, Mr. Cady, Mr. Potter, and Mr. Wight, will any educated
architect maintain that the result of such a process would not have been
nobler monuments than any to which we can point as characteristic
products of the later movement?


R. H. Robertson, Architect.]

We might ask Mr. Harney, for example, who has been one of the noteworthy
contributors to the works of both periods, whether in falling to “grace”
he has not fallen from something more important. One can readily
understand that Mr. Harney, in contemplating the effect of his completed
work in the respectable warehouse at the corner of Bond Street and
Broadway, should have been disappointed in the effect of much of the
detail he had designed for his building, should have found some of it
rude, some of it disproportionate


Bruce Price, Architect.]

to its function and position, and none of it exquisite in modelling. It
is also intelligible that he may have been dissatisfied with some parts
even of his still more successful house at Fifth Avenue and
Fifty-seventh Street, which, always a grateful object, has lately
acquired an air of additional distinction from the eager architectural
competition which has set in alongside of it, and the results of which
give an air of unquestionable animation--the animation of excited
controversy--to Fifty-seventh Street from Fifth to Sixth Avenue. This
dissatisfaction, if the architect underwent it, was a wholesome
discontent which we should have expected to see allayed by more
thoroughly studied detail in Mr. Harney’s succeeding work. But it seems
to have been a morbid sensitiveness to the defects of his work which led
Mr. Harney to abandon altogether, and in despair, the practice of
architectural design, and, when he had another commercial building to
do, to erect in Wall Street an entirely ineffectual structure, of which
the architecture that one carries away with him consists in a
crow-stepped gable, an irrelevant entablature appliqué which crosses the
building half-way up, and windows covered with flat arches, the
key-stones of which are “shored up” by the mullions; and, when he had
another city house to do, to depute the design of it to some unknown
carpenter who died before he was born, and to reproduce accurately in
Madison Avenue a Vandam or Charlton Street house built out of due time,
with a familiar “old New York” doorway, in the jambs of which quoins
intercept sheaves of mouldings. This confession that a carpenter of 1825
was a better-trained designer than an educated architect of 1880 is very
possibly creditable to the personal modesty of the latter; but Mr.
Harney’s own earlier works sufficiently testify that it does not do him

Mr. Cady, one of the most important and distinguished of the
contributors to the Gothic revival in New York, has also of late years
become a convert to the new movement, and seems from our point of view
to have thrown himself away with even less sufficient cause than that
which impelled Mr. Harney to his rash act. For we have distinctly
admitted that Mr. Harney had reason to be dissatisfied with his Gothic
detail, while we cannot make that admission in behalf of Mr. Cady. Mr.
Cady’s newer work is shown in a house of red-brick and brown sandstone,
which he contributed to the architectural competition just noticed. This
edifice shows a desire to live at peace in the midst of very quarrelsome
neighbors. Mr. Cady, indeed, could scarcely design a vulgar and
vociferous work if he tried. At any rate, he has never tried, and does
not in the least need to be put under the bonds of a style in order to
insure his keeping the peace. One wonders what Mr. Cady believes himself
to have gained in abandoning the style of his brilliant Art Building in
Brooklyn for the style of his not very noticeable house in Fifty-seventh

Quietude can, no doubt, be attained in Queen Anne; but it can also be
attained, by architects who are really in quest of it, in other styles
quite as well, which admit a much wider range of expression, while the
student is forced to doubt whether by means of the meagre repertory of
Queen Anne any other quality than quietude can be expressed. Its
successes in domestic architecture are mainly the successes of
unnoticeableness, which is really the character not only of the
dwellings just mentioned, but of a house by Mr. Robertson in Fifth
Avenue, of a house by Mr. Haight in Fifty-fifth Street, and of a house,
which has the great advantage of double the usual frontage, by Messrs.
McKim, Mead, & White, in Madison Avenue, adjoining Mr. Harney’s
reproduction; for the tall red-brick house in Thirty-fourth Street by
these latter architects, which looks less like a work of architectural
art than a magnified piece of furniture “with the Chippendale feeling,”
can scarcely be called successful, while the house they designed for Mr.
Astor in Fifth Avenue, a simply and quietly treated street front in
brick and sandstone, can certainly not be called Queen Anne, in spite of
the three rows of egg-and-dart moulding, already remarked, which crown
its rock-faced basement. The highest praise to which these typical Queen
Anne houses can aspire, in spite of some thoroughly studied detail, such
as the treatment of the oriel in that one designed by Mr. Haight, is
that they look like eligible mansions for highly respectable families
content with dwelling in the decencies; and this is also the highest
praise that can be bestowed upon their prototypes of the Georgian era.
We can repeat the admission that it is far better they should look like
that than like the habitations of vulgarly ostentatious persons,
without thereby admitting that the prim and prosaic expression of
respectability never so eminent can be scored as a triumph in domestic
architecture. The domestic architecture of Venice, or Rouen, or
Nuremberg has something more to say to us than that. And a touch of such
spirit and picturesqueness as Mr. Bruce Price has given us in a brick
house in Fifty-sixth Street (p. 22), or as Mr. Hunt has given us not
only in the elaborately ornate house of Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt, but in
some dwellings in upper Madison Avenue, is more to be desired than a
mere omission to outrage decorum.


R. M. Hunt, Architect.]

Such as the successes of Queen Anne in domestic architecture are, they
are its only successes, although it is only fair to say that much
interesting work has been done in it, if not strictly of it, in suburban
houses and sea-side cottages, which do not come within our present
scope. A “feature” suffices for the architecture of a narrow street
front, and a feature may be compiled out of the repertory of Queen Anne
by a designer who thinks that result a reward of his pains. The oriel,
for example, in effect comprises the architecture of the house just
mentioned as designed by Mr. Haight. But even in a house which is only a
feature the classic detail is not always adjusted without a visible
incongruity to the constructions, out of which classic detail cannot
spontaneously grow as it grew out of classic constructions. The doorway,
for example, of the house designed by Mr. Robertson, which is virtually
repeated in the window over it, is a moulded round arch standing upon
pilasters of its own width, and thus apparently making of the jamb and
arch a complete and detached construction. That is to say, the pilasters
seem to carry the arch. The architect of the New York Post-office has
done the same thing in a much ruder way. But the elegance of Mr.
Robertson’s detail cannot rid even the spectator who does not stop to
analyze the source of the feeling of an uneasy sensation that what is
thus elegantly expressed is not the fact. An arch does, in fact,
exercise a lateral as well as a vertical pressure; and if the arch and
its vertical supports formed a detached construction, as they here
appear to do, the arch would be unstable. Insensible as the classical
Romans were to considerations of artistic expression, they were not so
insensible as this. They recognized the existence of a lateral pressure
by marking the impost of the arches with a continuous moulding, thus
allying the arch with its lateral abutment as well as with its vertical
support; and here the architect of the Post-office, wiser, or, if
thought be not predicable of his architecture, more fortunate than Mr.
Robertson, has been content to imitate them.

The buildings in which these solecisms appear, we repeat, are the
successes of Queen Anne. For structures more complicated most of its
practitioners have shrunk from invoking it. Messrs. Peabody and Stearns,
indeed, took the ground, when they designed the Union League Club House,
that a “feature” supplied a sufficient idea for that edifice; and that a
portico of four large Roman Corinthian columns in front, subdued to an
equal number of brick pilasters on the side, would meet the
architectural requirements of the case, if they let their consciousness
play freely over the remaining surfaces without reference to this
central thought. But the result has scarcely justified this belief, and
the spectator finds that the building, in spite of the unifying
influence of a large and simple roof, in addition to the feature in
question, does not make a total impression, but is scattering and
confused; while its parts, taken singly, are feeble in spite of their
extravagant scale. This, indeed, is not even a sacrifice to the
conventions, but a specimen of what can be achieved in a style of gentle
dulness gone rampant. If tame Queen Anne is a somewhat ineffectual
thing, what shall be said of wild Queen Anne? There is nothing wild
about two other public buildings in which architects have ventured upon
Queen Anne--one a hospital, in Park Avenue, by Mr. Haight, and one an
“institution” of some other kind, in Lexington Avenue, by Mr. Fernbach.
Both of these, indeed, are tame, and whatever the differences of detail
may be, both have much the same expression, so that one carries away
from either, as from one of the commonplace faces which we are always
confounding, an impression which may be that of the other--in either
case of a centre with projecting wings separately roofed, and the whole
wall overlaid with a shallow trellis of brick-work, too shallow to be
serviceable as buttresses, and serviceable only as the badge of the
alleged “style.” It seems hard upon an owner that he should be required
to pay money for rectangular applications of brick which can scarcely
strengthen his building appreciably, and can hardly be held to beautify
it, by way merely of labelling it, “This is Queen Anne.” And this
resemblance, be it noted, which is not so much a specific resemblance as
the expression of an amiable characterlessness common to both, is not
all to be imputed to the architects, except upon the ground of their
choice of a style. The works of both of them have character, and not at
all the same character, when they are working in a style which is a real
form-language in which meanings can be expressed, and not a mere little
phrase-book containing elegant extracts wherewith to garnish aimless
discourse. Mr. Fernbach,[C] as is testified by such works as the
“Staats-Zeitung” building and the German Savings-Bank in New York, and
the building of the Mutual Insurance Company in Philadelphia, is one of
the most accomplished practitioners in this country of academic
Renaissance. Mr. Haight, as we shall presently see more at large, is a
highly accomplished designer in Gothic. It is not their fault if Queen
Anne, when spread over an extensive façade, spreads thin.

Mr. Robertson is the only architect who has had the temerity to attempt
a Queen Anne church, and the success of his essay is not such as to
invite imitation. The essay itself is a little church in Madison Avenue,
with not much of Queen Anne in the main walls, which are of a rugged
rusticity, with the needful openings left square-headed and unmodelled;
but these walls are crowned with a clere-story faced with yellow
shingles, under a broad gable, and its openings united under a thin ogee
canopy of painted pine. There is here and there a little classic detail,
which, if it pleases the designer, certainly hurts nobody; but it is the
interior that is dedicated to Queen Anne. Here one may see what the
German critics call the “playful use” of forms devised for one
construction and one material in another material and with no visible
construction; and the result of this pleasantry is what a German
professor, celebrated in recent fiction, describes as “an important
joke.” In the main features of this interior, however, the treatment
passes a joke, for the mahogany nave arches, with their little
protruding key-woods, and their supporting posts incased
in boxed pedestals, are actually doing the work of carrying the
clere-story--unless, indeed, there is a concealed system of
iron-work--although their function is so far sacrificed to their form
that they are doing the work in the most ungainly and ineffective
fashion. Above this, as the repertory of Queen Anne contains no forms
that can be even tortured into the construction of an open ceiling, the
architect has omitted design altogether, and left his ceiling a mere
loft, sheathed underneath with yellow pine. Elsewhere, as in the
fittings of the chancel, the use of forms is entirely playful, so that
the interior of the church seems to be a collection of pleasantries. In
a dining-room, for example, we should pronounce them good jokes, but
really in a church a discussion of their merit as jokes seems to be
ruled out by the previous question as to the admissibility in the sacred
edifice of levity even of the highest order. It is perhaps fortunate for
the appliers of Queen Anne to ecclesiastical uses, and indeed for the
designers of “cozy” churches in general, that there is no official
censorship of church architecture as there is of church music, and that
no rubric makes it the duty of every minister, with such assistance as
he can obtain from persons skilled in architecture, to suppress all
light and unseemly architecture by which vain and ungodly persons
profane the service of the sanctuary. We may ask Mr. Robertson, in the
spirit in which we have been asking other architects, what he has gained
by abandoning such an effort as he made some ten years before in the
Phillips Memorial Church to develop a composition out of his subject in
favor of these scraps of quotations, and of quotations neither fresh nor
very pregnant! He might answer that the church in which we admire at
least the effort was a somewhat untamed and obstreperous fabric, and
that the present edifice is much more chastened and subdued. It is tame,
no doubt, and Mr. Robertson’s talent, when he works in Queen Anne, is

    To what it works in, like the dyer’s hand;”

but, upon the whole, it is difficult to see how the architect, comparing
the earlier with the later work, could fail to feel that the attempt to
express something, however crude and so far unsuccessful the attempt
might have been, was a more manly and artistic employment than this
elegant trifling, in which the highest attainable success has an element
of puerility. In truth, it is gratifying to remark that the argument by
which we have supposed the architect to have solaced himself for the
result of his ecclesiastical labors in Queen Anne does not seem to have
convinced himself, and that a later work still, a sandstone church
farther down the same avenue, is a much more serious piece of design,
being an attempt to develop the architecture out of the structure
itself. It would be especially unjust to misapply to Mr. Robertson’s
Queen Anne church the saying that the style is the man, for the church
last mentioned shows that Mr. Robertson is a man of talents, when he
gives his talents a chance.

Thus far we have been speaking of the respectable and conservative
element in the new departure, of the Extreme Right, so to speak, and
generally of works which were seriously designed, and so are entitled to
be seriously considered. It is not so pleasant to turn to the Extreme
Left, a frantic and vociferous mob, who welcome the “new departure” as
the disestablishment of all standards, whether of authority or of
reason, and as an emancipation from all restraints, even those of public
decency, and who avail themselves of the remission of them from academic
restraints to those imposed by their own sense of propriety by promptly
showing that they haven’t any. The tame decorum of one phase of the new
departure is supplemented by the violent indecorum of another. Sometimes
the same designers march now with one wing and now with the other of the
divergent host. Messrs. McKim, Mead, & White, for example, have consoled
themselves for what now almost seems to have been the enforced
sedateness of the houses we have noticed, by a mad orgy of bad
architecture in East Fifty-fifth Street. The scene of this excess almost
immediately adjoins the dignified and respectable dwelling designed by
Mr. Haight, and almost frights that edifice from its propriety, and the
designers seem to have been led into it by the baleful example of older
persons who ought to have known better, and who committed the maddest
freaks in the artistic quarter of the London suburb of Chelsea while in
a condition of total irresponsibility alike to any convictions and to
any conventions of architectural art. The present indecorum has been
committed in the design of two dwellings which consist of a ferociously
rugged basement and parapeted cornice in granite, with two or three
irregularly disposed tin dormers emerging above, and with a flat and
shallow screen of brick wall inserted between them, as between the upper
and the nether millstone, and having its thinness emphasized at all the
angles by shallow incisions forming a series of brick weather-strips, as
it were, a square reticulation of which traverses the plane surfaces
also. It is quite conceivable that rugged simplicity may have suggested
itself to a designer as a desirable character for a city house, but it
seems scarcely possible that squareness and flatness and thinness should
have appeared desirable, and quite impossible that beauty should have
seemed to dwell in a building the top and bottom of which were
characterized by rugged simplicity, and the middle by squareness and
flatness and thinness. The details, whether in brick or granite or tin,
are as preposterous as the conception of a building with its parts thus
swearing at each other. The round-headed doorway is surmounted with the
imitation in granite of a metal flap secured to the rest of the block
from which it is cut by similitudes in granite of iron bolt-heads. In
the basement respectable blocks of granite are subjected to the
indignity of being decorated with streaming ribbons in low-relief. In
truth, the only detail of the work which one can contemplate even with
tolerance is a grill in the basement doorway which is the simplest
possible trellis of iron rods.

Indecorous and incoherent as this edifice unquestionably is, it has yet
the air of a gentleman taking his pleasure, albeit in a perverse and
vicious fashion, when compared, for example, with the dwellings in red


and brown stone at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Sixty-seventh Street.
In these there is no composition whatever, and the effect is so
scattering, and the whole is so fortuitous an aggregation of unrelated
parts, that it is impossible to describe the houses or to remember them
when one’s back is turned. Their fragments only recur to memory, as the
blurred images of a hideous dream. So one recalls the Batavian grace of
the bulbous gables; the oriel-windows, so set as to seem in imminent
danger of toppling out; the egg-and-dart moulding, niggled up and down
jambs of brick-work connected by flat openings with protruding
key-stones; the whiplashes cut in sandstone blocks; the decorative
detail fished from the slums of the Rococo. These are not subjects for
architectural criticism; they call for the intervention of an
architectural police. They are cases of disorderly conduct done in brick
and brown stone. Hazardous as the superlative degree generally is, it is
not much of a hazard to say that they are the most thoroughly
discreditable buildings ever erected in New York, and it is to be noted
that they are thoroughly characteristic of the period. Such a nightmare
might, perhaps, have entered the brain of some speculative builder
during the wildest vulgarity of the brown-stone period, but he would not
have had the effrontery to build it, being deterred by the consideration
that nobody would face public ridicule by consenting to live in it. Some
speculator is, however, convinced that there is now a market for a house
which stands upon the street corner, and screeches for people to come
and look at it, when there is nothing in it worth looking at; and we
must take shame to ourselves from the reflection that the speculator may
be right in counting upon this extreme vulgarization of the public
taste, and that, at any rate, there is no police to prevent the emission
of the screech upon the public highway.

This is the result of a demand for “something new” upon a mind incapable
of producing anything good. The screech is the utterance of the Sweet
Singer of Michigan, exhorted not to mind about grammar, but “to fix her
verses to the gauge of the round globe.” It is an extreme instance, to
be sure; but there are others only less discreditable, and only to be
dealt with in the way of what is called “slashing” criticism, which


C. C. Haight, Architect.]

probably never yet served any more important purpose than to ease the
critic’s mind. It is enough to indicate these things, and to point out
that they are all produced by the strain in the minds of incompetent
designers after originality and aboriginality--a purpose essentially
vulgar, which would vitiate the work even of a competent designer
wherever it could be detected. For although the pursuit of excellence is
sure to result in novelty, the pursuit of novelty is sure not to result
in excellence. The extreme instance we have cited is still an instance
of a tendency to which all the younger generation of architects, of whom
so much was hoped, and of whom, considering their opportunities, so
little of value has come, have more or less yielded--the tendency to
take themselves too seriously and their art not seriously enough, and to
imagine that anything that occurs to them is for that reason good enough
to build, without asking it any questions. Such caricatures of
architecture as these houses would not occur to the mind of an educated
architect; but when all restraints, rational and academic, are removed,
even educated architects, as we have seen, will not always take the
trouble to analyze their conceptions before embodying them in durable
brick and stone. It is from this that it comes that, as we said awhile
ago, the characteristic works of the present period are distinctly
inferior to the characteristic works of the preceding period. It is not
that thoroughly good buildings have not been done within the latter
period, but that they are not characteristic of the period. The
buildings which appear to have been done by architects, and yet fail to
stand the tests either of sense or of style, date themselves infallibly
as having been done since 1876. One must resort to external evidence to
ascertain whether the buildings that are honorable monuments to their
architects were done before or since Mr. Norman Shaw did all this

First among these, one has little hesitation in placing the new
buildings designed by Mr. Haight for Columbia College. Mr. Haight has
not here been in pursuit of novelty, but has been content with
conforming his structure to its function, and modelling the masses thus
arrived at so as to heighten their inherent expression. And although he
has kept within the limits of historical English Gothic in doing this,
the result of the process is an individual building with a


Calvert Vaux, Architect.]

expression of its own, the most successful piece of Gothic design that
has been done in New York since Mr. Withers designed the Jefferson
Market Court-house. In Queen Anne, as we saw, Mr. Haight’s work was not
very distinguishable from the work of a very different architect. With a
vocabulary limited to fifty words, not much can be expressed. But when
he permits himself the use of language, it is seen that Mr. Haight can
express thoughts. In composition and in detail these buildings are
thoroughly studied and thoroughly effective. In the earlier, a street
front of a whole block on Madison Avenue, the designer has resisted the
temptation to diversify his building into unrest, but has built a wall
of three stories in red brick and light sandstone, the broad and quiet
aspect of which is enhanced by the grouping of the openings, and not
disturbed by the chimney-stacks and the oriel and the turret which
animate the composition. The later building, of the same materials, has
been built for the library of the college, and the large hall which
contains this is in effect the building. This is treated with equal
skill, and to the same result of cloistral repose, of harmony and
dignity and grace. These vigorous and refined works show, if the showing
were needed, except by the architects of the new departure, that vigor
does not necessarily involve bowlders, nor refinement microscopic
mouldings, and that these short-cuts to architectural effect are rather
sorry and shabby substitutes for faithful and skilful design. That these
works of Mr. Haight’s are grammatically “correct” Gothic is not, to our
mind, either a merit or a defect. But it shows how wide is the range of
expression possible in the architecture of the Middle Ages, and of its
pliability to modern uses, that without a departure from precedent the
needs of an American college in the nineteenth century can be completely
answered in that architecture; for there is no innovation in Mr.
Haight’s work, unless we include the iron roof, which is partly visible
from the floor of the hall. There are one or two “survivals” of forms
which have lost their functions, as the unpierced pinnacled turrets at
the angles of the library building and the crenellated parapet of the
porch in the quadrangle. But, upon the whole, the result upon which the
college and its architect are to be congratulated has been attained by
following the advice of the sculptor who informed his pupil that the art
was not difficult: “You simply take a piece of marble and leave out what
you don’t want.” Mr. Haight has taken what he wanted in Gothic
architecture for the uses of Columbia College, and with the trivial
exceptions we have noted has left out the rest. And what is true of this
work is equally true of an unpretending and picturesque piece of late
Gothic, erected from Mr. Haight’s designs for St. Thomas’s School, in
East Fifty-ninth Street.


R. M. Hunt, Architect.]

Another interesting piece of Gothic work, though this time of distinctly
Victorian Gothic, is the house designed by Mr. Vaux for Governor Tilden.
The interest of this, however, is rather in the detail of form and color
than in general composition, since the building is architecturally only
a street front, and since the slightness of the projections and the lack
of visible and emphasized depth in the wall itself give it the
appearance rather of a screen than of one face of a building, and the
small gables which surmount it too evidently exist for the sole purpose
of animating the sky-line. But the color treatment of this front is
admirable, and recalls the best work of the most successful colorist in
architecture whom we have ever had in New York--Mr. Wrey Mould. It is
characteristic that interesting treatment of color, like every other
properly architectural development, has been stopped short by the new
“movement.” An unusually large variety of colors, and those of the most
positive tints that natural stones supply, has here been employed and
harmonized; and, what is even rarer, they have all been used with
architectural propriety to accentuate the construction and to heighten
its effect. An ingenious and novel use of dark granite, which when
polished is almost black, and which is employed in narrow bands
precisely where it is wanted, deserves particular remark. The decorative
carving attracts attention chiefly by its profusion, and by the
exquisite crispness and delicacy of its execution. In both these
respects the only parallel to it is in the house of Mr. W. K.
Vanderbilt, for, as we have seen, the carving upon the houses of Mr. W.
H. Vanderbilt does not count. That this carving counts so fully is the
result of the skill of the architect in fixing its place and adjusting
its scale so that it everywhere assists the architecture, and is better
in its place than it would be in another place.


George B. Post, Architect.]

These things are equally true of the equally profuse carving in the
house designed by Mr. Hunt for Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt; but this, although
in a monochrome of gray limestone, would have a high architectural
interest without the least decoration by force of design alone. The
decorative detail is scarcely so well adjusted to the building in scale
as that in the house just mentioned, or in the house designed for Mr.
Cornelius Vanderbilt by Mr. Post, being partly lost by its minuteness,
but it has the same merit of being in the right place, and designed for
its place, and is cut with the same perfection. In a more recent work of
Mr. Hunt’s, the Guernsey Building, in lower Broadway--a street front in
distinctly modern Gothic--there is assuredly no error in scale on the
side of minuteness; but the treatment, in mass and in detail, is marked
by great vigor and animation, and the architecture of the building is an
emphatic expression of its structure.

Another commercial building, at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street,
is by the architects of the Union League Club, and seems to have been
designed under the pressure of a recent discovery that that building
would not do. There is no doubt about the discovery; it is only a pity
that it should not have been made from the drawings before they were
translated into masonry. Clear, however, as the architects were on this
point, they were not so clear when they began the United Bank Building
what would do, and the first two stories look like a series of tentative
experiments to find out. They were proving all things, perhaps, with the
intention of holding fast that which was good. The practice of
projecting bowlders, especially in soft sandstone, has already been
mentioned as a somewhat slovenly substitute for the expression of vigor
by modelling. Bowlders are projected from the piers of this basement in
the most ferocious and blood-curdling manner--so ferocious, indeed, that
the architects repented them of their bullying behavior. It is like the
fear that came upon Snug the joiner, of the consequences that would
ensue if ladies took him for the king of beasts: “Another prologue must
tell he is not a lion.” And so the architects seem to have taken the
counsel of Nick Bottom: “Half his face must be seen through the lion’s


R. M. Hunt, Architect.]

and he himself must speak through, saying thus, or to the same
defect--Ladies, or fair ladies, I would wish you, or, I would request
you, or, I would entreat you, not to fear, not to tremble: my life for
yours. If you think I come hither as a lion, it were pity of my life.
No. I am no such thing: I am a man as other men are: and there, indeed,
let him name his name; and tell them plainly he is Snug the
joiner”--that is to say, Messrs. Peabody and Stearns, architects. The
“other prologue,” which is calculated to reassure the most timid, is the
treatment of the first floor, where a disclaimer of any offensive
intention is made in the insertion between the openings of pairs of
banded pilasters, between the capitals of which is inserted the novel
and pleasing ornament of a key-stone. In order to make sure that they
are not strong enough to do any harm, they are not only designed with
much feebleness, but they are projected from the face of the wall they
might otherwise be imagined to strengthen, and set upon brackets.
Between these Renaissance pilasters are Romanesque entrance arches, in
which there is a return to truculence of demeanor; but these are seen to
be not entrances at all, but only innocent windows of bank parlors, and
the real entrances under them, covered with trefoiled gablets in cast
iron, are obviously harmless. It is quite fair to say that up to the top
of the first story there is no design in the building, nothing that
betrays any evidence of a general intention. But having built thus far
in futile search of a motive and of a style, they came upon both, and
built over this aimless and restless collection of inconsistent details
a purposeful, peaceable, and consistent brick building, a series of
powerful piers connected by and sustaining powerful arches, defined by a
light label moulding, and enriched at the springing with a well-designed
belt of foliage. It seems incredible that the authors of this
respectable building should be also the authors of the basement on which
it stands. At the angle is the ingenious device of a griffin
“displayed,” and with one wing folded back against either wall, to carry
the metal socket of the flag-staff. This feature in all its details is
designed with great spirit and picturesqueness. But the architectural
impulse fails in the attic story, which should obviously be here the
richest part of the building, and which is the baldest, being only a
series of rectangular holes, without either modelling or decoration, and
without relation in their grouping to the openings immediately under


Peabody & Stearns, Architects.]

By far the most successful, however, of all the recent commercial
buildings is the Post Building, designed by Mr. Post, and executed,
above the blue-stone basement, in yellow brick and yellow terra-cotta.
The site is an irregular tetragon at the intersection of three streets,
and the court, made necessary by the depth of the plot, instead of being
a well sunk in the middle of the building, is made a recess in one of
the long sides. This

[Illustration: “POST” BUILDING.

George B. Post, Architect.]

arrangement is not only practically convenient, but, like every
arrangement obviously dictated by practical convenience, is capable of
becoming architecturally effective, and here becomes so. The openings
are admirably well grouped between the powerful piers, and, what is a
rare attainment in “elevator architecture,” there is abundant variety in
their treatment, without the look of restlessness and caprice which
generally attends an effort for variety in a many-storied building. The
detail enhances the effect of this disposition. It is well adjusted to
its function and position, nowhere excessive in quantity or in scale,
and nowhere meagre, and it is in itself rich and refined. It is designed
in “free Renaissance,” that is to say, the designer has undertaken to
model the building faithfully, according to its plan and construction,
in Renaissance architecture, leaving out all that he does not want. Mr.
Haight, as we saw, was able to achieve that result without transcending
the lines of academic Gothic. Mr. Post has put his academic Renaissance
into the alembic of analysis, and where the analysis has been complete
his Renaissance architecture has volatilized and disappeared. We are
very sure that he had no real use for the imitations in terra-cotta of
protruding key-stones, for example, and these are almost the only badges
left his building of the style with which he started, except the
capitals of the pilasters, and the Ionic capitals of the very pretty
shafted arcade which forms the attic. But for these comparatively
trivial incidents of his work, Mr. Post’s free Renaissance would have to
be classified as Gothic, if it were really necessary to classify it at
all, except as good architecture. Mr. Post, in fact, has done on his own
account what the Romanesque builders did. They, too, were doing “free
classic.” They began with classical Roman architecture, and, steadily
leaving out what they did not want, they arrived at Westminster and
Amiens and Cologne.

It is strange to see so thoroughly studied a performance as this
succeeded by so thoroughly unstudied a performance as the Mills
Building, by the same architect. But possibly ten-story buildings, which
must be built in a year, will not wait for architects to mature designs
which would make the buildings of interest to students of architecture
as well as to investors. Whatever the cause may be, the result is
unfortunate; for after the grandiose and somewhat swaggering Roman
gateway, and the portcullis which it encloses, have been taken out, the
rest of the Mills Building may safely be thrown away. The portcullis is
really an interesting piece of iron-work both in design and in
workmanship, although in both it is distinctly inferior to such a piece
of work as the nondescript beast in cast iron that performs the humble
office of holding a sign in Cedar Street, and that might have been
wrought in the thirteenth century, so grotesque, so skilful, so charged
with the spirit of artistic and enjoyed handicraft it is. [See initial


George B. Post, Architect.]

So the new departure is still but a departure, and it seems time that
such of the victims of it as are artists who take serious views of their
art should ask themselves why they continue to work in a style which has
never produced a monument, and in which it is impossible to discern any
element of progress. In doing Queen Anne, have they done anything but
follow a fashion set, as fashions in millinery and tailoring are set, by
mere caprice? A professional journal has indeed declared that
“architecture is very much a matter of fashion,” and architects who take
this view of their calling will of course build in the fashion, as they
dress in the fashion, in spite of their own knowledge that the fashion
is absurd. But it is impossible to regard an architect who takes this
view as other than a tradesman, or to discuss his works except by
telling what are the latest modes, in the manner of the fashion
magazines. It seems impossible for architects who take this view of
their art to take their art seriously--anything like so seriously, for
example, as they take their incomes. But for architects who love their
art and believe in it, the point of “departure” is much less important
than the point of arrival, and by such architects the historical styles
of architecture will be rated according to the help they give in solving
the architectural problems of our time. We have seen that an architect
who starts from Renaissance architecture and an architect who starts
from Gothic architecture, if they faithfully scrutinize their
precedents, and faithfully discard such as are inapplicable, in arriving
at free architecture will arrive, so far as style is concerned, at much
the same result. If this process of analysis were to be carried on for a
generation, it would be as difficult, and as purely a matter of
speculative curiosity, to trace the sources of English and American
architecture as the sources of the composite and living English
language, which is adequate to every expression. We have been blaming
the architects for accepting the forms of past architecture without
analyzing them. But, indeed, if architects had been analysts, they would
generations ago have recognized in their work that we do live in times
unknown to the ancients, whether of Athens in the fifth century before
our era, or of Western Europe in the thirteenth century of our era; that
within the limits set by fact and reason there is ample room for the
exercise of all accomplished talents, and verge enough for the
expression of all sane temperaments, while without these limits nothing
can be done that will stand the test of fact and reason, which is the
test of time; that “effects” cannot precede causes, and that the rudest
art which is sincere is living and in the way to be refined, while the
most refined art that has lost its meaning can never be made alive. The
recognition of these things would have prevented a vagary like the
frivolities and affectations of the new departure from attaining any
vogue, but it would also have prevented the establishment of any
technical styles in modern building, and instead of reproducing
“examples” of one historical style and then of another, and then of a
mixture of two, architects would be producing and writers would be
discussing works of the great art of architecture.


As an architectural work, the house of Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt is perhaps
the most noteworthy of the four large and costly mansions herewith
illustrated. In this a design intrinsically interesting has been carried
out with an amplitude of means of all kinds which yet nowhere
degenerates into profusion or mere ostentation. The dimensions are
generous for a town house, and they have been made the most of by a
breadth of treatment and an emphasis of structure, in the walls at
least, which enable the building to carry with grace a wealth of
ornament under which many buildings of equal size would disappear. The
material is a soft gray limestone, which leaves much to be desired in
color, though in texture it is equally adapted to the simple and massive
treatment of the walls and to the minute delicacy of the decoration,
both architectural and sculptural. It is very much to the credit of the
designer that in spite of a richness without many examples in our
domestic architecture, except in the other dwellings of this same
series, the first impression of his work, and the most abiding, is that
of power and massiveness. This is secured mainly by the unbroken breadth
of the flank of wall between the porch and the angle on the Fifth Avenue
front of the building--unbroken except by the simple and square-headed
openings with which it is pierced, and the crisp and emphatic though

[Illustration: HOUSE OF W. K. VANDERBILT.

R. M. Hunt, Architect.]

not excessive string courses which traverse it and mark the division of
the stories. It is questionable whether this massiveness is not carried
too far, but everybody will admit that an excessive weight of wall is a
“good fault” in the street architecture of New York, and that of the
two, a dwelling is more dignified which approaches the solidity proper
to a prison than one that emulates the precarious lightness proper to a
greenhouse. The depth of the porch and of the recessed balcony over it
in the central division of the avenue front assists this expression of
solidity, and helps the building to wear its burden of decoration
“lightly, like a flower.” The richness, as we have said, is almost
unexampled in New York. Of strictly architectural decoration--that is,
of members and details which are usually designed by the architect of a
building--there is a copiousness which is only saved by the means just
indicated from becoming an embarrassment of riches. All this work is
exquisite in execution. In design it is generally interesting and
scholarly, though there is common to all of it the defect of being too
small to be thoroughly well seen and thoroughly effective. The
uniformity of this defect of scale seems to prove that the architect
erred in estimating the effect of his design in the colorless material
employed. The decoration of the recess of the balcony, too, loses effect
by being entirely unrelated to the construction, and the stone trellis
with which the turret at the angle is overlaid is equally irrelevant to
the object to which it is applied. Architectural decoration ceases to be
such when it ceases to be a development of the structure; and these
exceptions, by their comparative ineffectiveness, confirm the wisdom of
the rule by which elsewhere throughout the building the ornament is used
to emphasize the structure, and thereby gains greatly in impressiveness
and in charm.

The sculptural decoration, in contradistinction to that strictly
architectural, equally abounds. By sculptural decoration is meant that
designed as well as executed by the sculptor, and in regard to which the
only care of the architect is to provide places for it, and so to frame
it that, if it does not help, it may not injure, the architecture to
which it is attached. It is not too much to say of this that it is much
the most important and interesting work in decorative sculpture which is
to be seen out-of-doors in New York. The most noteworthy piece of it,
perhaps, is the procession of cherubic musicians girdling the
frieze-like band of the corbel which carries the oriel of the southern
front.[D] The execution elsewhere, in the panels under and between the
windows, and in the pilasters of the bay, is equally good, but the
design is nowhere else so effective. One need not be a purist, indeed,
to find fault with the introduction of these pilasters at the angles of
the bay and on the curve of the oriel, which are so clearly not
structural members, actual or symbolic, and which are so clearly
introduced for the sake of the ornament they bear, although he may
condone the fault for the prettiness of the ornament generally in
design, and its unfailing care and delicacy of execution. The only
criticism possible, indeed, upon the execution of this work is, that it
is too exquisite, and reduces the texture of carved stone too nearly to
the more facile surface of moulded clay.

One’s admiration of Mr. Hunt’s spirited and scholarly design does not
indeed cease with the walls of the house; but it must be owned that it
undergoes some modification above the cornice. It cannot be said that
the sky-line is so effective as might have been expected from what is
beneath it. There is an undeniable piquancy about the statued gable
which terminates the roof of the principal mass, and the relation
between this roof and the steep hood of the turret is picturesque, taken
alone. Unfortunately, it cannot be taken alone, and the effect of the
whole series of roofs is not a harmonious grouping, but--there is no
other word for it--a “huddle.” It is in the roof, too, that the
shortcomings of the architect in the solution of what may be called his
academic problem are most apparent. The style of his work is the
transitional style of France, the modification of mediæval architecture
under the influence of the Italian Renaissance, until what was all
Gothic at the beginning of the transition had become all classic at its
close. This is, in fact, an attempt to summarize in one building the
history of a most active and fruitful century in the history of
architecture, which included the late Gothic of the fifteenth century
and the early Renaissance of the sixteenth, and spanned the distance
from the minute and complicated modelling of the Palais de Justice at
Rouen and the Hôtel Cluny at Paris, to the romantic classicism of the
great châteaux of the Loire. Certainly the attempt does not lack
boldness. Here we have in one building the superimposed bases and
interpenetrating mouldings of the latest French Gothic and the
fish-bladder tracery of the Renaissance, and in the dormers the stride
from the ogee canopies of Rouen to the prim pilasters and pediment of
Orleans. Mr. Hunt’s skill has not sufficed to introduce together these
features, the outcomes of different modes of thought as well as of
different systems of construction, without a visible incongruity; nor
are they in all cases successful, taken singly. The large and elaborate
dormer over the entrance, especially, instead of being a visible
reconciliation of the two styles, is a visible demonstration that they
cannot be reconciled. A complete construction of post and lintel, of
pilaster and entablature, is supplemented by another construction of
flying buttresses which are clearly superfluous and irrelevant, and
which, instead of resisting the thrust of an arch, have the appearance
of ineffectually “shoring up” a structure which, though complete, is

One is inclined to ascribe the lack of unity and repose which the
disturbed sky-line of the building entails upon it, and which somewhat
impairs the dignity of an otherwise dignified and always animated
design, to the angle turret of which the architect was evidently
enamoured. We may share his liking for it, and admit it to be an
extremely pretty thing, without admitting that it belongs to this
building. The leading motive of the composition is evidently the
“pyramidization,” to borrow Mr. Thomas Hope’s uncouth word, of the whole
building towards the apex of the main mass at the angle, from the point
of view from which the illustration is taken. It is clearly to assist
and emphasize the ascent and convergence of all the lines of the
building to this apex, and to enhance the apparent dimensions, that this
mass is raised a story, and the extremities of the building allowed to
fall away, and it is in order to account for the emphasizing of this
mass by a separate roof that the somewhat awkward expedient has been
adopted of dropping the cornice on the street side below the eaves. New
York readers who are familiar with the aspect of the Dry Dock
Savings-Bank in the Bowery will know what is meant by this
“pyramidization,” and will remember how it is there attained. Now it
happens that it is precisely this intention which in the present
instance is obscured and partly defeated by the tormenting of the
sky-line, which in turn may be traced to the insistence of the architect
upon his extremely pretty but irrelevant


George B. Post, Architect.]

turret. It is a good lesson in architecture to find that the effect of a
whole may be so much impaired by one of the most successful of the
parts, and that even when “the thing” is really rich and rare, we may
still be unsatisfied how it “got there.” Happily neither this
shortcoming, nor shortcomings much graver, could prevent such a work as
this from being an ornament to the city, and an honorable monument to
its architect.

Perhaps it is because Mr. Post, the architect of the house of Mr.
Cornelius Vanderbilt, has not attempted so much as Mr. Hunt that his
work may be called at once more successful and less interesting. In
color it has more and in design less of variety. For the monotony of
gray wall and black roof it substitutes red brick, with wrought work of
the same gray limestone employed in the house we have been talking of,
and with a red slated roof broken by great stone dormers. It is much
more simple and compact in composition than the other, for the main
house is a parallelogram brought together under one great four-hipped
roof, and the wing is here a very subordinate appendage. It is thus much
simpler, much more within the conventional decorum of a town mansion in
its scheme, while it is equally far from having the appearance of having
been designed by contract, and is studied with equal thoroughness,
although with a very different motive. In the matter of color, it is
undeniable that the brick-work has in places a patchy look by reason of
the comparatively small quantities in which it is used, the whole front
on the avenue being virtually of highly wrought stone, and it seems
clear that the building would have gained if the brick had been omitted
altogether from this front. On the street front the mode of treatment
adopted might very possibly have made the building dull and monotonous
if it had been built in monochrome, as assuredly the addition of a
strong contrast of color would have made the more varied design of the
other painfully restless. In style the two buildings offer a curious
resemblance and a curious contrast. This also is a French château, but a
French château of the period after the transition, when all detail had
been thoroughly classicized, and only a romantic wilfulness and freedom
of composition recalled the architecture of the Middle Ages. Here are
the shell frieze of Blois and the fish-bladder tracery of Orleans,
without the Gothic detail which in the French Renaissance is so often
found side by side with them. The carving here, equally well executed
for its purpose, does not appeal so much to admiration for its
execution, for the reason that it is all strictly architectural, and not
directly imitative. In design it is for its purpose equally well
studied; in scale, indeed, is much better studied, so that the detail,
which is often lost in the ineffectual minuteness of the carving in the
former case, here takes its place with emphasis. Perhaps in some
instances it takes its place with too much emphasis, as in the modelling
of the arches of the first floor; while, on the other hand, there is a
clear lack of vigor in the brackets which carry the balcony of the third
story, and in the treatment of the spiral shaft upon which rests the
corbelled turret at the outer angle. But these defects of design seem to
be quite deliberate, and it seems, upon the whole, that the building
looks as the architect intended it to look, in a more accurate sense
than can be said of its competitor. The leading motive of composition in
that was the “pyramidization” at the angle. The leading motive of this
may be assigned to the development of the floor lines. The perpendicular
lines are entirely subordinated


to these--so far subordinated, indeed, that the axial lines of the
openings in the lower stories are disregarded in the upper--and the
horizontal lines are wrought by modelling and decoration into emphatic
belts, graduated in richness from the simple basement course to the very
rich and elaborate cornice. We may say here, too, that our admiration
grows fainter above this line; for the exaggerated dormers, excessive as
dormers and inadequate as gables, are the least successful features of
the building, while in their decoration, alone in the building,
constructive propriety is abandoned. But the great and simple roof
certainly prevents the building from straggling, as its neighbor tends
to do, while the angle turrets at its base not only relieve its outline
of monotonous heaviness, but are clever expedients for stopping the
lines of its angles. Upon the whole, one may say of Mr. Post’s design
that it is a thoroughly workmanlike piece of work, and may even find
less fault with it than with the more ambitious work of Mr. Hunt;
though, indeed, he may ascribe this to his belief that there is less in
it to talk about or to think about.

Between either of these and the brown-stone houses which have been built
for Mr. William H. Vanderbilt, after the designs of Messrs. Herter, the
decorators, a wide architectural gulf is fixed. We found a leading
motive in each of the others; but what leading motive, or, indeed, what
subordinate motive, of an architectural kind, can be found here? There
is indeed no development of lines or of masses, and no organized
relation of parts is aimed at. The openings are not grouped or spaced so
as to tell the story of the interior, nor so as to bear any reference to
each other, nor are the structural features which every building must
possess brought out by modelling; nor is the ornament applied to
accentuate the structural features, nor is it designed with reference
either to its place or to its function as ornament. The fluted pilasters
of the second story seem to be meant, indeed, to re-enforce the angles
of the projecting portions of the wall. But this intention is abandoned
in the first and in the third stories, in which a belt of carved foliage
is run to the angles of the wall, without reference to the lines of the
pilasters. This foliage is in workmanship as careful as possible--as
careful, indeed, as the carving in either of the architectural works
which we have been discussing. Yet its perfection gives no pleasure to
the spectator, for the simple reason that it has nothing to do with the
building in the walls of which it is cut. Much of the detail is
carefully designed, but the absence of a general design makes it
ineffective. Except for the refinement of some of this detail, the
building would be as vacant of architectural interest as any work of our
architectural period of darkness. The Stewart mansion does not interest
students of architecture; but the Stewart mansion itself exhibits a
nearer approach than these houses to an architectural design, and
certainly a coherent design with coarse detail is less depressing, even
if it be more irritating, than an entire absence of architectural
meaning, with here and there a pretty architectural phrase which in some
other context may have meant something. These houses have another
misfortune in their very lugubrious color. A vivid piece of painted
decoration in the recessed balcony of the nearer is a grateful oasis in
the gloomy waste of rubbed sandstone, and some relief to its monotony is
also afforded by the gilded railings of the windows at each side of this
balcony. But it is to be hoped that courage may be found to let loose a
discreet decorator with unlimited goldleaf upon the whole sad fronts. A
mode of decoration which has been found so effective in the fogs of
London might profitably be employed to animate façades which are in no
danger of becoming too joyous. It would not be fair to leave these
architectural failures, which are in so unpleasant contrast to the
encouraging architectural success achieved in the other Vanderbilt
houses, without noting one excellent piece of design in the railings
which surround them, in which an original, characteristic, and
successful treatment of metal has been attained, and which, as works of
art, are really of more value than the houses they protect.



The total length of the bridge is 5989 feet, of which the central span
between the towers is 1595 feet 6 inches, the “land spans” from the
towers to the anchorages each 930 feet, the approach on the New York
side 1562 feet 6 inches, and on the steeper Brooklyn side 971 feet.
These dimensions do not make this the longest bridge in the world. But
when it was built there was no single span which approached the central
span over the East River; and though it has since been exceeded by two
spans of the Forth Bridge, in Scotland (1710 feet each, sustained by
cantilevers), it remains by far the largest example of a chain-bridge.
It is half as long again as Roebling’s Cincinnati Bridge (1057 feet
between towers), and nearly twice as long as the same engineer’s Niagara
Bridge (821 feet). The span of the ill-fated bridge over the Ohio at
Wheeling, which was built in 1848, and blown down in 1854, was 1010
feet. Noteworthy suspension-bridges in Europe are Telford’s, over the
Menai Straits (589 feet), finished in 1825; Chaley’s bridge, at Fribourg
(870 feet), finished in 1834; and Tierney Clark’s bridge over the Danube
at Pesth (670 feet), finished in 1849. The longest spans bridged
otherwise than by a roadway hung from cables are the central spans of
Stephenson’s Britannia (box girder) Bridge (459 feet), of Eads’s St.
Louis Bridge, of steel arches (520 feet), and of the beautiful
Washington Bridge, of steel


arches, at New York (510 feet). The largest span of an arch of masonry
known to have been built in a bridge (251 feet) was in that built in the
fourteenth century, and destroyed by Carmagnola in the fifteenth, which
crossed the Adda at Trezzo. The largest now standing (220 feet) is an
American work, the arch designed and built by General Meigs to carry the
Washington Aqueduct over Cabin John Creek. The second is that of the
Grosvenor Bridge at Chester (200 feet), and the third the central arch
of London Bridge (152 feet).

The Brooklyn Bridge is thus one of the mechanical wonders of the world,
one of the greatest and most characteristic of the monuments of the
nineteenth century. Its towers, at least, bid fair to outlast every
structure of which they command a view. Everybody recalls Macaulay’s
prophecy of the time “when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the
midst of a vast solitude, take his stand upon a broken arch of London
Bridge, to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.” But when our New-Zealander
takes his stand above the saddles that are now ridden by the cables of
the bridge, to look over the site of a forsaken city, there will be no
ruins of churches--at least, of churches now in being--for him to sketch
or see. The web of woven steel that now hangs between the stark masses
of the towers may have disappeared, its slender filaments rusted into
nothingness under the slow corrosion of the centuries. Its builders and
the generation for which they wrought may have been as long forgotten as
are now the builders of the Pyramids, whereof the traveller, “as he
paceth amazedly those deserts,” asks the Historic Muse “who builded
them; and she mumbleth something, but what it is he heareth not.” It is
not unimaginable that our future archæologist, looking from one of these
towers upon the solitude of a mastless river and a dispeopled land, may
have no other means of reconstructing our civilization than that which
is furnished him by the tower on which he stands. What will his judgment
of us be?

This, or something like this, ought to be a question with every man who
builds a structure which is meant to outlast him, whether it be a temple
of religion or a work of bare utility like this. It so happens that the
work which is likely to be our most durable monument, and to convey some
knowledge of us to the most remote posterity, is a work of bare utility;
not a shrine, not a fortress, not a palace, but a bridge. This is in
itself characteristic of our time. It is true of no other people since
the Romans, and of none before. Like the Roman remains, the duration of
this work of ours will show that we knew how to build. “A Roman work,”
we often hear it said of the bridge, and it is in many ways true. It is
far beyond any Roman monument in refinement of mechanical skill. It is
Roman in its massiveness and durability. It is Roman, too, in its
disregard of art, in resting satisfied with the practical solution of
the great problem of its builders, without a sign of that skill which
would have explained and emphasized the process of construction at every
step, and everywhere, in whole and in part, made the structure tell of
the work it was doing. There have been periods in history when this
æsthetic purpose would have seemed to the builder of such a monument as
much a matter of course, as necessary a part of his work, as the
practical purpose which animated the designer of the Brooklyn Bridge. It
would have seemed so to the engineer of a bridge in Athens in the second
century before our era, or to the engineer of a bridge in Western Europe
in the thirteenth century of our era. The utilitarian treatment of our
monument is as striking and as characteristic a mark of the period as
its utilitarian purpose. It is a noble work of engineering; it is not a
work of architecture.

The most strictly scientific of constructors would scarcely take the
ground that he did not care how his work looked, when his work was so
conspicuous and so durable as the Brooklyn Bridge, and he must be aware
that a training in scientific construction alone will not secure an
architectural result. It is more probable that he looks upon the current
architectural devices as frivolous and irrelevant to the work upon which
he is engaged, and consoles himself for his ignorance of them by
contempt. Architecture is to him the unintelligent use of building
material. Assuredly this view is borne out by a majority of the
“architecturesque” buildings that he sees, and he does not lack express
authority for it. Whereas the engineer’s definition of good masonry is
“the least material to perform a certain duty,” Mr. Fergusson declares
that “an architect ought always to allow himself such a margin of
strength that he may disregard or play with his construction;” and Mr.
Ruskin defines architecture to be the addition to a building of
unnecessary features. An engineer has, therefore, some warrant for
considering that he is sacrificing to the graces and doing all that can
reasonably be expected of him to produce an architectural monument, if
in designing the piers of a chain-bridge he employs an unnecessary
amount of material and adds unnecessary features. But if we go back to
the time when engineers were artists, and study what a modern scientific
writer has described as “that paragon of constructive skill, a Pointed
cathedral,” we shall find that the architecture and the construction
cannot be disjoined. The work of the mediæeval builder in his capacity
of artist was to expound, emphasize, and refine upon the work he did in
his capacity of constructor, and to develop and heighten its inherent
effect. And it is of this kind of skill that the work of the modern
engineer, in so far as he is only an engineer, shows no trace.

Reduced to its simplest expression, and as it has actually been used for
unknown periods in Asia and in South America, a suspension-bridge
consists of two parallel ropes swung from side to side of a ravine, and
carrying the platform over which the passenger walks. As the span
increases, so that the dip makes the ropes impracticable, the land ends
of the ropes are hoisted some distance above the roadway which they
carry. If nothing can be found there strong enough to hold them, they
are simply passed over, say, forked trees, and the ends made fast to
other trees or held down with stones. This is the essential construction
of the Brooklyn Bridge. The ropes become four cables sixteen inches
thick, of 5541 steel wires; the forked tree becomes a tower 276 feet
high, and 8260 square feet in area at the base; the bowlder to hold down
the end of the rope becomes a mass of masonry of 60,000 tons’ weight;
the shaky platform becomes a great street, 85 feet wide, of five firm
roadways. But the man who first carried his rope over the forked tree
was the inventor of the arrangement which, developed through all the
refinements of modern mechanics, forms the groundwork of the Brooklyn

This statement of the germinal idea of a chain-bridge will, perhaps,
give a clearer notion of the functions of the several parts of the
Brooklyn Bridge than a consideration of the complicated structure in its
ultimate evolution, in which these functions are partly lost sight of.
But if the structure had been architecturally designed, these things
would have been emphasized at every point and in every way. The function
of the great “towers,” so called, being merely to hold up the cables, it
is plain that three isolated piers would have performed that


Thomas M. Griffith, Engineer.]

function, and the stability of these piers, loaded as they are by the
cables, would very possibly have been assured, even if they had been
completely detached from each other. But in order at once to stiffen and
to load them, so as to make the area of resistance to the force of the
wind equal to the whole area of the towers, the openings through which
the roadways run are closed above by steep pointed arches, and the
spandrels of these filled with a wall which rises to the summit of the
piers, where a flat coping covers the whole. There is a woful lack of
expression in this arrangement. The piers should assert themselves
starkly and unmistakably as the bones of the structure, and the wall
above the arches be subordinated to a mere filling. It should be
distinctly withdrawn from the face of the piers instead of being, as in
fact it is, only distinguished from them by their shallow and
ineffectual projections. It should be distinctly dropped below their
summits instead of rising to the same height, and being included under a
common cornice. To see what a difference in effect this very obvious
differentiation of parts would have made, glance at the sketch of a
suspension-bridge at Minneapolis. This is not, upon the whole, a
laudable design, and it contains several survivals of conventional
architectural forms meaningless in their present place. But the mere
subduing of the archway to a strut between the piers explains--not
forcibly, perhaps, nor elegantly, but unmistakably--the main purpose of
the structure, and the functional relation of its parts. A drawing of
one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge without its cables would tell
the spectator nothing; the structure itself will tell our New-Zealander
nothing of its uses. With its flat top and its level coping, indicating
that the whole was meant to be evenly loaded, it would seem to be the
base of a missing superstructure rather than what it is.

The flatness of the top alone conceals instead of expressing the
structure. It is of the first practical necessity that the great cables
should move freely in their saddles, so as always to keep the pressure
upon the piers directly vertical, and very ingenious appliances have
been employed to attain this end, and to avoid chafing the cables. But
the design of the piers themselves


tells us absolutely nothing of all this. The cable simply disappears on
one side and reappears on the other, as if it were two separate cables,
one on each side, instead of one continuous chain. Look at this section
of the top of the tower, and see how an exquisite refinement of
mechanical arrangement may coexist with absolute insensibility to the
desirableness even of an architectural expression of this arrangement.
The architecture of this crowning member of the tower has nothing
whatever to do with the purpose for which the structure exists. Is it
not perfectly evident that an architectural expression of this
mechanical arrangement would require that the line of the summit,
instead of this meaningless flat coping, should, to begin with, be a
crest of roof, its double slope following the line of the cable which it
shelters? Here the very channel through which the cable runs is not
designed, but is a mere hole occurring casually, and not by
premeditation, in the midst of the mouldings which form the cornice of
the tower. This is architectural barbarism.

Other opportunities offered for architectural expression in the towers
themselves were in the treatment of the buttresses, in the treatment of
the balconies which girdle the tower at the height of the roadway, and
in the modelling of the arches. The girth of each of the towers at the
water-line is 398 feet. At the roof-course it is 378 feet. The reduction
is effected by means of five or six offsets, which withdraw each face of
the tower four feet between the bottom and the top, and each end six
feet. The counter-forts, eight in all, on the sides of the outer piers
and on the faces of all the piers, are mere applied strips, very shallow
in proportion to their width, and terminating in the capital-like
projections which are casually pierced to receive the cables. It may
make, perhaps, no serious difference in the mechanical efficiency of
these counter-forts whether their area be narrow and deep or broad and
shallow. But an increase of depth in proportion to width would of
itself, with its higher lights and sharper shadows, have made forcible
masses of what are now ineffectual features. This inherent effect would
be very greatly enhanced if the offsets themselves were accentuated by
sharp and decisive modelling. As it is, emphasis seems to have been
studiously avoided. The offsets are merely long batterings of the wall,
which do nothing to separate the piers into related parts with definite
transitions, and so to refine the crudity of the masses. To see the
difference between a mechanical and a monumental conception of a great
structure, compare these towers with the front of Amiens, or of
Strasburg, or of Notre Dame of Paris. Of course the designer of a modern
bridge must not attempt to reproduce in his work “those misty masses of
multitudinous pinnacle and diademed tower.” That would be a more fatal
fault than the rudeness and crudeness with which we have to charge the
design of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge. The ornament of the
cathedrals, so far as it is separable from their structure, has nothing
for the designer of the bridge even of suggestion. But to see how masses
may be modelled so as to be made to speak, look at the modelled masses
of the tower of Amiens, the stark lines of essential structure framing
the screen of wall between them, in contrast with the uniform deadness
here of buttress and curtain wall; the crisp emphasis of lines of light
and hollows of black shade which mark the transitions between parts of
structure in the west front of Rheims, in contrast with the lack of
emphasis in the offsets of the bridge tower; the spirit of the gargoyled
balconies that belt the towers of Notre Dame, and the spiritlessness of
the parapeted balconies that encircle the tower of the bridge. And note,
too (we are not now speaking of the decoration of the cathedrals), that
all this transcendent superiority arises merely from a development and
emphasis of the inherent expression of the masses themselves, which in
the bridge are left so crude, and in the cathedral towers are refined so
far. It need not, and indeed should not, have been carried so far in
this architecture of reason and utility as in the architecture of a
poetical religion. The mere rudiments of those works would have
furnished all the expression that is necessary or desirable here. But
these rudiments are wanting. What can we say but that the designer of
the cathedral began where the designer of the bridge left off? If our
New-Zealander should extend his travels, and come upon these monuments
also, what would be his surprise at finding documentary proof that the
bridge was built six hundred years after the cathedrals, and that the
generation which built the bridge looked backward and downward upon the
generation which built the cathedrals as rude and barbarous and
unreasoning in comparison with themselves!

What we have said of the towers is true also of the anchorages. The
bowlder which the Peruvian rolls upon the end of his rope to hold it
down is here a mass of 60,000 tons. Scientifically it is adjusted to its
purpose, no doubt, with the most exact nicety. Artistically it is still
but a bowlder rolled upon a rope. It would probably be impracticable to
exhibit the anchor plate which takes the ultimate strain of this mile
and more of cable, though we may be sure that our Greek or our Gothic
bridge-builder would not have admitted its impracticability without as
exhaustive an investigation as the modern bridge-builder has given to
the mechanical aspects of his problem. But it was certainly practicable
to indicate the function of the anchorage itself, to build it up in
masses which should seem to hold the cable to the earth, or a double
arch like--or rather unlike--the double arch of the main tower, turned
between piers which should visibly answer the same purpose. Instead of
either of these, or of any technical device for the same purpose, the
weight above is a crude mass, so far from being adapted to its function
in its form, that one has to look with some care to find it from the
street below, and to distinguish it from the approaches.

What we have called the balconies at the level of the roadway are not
“practical” balconies, since they open from the driveways, and not from
the walk, and are not accessible as points of view. The purpose of a
projection at this point is to secure as great a breadth as possible for
the system of wind-braces under the floor of the bridge. This purpose is
attained by the projection, but is only masked by the imitations of
balconies, instead of being architecturally expressed, as it might have
been unmistakably expressed, by the bold projection of a granite spur
from the angle of the pier.

There are, probably, few arches in the world--certainly there can be
none outside of works of modern engineering--of anything like the span,
height, thickness, and conspicuousness of those in the bridge towers
which are so little effective. Like the brute mass of wall above them,
they are impressive only by magnitude. The great depth of the archway is
only seen as a matter of mensuration, not felt as a poetical impression,
as it would have been if the labors of the constructor had been
supplemented by the labors of an artist; if the shallow strips of pier
had become real buttresses, and the jamb and arch had been narrowed by
emphatic successions of withdrawal, instead of being merely tunnelled
through the mass; if the intrados of the arch itself had been
accentuated by modelling, instead of being weakened by the actual
recession of its voussoirs behind the plane of the wall.



The approaches themselves are greatly impressive, as indeed the towers
are also, by magnitude and massiveness. The street bridges are uniformly
imposing by size and span, and especially attractive also by reason of
the fact that through them we get what is to be got nowhere else in our
rectangular city, glimpses and “bits” of buildings. The most successful
of them all, and the most successful feature architecturally of all the
masonry of the bridge, is the simple, massive, and low bridge of two
arches which spans North William Street, in New York. The arcades
between the streets are imposing by number and repetition as well as by
massiveness, and by the Roman durability which marks all the work. They
suffer, however, from two causes. The coping, the arches, and the piers,
which are the emphatic parts of structure, are lighter in color than the
unemphasized and rock-faced fields of the wall, and this is always a
misfortune when it is not an error. The arches are of the form called
“Florentine”--that is to say, round within and pointed without. The
deepest voussoirs are thus those at the crown of the arch. This is the
reverse of the disposition which would be dictated by mechanical
considerations alone. Architecturally it has the drawback of
interrupting at every arch the successive and diminishing wheelings
which make a long arcade of great openings so impressive in a
perspective view. The form seems to have been chosen on account of the
facility it afforded, by lengthening the upper voussoirs, to conform the
ridge line of the arches to the slope of the roadway, while keeping the
springing line horizontal. This gradual diminution of the arches
shoreward enhances the apparent length of the approach looking in that
direction, but correspondingly shortens it looking towards the bridge;
and it seems, upon the whole, that it would have been better to carry
the arches through level, without attempting to dissemble the
difference between their line and that of the roadway. There are some
shabby and flimsy details of iron work, which mar the monumental effect
of the great roadway itself, while the design of the iron stations at
either end is grossly illiterate, and discreditable to the great work.
Imitations in cast iron of stone capitals surmount and emphatically
contradict posts profusely studded with bolt-heads; and other solecisms,
alike against constructional reason and architectural tradition, are
rife in these unfortunate edifices, which do what they can to vulgarize
the great structure to which they give access.

Vulgarity certainly cannot be charged against any integral portion of
the great work itself. There is nothing frivolous and nothing
ostentatious even in the details which we have noted, and in which we
have not been so much criticising the crowning work of a great
engineer’s career as noting the spirit of our age. It is scarcely fair
to say, even, as was said by an architectural journal when the
completion of the bridge was doubtful, that if it were left incomplete
its towers would stand “in unnecessary ugliness.” Its defects in design
are not misdeeds, but shortcomings. They are the defects of being
rudimentary, of not being completely developed. The anatomy of the
towers and of the anchorages is not brought out in their modelling.
Their fingers, so to speak, are all thumbs. Their impressiveness is
inherent in their mass, and is what it could not help being. The ugliest
of great bridges is undoubtedly Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge; and this
is ugly, not because it is square and straight, but because it tells
nothing of itself. It is a mere flat surface, and almost absolutely
inexpressive, compared, for example, with such a piece of iron-work as
the truss which carries the roadway of the bridge over Franklin Square,
in which the function of every joint and member is apparent. But a far
nobler thing than this is the central span of the great bridge itself,
its roadway slowly sweeping upward to meet the swift swoop of its
cables. We have complained of the lack of expression in the towers of
their anatomy, but this is anatomy only, a skeletonized structure in
which, as in a scientific diagram, we see--even the layman sees--the
interplay of forces represented by an abstraction of lines. What
monument of any architecture can speak its story more clearly and more
forcibly than this gossamer architecture, through which its purpose,
like “the spider’s touch”--

                              “So exquisitely fine,
    Feels at each thread, and lives along the line”?

This aerial bow, as it hangs between the busy cities, “curving on a sky
imbrued with color,” is perfect as an organism of nature. It is an
organism of nature. There was no question in the mind of its designer of
“good taste” or of appearance. He learned the law that struck its
curves, the law that fixed the strength and the relation of its parts,
and he applied the law. His work is beautiful, as the work of a
ship-builder is unfailingly beautiful in the forms and outlines in which
he is only studying “what the water likes,” without a thought of beauty,
and as it is almost unfailingly ugly when he does what he likes for the
sake of beauty. The designer of the Brooklyn Bridge has made a beautiful
structure out of an exquisite refinement of utility, in a work in which
the lines of forces constitute the structure. Where a more massive
material forbade him to skeletonize the structure, and the lines of
effort and resistance needed to be brought out by modelling, he has
failed to bring them out, and his structure is only as impressive as it
needs must be. It has not helped his work, as we have seen, to trust his
own sense of beauty, and to contradict or to conceal what he was doing
in accordance with its dictates. As little would it have helped him to
invoke the aid of a commonplace architect to plaster his structure with
triglyphs or to indent it with trefoils. But an architect who pursued
his calling in the spirit and with the skill of the mediæval builders of
whom we have been speaking, who knew in his province the lesson the
engineer has re-enforced in his, that “Nature can only be commanded by
obeying her,” and that the function of an organism, in art as in nature,
must determine its form--such an architect might have helped the
designer of the Brooklyn Bridge to make it one of the noblest monuments
of architecture in the world, as it is one of the greatest and most
honorable works of engineering.



The saying that ours is not a cathedral-building age is so obviously
true, and so familiar, that the proposal to erect in New York the most
important religious monument on this side of the Atlantic strikes many,
and perhaps most, cultivated persons with a sense of incongruity. It is
so especially true that this is not a cathedral-building country that an
American cathedral seems a violation of the unities in place not less
than in time--an anatopism as well as an anachronism. It is a reflection
calculated to give us pause that even while we were considering what
should be the character of an American cathedral in the city of New
York, the Assembly of the State, being in possession of what was
acclaimed at the time of its opening as “the most monumental interior in
this country,” should have decided to demolish rather than to restore
its most monumental feature, and should have been hopelessly vulgarizing
it by substituting for its stone-work a system of iron posts veneered
with wood, and of beams enclosing panels of papier-maché, without
eliciting any general or effective protest.

The very marked increase of interest in the art of architecture in this
country within the last few years has been accompanied by a
corresponding advance in the practice of that art, but it has scarcely
as yet


By Henry Hobson Richardson.]

produced any manifestations that can be called monumental. Our
monuments, like those of the Romans, are the works of engineers, and not
of architects. In fact, the disproportion in magnitude and in interest
between the Roman baths and aqueducts and the Roman temples is
exaggerated in the relation between our works of utility and our works
of art. Our engineers stand ready to span wider openings and to rear
loftier structures than were ever bridged or raised before, provided
anybody can be convinced that these unprecedented operations will “pay.”
The result of their labors, on the æsthetic side, is fairly summed up in
the remark of a recent European visitor that public works in America are
executed without reference to art.

But, as Bishop Potter pointed out in the admirable letter in which he
promulgated the project of an American cathedral, this very prevalence
and predominance of the utilitarian spirit makes it most desirable that
there should be a conspicuous counteraction and an impressive reminder,
in a great commercial town, that there are other than commercial
interests and other than physical needs. A “metropolitan” church, in the
modern sense of the adjective, dominating the more prosaic erections of
a city, as a cathedral must do if reared upon the noble site secured for
the Cathedral of New York, is the conversion into a beacon of Mr.
Ruskin’s “lamp of sacrifice.” It belongs to its function that it could
not by any conceivable possibility “pay,” and that it should be, first
of all, a religious monument. There is some danger that this may be
forgotten, for in the design of ordinary churches, in which the
architects who have been working at the problem presented by the
cathedral are commonly exercised, they feel at every turn the pressure
of the utilitarian spirit. They are required to “accommodate” a
congregation, in most cases at a minimum of cost, so that the preacher
may be well seen and heard of all. The muses of acoustics, ventilation,
and sanitary plumbing preside over their labors, necessarily to the
greater or less detriment of architecture. The features that give
dignity to the minsters of the Middle Ages are apt to be obstructive of
the comfort of the congregation. If a cathedral were to be merely or
mainly a huge auditorium, nearly all the traditions of ecclesiastical
architecture would have to be sacrificed. Doubtless, in a true cathedral
of such dimensions as those contemplated for the Cathedral of New York,
an ample space for preaching must accrue. But a building in which this
space is the object of the design can scarcely become a cathedral. Mr.
R. L. Stevenson, considering the apse of Noyon, observes: “I could never
fathom how any man dares to lift up his voice in a cathedral. What has
he to say that will not be an anticlimax? For though I have heard a
considerable variety of sermons, I never yet heard one that was so
expressive as a cathedral. ’Tis the best preacher itself, and preaches
day and night, not only telling you of man’s art and aspirations in the
past, but convicting your own soul of ardent sympathies.” At all events,
a cathedral is much more and other than a place to preach in. If that
alone were its purpose, it would be best fulfilled by an enclosed and
unobstructed space, extending to the limits of the carrying power of the
human voice. But such an erection would resemble a mediæval cathedral
much less than it would resemble a modern rink.

In truth, the justification of a modern and Protestant cathedral is not
to be looked for in its “usefulness.” The altar, and not the pulpit, is
the centre and culmination of its interior design, as it can scarcely be

[Illustration: Design for All Saints’ Cathedral at Albany. by h. h.


to be the centre of “congregational worship.” The old cathedrals are
most admirably adapted to be the theatres of ecclesiastical processions
and pageants; and although the Episcopal Church has a more highly
developed ritual than any other Protestant body, it does not provide for
these on a cathedral scale. The Church of England cannot be said really
to employ the minsters it has inherited. An eminent architect, who was
not only an Englishman, but an “Anglo-Catholic,” was compelled to
describe an ancient cathedral in its modern English use as merely “a
museum of antiquities, with a free sacred concert on Sunday.” Even among
Catholic countries Spain is almost, if not quite, alone in fully using
her mediæval cathedrals as modern churches of the people, instead of
secluding them as “historical monuments” from the ordinary life of the
nation. In a country in which the arts of reading and writing have been
acquired by but a small fraction of the people, the saying of Victor
Hugo cannot have come true. The book has not destroyed the church, and
the invention of printing has not affected either the spirit or the form
of devotion. The dramatic and spectacular instinct, so strong among the
Southern nations, and among the English-speaking peoples perhaps weaker
than anywhere else, has found natural vent, in a country in which the
type of religion has remained mediæval, in those gorgeous ceremonials,
addressed to the imagination and not to the intellect, which really
require and employ the stage and the scenery of a mediæval cathedral.
Not York or Salisbury, not Cologne or Strasburg, not Rheims or Amiens,
hardly Milan or St. Peter’s itself, so fully shows to our generation the
popular need which the mediæval minsters were meant to answer as it is
shown to travellers on one of the great feasts of the Church in Toledo
or Seville. The tardy completion of Cologne under the auspices of a
Protestant emperor, and by the contributions of Protestant Germany, not
as any longer the temple of the national faith, but as an architectural
monument of which the German people have reason to be proud, and the
completion of which is a monument also of the union of Germany, more
fitly represents the modern attitude of mind respecting cathedrals.

An American Protestant church nearly as long as Cologne (and such is the
dimension proposed for the Cathedral of New York) is obviously far
beyond the limits of a convenient auditorium, and beyond the ritual
requirements of the Episcopal Church. In such a structure the space
occupied by the largest congregation that can be assembled within the
sound of a single voice is but a fragment, and such a congregation
itself but an incident to be recognized and provided for, indeed, but by
no means to be allowed to become the chief object of design. But the aim
of these remarks has been to show that it is by its success as an
architectural monument that the cathedral must be justified, if it is to
be justified at all. In this point of view the very excess, which in any
utilitarian point of view is wasteful, becomes an element of
impressiveness as being an emphatic rejection in a building erected to
the glory of God, of “the nicely calculated less or more” that is
suitable and inevitable to buildings erected primarily for the use of


Mr. Richardson’s design for the Cathedral of All-Saints at Albany is
herewith so fully illustrated as to enable the architect to estimate the
effect the interior would have had in execution, and the untrained
reader to form an impression of the exterior effect, which, however

[Illustration: EAST ELEVATION.]

incomplete, can scarcely be misleading. The design is, perhaps, the most
suggestive contribution that has thus far been made to the solution of
the architectural problem of a modern cathedral which the diocese of New
York has undertaken. At all events, the influence of it was more easy to
be traced in the designs for that work than the influence of any
building actually erected on this side of the ocean. In part this was
due to the merits of the design itself; in part to the immense vigor and
large picturesqueness of the executed works of its author--qualities
that have so impressed themselves upon the younger generation of
American architects that there is scarcely a contemporary work of
importance that does not betray his influence, and that the Provençal
Romanesque, in which his personal power of design was manifested, may
already be said almost to have become the style of the country. It must
be manifest, however, that it would be an injustice to Mr. Richardson’s
memory to take his design for the Albany Cathedral as his contribution
to the civic--one may almost say the national--problem of the present.
For this design was prepared under rigid limitations of space and of
cost; and though its rejection is said to have been due to its excess of
these latter, it is by no means what its author would have devised for a
project in which there is no limitation. The Cathedral of All-Saints was
to be rather a parish church of unusual dimensions than a cathedral; and
the dimensions were still so restricted, and “seating capacity” still so
important, that the accommodation of the congregation became a main
object rather than an incident of the plan from which the structure

Without reference to its scale, the design for the Cathedral of Albany
confesses the limitations that have been relaxed for the Cathedral of
New York, and that render it unavailable as a direct model. These appear
mainly in the interior, but, as we shall presently see, they affect the
exterior design as well. As it was in the beginnings of the art of
building, so now stone remains the material of monumental structures. In
durability it is rivalled, if it be rivalled, by metal alone, and such
experiments as the flèche of Rouen and the tower of Paris have not yet
convinced mankind of the possibility of a monumental metallic
architecture. Timber remains the most acceptable substitute, but timber
in a cathedral is plainly a substitute, and monumental architecture
admits no substitutes in the structure of a great building. A stone
ceiling must be regarded as an indispensable requisite of a true
cathedral; and although very impressive and noble cathedrals still
exhibit wooden ceilings, they so far come short of fulfilling the idea
of a cathedral, and the antiquarians are pretty well agreed that the
purpose of the builders was to make their ceilings as durable as their
walls, and that they failed to carry out their purpose either through
lack of means or through doubt of their own ability to construct stone
ceilings. Considering the elaborate expositions of construction in the
true timber roofs of the English Gothic, the boarded ceilings of Ely and
Peterborough were plainly makeshifts, and equally a makeshift would be
the wooden ceiling, of trefoil section, hung to the timbers of the roof
and concealing its construction, which Mr. Richardson designed for the
Albany Cathedral.

We come here rather unexpectedly, upon the question of “style.” If a
vaulted ceiling be so eminently desirable in a purely monumental
building as to amount to an architectural necessity, it is equally clear
that the groined vault--that is to say, the vault formed by the

[Illustration: GROUND-PLAN.]

intersection of two or more vaults--is necessary to the complete
development of the vaulting system; and for this the Romance
architecture in which Mr. Richardson preferred to work, and which in a
general way may be called the style of his design for Albany, does not
provide.[E] The churches of the Provençal Romanesque were vaulted, but
with a continuous tunnel vault, supported equally at all points, and
demanding an enormous thickness of wall, pierced by few and small
openings, to withstand the lateral thrust of the arch. The introduction
of groined vaults involved a concentration of the supports and of the
counterforts--that is to say, a series of buttresses in place of a
continuous wall. The piers of the nave and the exterior buttresses,
connected by flying buttresses with the vaults the thrust of which they
withstood, thus constituted the framework of the building, and the wall
between the buttresses became a mere screen, as finally it did become an
avowed screen of painted glass. The history of this development of the
vault is the history of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic
architecture. The mediæval architects carried this development to its
extreme, leaving at last, as in the Sainte Chapelle, no wall at all, and
their work has been described as an attempt to “etherealize matter.” It
may very well be doubted whether the architect of a modern cathedral
should not stop short of the result they reached, and strive for a
simpler and more robust treatment than theirs--in other words, for a
treatment more Romanesque. But if we assume that the cathedral shall be
ceiled in material as durable and monumental as that of its walls, we
cannot reject the labors of the generations of artistic builders who
concerned themselves with that problem, and attained so brilliant a
solution of it. To take the instance before us, the clere-story of the
nave and of the choir is in effect a continuous arcade of narrow-pointed
lancets. It needs a second glance to note that they are grouped in
pairs, and that the piers between the pairs are slightly broader than
the piers dividing the openings of each pair. The slight increase in
mass quite suffices to account in the interior for the principal roof
timber which rests upon it, and, with the vaulting-shaft, to continue
upward the line of the nave-pier. But if the flying buttress, necessary
to transfer the thrust of the vault, were built at this point, the
arcade of the exterior would be effectually interrupted, and the space
between the buttresses set off into a single bay, as in the wall of the
aisle below, which does, in fact, represent a vault. In that case a
single large opening would naturally take the place of the pair of
lancets, still further emphasizing the division into bays, and the side
of the nave would at once bear a much stronger resemblance than it now
bears to the accepted type of a cathedral. In the choir a like result
would follow, and it would be emphasized at the east end. The circle of
apsidal chapels is one of the most striking and most successful features
of Mr. Richardson’s design. As will be seen from the ground-plan,
however, these are features that do not proceed from the interior
arrangement so much as features to which the interior arrangement is
conformed. Even when viewed from the outside the undeniable power and
picturesqueness of the group is marred by the suggestion of something
forced and arbitrary in their arrangement. There are precedents in
Romanesque architecture for such a disposition, among them “the great
triapsal swing” of the twelfth-century churches of Cologne, though
evidently the example that inspired Mr. Richardson was the chevet of
Clermont in Auvergne, which he has followed even to the introduction of
the mosaic above the springing of the arches. All these, however, are
much simpler than the apse designed for Albany. What Mr. Richardson
doubtless had in mind was to reproduce the effect of the ring of chapels
that forms the chevet of a French Gothic cathedral, without reproducing
Gothic forms. But the flying buttresses that radiate from the apse of a
French Gothic cathedral determine and bound the chapels that fill the
spaces between them, and, by making these appear integral parts of the
main structure, save them from the look they would otherwise have of
extraneous appendages.


It seems, then, that the question of style in a modern cathedral is not
to be determined according to the individual preference of a designer
for round arches or pointed, for openings traceried or plain. If the
problem he is working at has been successfully solved heretofore, he is
not at liberty to ignore this solution because it falls without the
limits of the historical period he has proposed to himself, and to
content himself with an incomplete solution. Of course this remark does
not apply as a criticism to Mr. Richardson’s design for Albany, prepared
under limitations that he was compelled to observe, but which the
competitors for the Cathedral of New York were at liberty to disregard.
Whether he was right in so far sacrificing the monumental character of
his interior to the monumental features of his exterior, is not a
practical question for designers of whom no sacrifice in either
direction is demanded. There are very noble examples of vaulted
architecture in the Romanesque period--examples which it will be glory
enough for the architect of the Cathedral of New York if he succeeds in
equalling without slavishly imitating. But in all these there is a lack
of that complete correspondence between the interior and the exterior
structure that makes the organic unity of a true cathedral, and that was
attained for the first time in the thirteenth century, after a series of
tentative experiments embodied in these very Romanesque buildings.[F] It
is by no means necessary for an architect to revert to these experiments
because he does not sympathize with the expression of strained intensity
and “otherworldliness” which the Gothic architects attained, and prefers
the more robust, more massive, more mundane aspect of the Romanesque
monuments that preceded the great cathedrals. The modelling of these
cathedrals is carried so far that nothing is left unmodelled; there are
no longer any surfaces; the whole structure is anatomized; and the
modern architect, even while he stands astonished at the result of this
unsparing analysis, may yet say, “It were to consider too curiously to
consider so.” But it is not by refusing the aid these wonderful
structures offer him that he can advance upon or equal them. The
development of a cathedral requires, indeed, a system of piers and
vaults and flying arches and weighted buttresses. But these need not be
the same features in modelling, in detail, or in expression that we know
in historical examples. Instances are not wanting to show that they


Heyden Hawley]

may be massed with the stalwart simplicity of the Romanesque builders as
well as drawn into the complex and bewildering forms they assumed in the
later Gothic. In his design for Albany, Mr. Richardson has shown very
clearly that an artist, whose individuality is strong enough, can put
its stamp upon whatever he adopts. The common distinction that
Romanesque is a round-arched and Gothic a pointed style, is shown to be
baseless in an unmistakably Romanesque church in which all the openings
of the clere-story are pointed lancets, in which the pointed openings
elsewhere far outnumber the round arches, and in which the architect has
introduced tracery, sparingly but effectively, without at all marring
the unity of the structure. Nay, the church owes the suggestion of some
of its noblest features to works that did not exist until the period
classified as Romanesque had closed. A modern architect forfeits his
birthright who does not use all that the past has to offer him of help;
and his originality is impeached only if he does not overrule to his own
purposes what he adopts, if he copies instead of using. The west front
of Albany, for example, is the west front of Notre Dame of Paris, with
differences, as marked as the resemblances, which convert it into a new
creation. The three entrances, burrowed through the thickness of the
wall and not projected from the face, are repeated, but with a strong
and decorated belt course at their springing. The buttresses, bringing
down the line of the towers at Paris and dividing the front into three,
are omitted, and a balustrade in relief takes the place of the line of
statues. The flanking towers thus rise from a continuous base, and a
tall mock-arcade marks their lines in the next stage and emphasizes the
flanking wall, which in the mediæval example is pierced with a double
arch on each side of the rose-window, and the central wall is here
recessed to serve the same purpose of detaching the towers which in
Notre Dame is answered by the buttresses, while above the rose-window
another balustrade corresponds to the tall traceried arcade, and the
lancets of the belfry stage, double in Notre Dame, are here grouped in
threes. Except the buttresses, every feature of the old front has its
counterpart, but by the emphasis given to the horizontal lines, and the
diminution of the vertical lines, in one instance amounting to an
effacement, the whole aspect of the façade is transformed. This is an
admirable example of the manner in which a modern architect may employ
his inheritance. Another, not less admirable, is the adoption in the
transept entrance of the main and most characteristic feature of the
famous “triple northern porch” of Chartres, the interpolation of narrow
arches between the main portals and below the springing of their arches.
This is a still more signal instance of what we have been saying of the
power of changing the expression of a feature while retaining its
substance, for the northern porch of Chartres is one of the loveliest
fantasies of a late and highly ornate Gothic, and it is here translated
back into the severer Romanesque, as all the structural features of a
fully developed cathedral might be.


But it is not in its details nor in its features, fine as many of these
are, that Mr. Richardson’s design for Albany offers the most inspiring
suggestions and the safest model. It is in the sense that pervades it of
the all-importance of the relation of its masses, and in the mastery it
shows of architectural composition. It was long ago noted as a mark of
an artistic work of architecture that it “pyramidizes,” and this
implies a single culminating feature to which the parts converge and
rise. In the work which first fixed Mr. Richardson’s rank among American
architects--Trinity Church in Boston--the most striking merit of the
design is the manner in which the parts are subordinated to the noble
and massive central tower. In his design for Albany the same
subordination is carried through more gradations, and it is both more
subtle and more successful. The outer aisles of the nave are secluded
altogether from the interior, and set off in the “cloisters” or loggie
that are among the most effective features of the building, and among
the happiest suggestions its designer derived from the study of Spanish
architecture. The roofs of these recede to the walls of the aisle
proper, the roofs of which are conspicuous, so that the clere-story is
seen above a succession of terraces. At the east end the circle of
chapels and the aisle roofs and the sharp slope of the main roof rise in
receding masses that converge towards the great central tower, which
from the side broadens down upon the flanking towers of the transept.
The relation between the western and the central towers is far happier
than in the earlier example, and the central tower itself shows as great
an advance upon the tower of Trinity as does that upon the tower of
Salamanca, from which the suggestion of it was derived. But the western
front is perhaps the most brilliantly successful illustration of its
author’s power. We have seen that Mr. Richardson refused the aid of the
buttresses, which with their successive offsets narrow the fronts of
Gothic cathedrals as they rise, but he replaced them with a series of
devices that answer the same purpose almost as effectively. The flanking
towers are themselves flanked at the base by low polygonal hooded
structures that are succeeded by attached turrets reaching to the
belfry stage. The roofs of the western towers themselves next converge
towards the looming bulk of the central feature, to which they serve as
pinnacles. Surely in all the achievements of architectural amity through
variety that the Middle Ages have bequeathed to us, there are few that
in nobleness and dignity surpass the effect that is promised by Mr.
Richardson’s design for the west front of Albany, and in modern work
where shall we look for a parallel.

This very central tower may serve as a reminder of the point in which a
modern cathedral may mark an architectural advance upon the mediæval art
which, in most respects, its builders may be well content if they can
equal. For the culminating feature of the exterior should be the
culminating feature of the interior also, and it was this need that the
mediæval architects left unanswered. They recognized it, and in the
cimborio of the Spanish cathedral, and in such experiments as the
octagon of Ely, they made the beginnings of an answer, but these are no
more to be accepted as complete than the Romanesque system of vaulting,
which the Gothic architects developed to its perfection. The flèche of a
French cathedral emphasizes rather than supplies the need of such a
culmination. The central towers of such English cathedrals as possess
them are purely exterior ornaments, as unrelated to the body of the
church as its western towers. In Mr. Richardson’s design the tall and
narrow dome at the crossing would not be apprehensible as a crowning
feature, except from a point of view almost directly beneath it, while
its external form does not intimate its interior function. It was a true
feeling that led the architects of the Italian Renaissance to embrace
the aisles as well as the nave under the central dome, though they
clothed their construction in untrue forms. To develop true forms for
it is the one advance upon past ecclesiastical architecture which seems
to be possible, and to develop these may be said to be the central
problem of design in an American cathedral.




C. L. W. Eidlitz, Architect.]

To begin with a paradox, the feature of Chicago is its featurelessness.
There is scarcely any capital, ancient or modern, to which the site
supplies so little of a visible reason of being. The prairie and the
lake meet at a level, a liquid plain and a plain of mud that cannot
properly be called solid, with nothing but the change of material to
break the expanse. Indeed, when there is a breeze, the surface of Lake
Michigan would be distinctly more diversified than that of the adjoining
land, but for the handiwork of man. In point of fact, Chicago is of
course explained by the confluence here of the two branches of the
Chicago River. These have determined the site, the plan, and the
building of the town, but one can scarcely describe as natural features
the two sinuous ditches that drain the prairie into the lake, apparently
in defiance of the law that water runs, and even oozes, down hill.
Streams, however narrow and sluggish they may be, so they be themselves
available for traffic, operate an obstruction to traffic by land; and it
is the fact that for some distance from the junction the south fork of
the river flows parallel with the shore of the lake, and within a
half-mile of it, which establishes in this enclosure the commercial
centre of Chicago. Even the slight obstacle interposed to traffic by the
confluent streams, bridged and tunnelled as they are, has sufficed
greatly to raise the cost of land within this area, in comparison with
that outside, and to compel here the erection of the towering structures
that are the most characteristic and the most impressive monuments of
the town.

In character and impressiveness these by no means disappoint the
stranger’s expectations, but in number and extent they do, rather. For
what one expects of Chicago, before anything else, is modernness. In
most things one’s expectations are fully realized. It is the most
contemporaneous of capitals, and in the appearance of its people and
their talk in the streets and in the clubs and in the newspapers it
fairly palpitates with “actuality.” Nevertheless, the general aspect of
the business quarter is distinctly old-fashioned, and this even to the
effete Oriental from New York or Boston. The elevator is nearly a
quarter of a century old, and the first specimens of “elevator
architecture,” the Western Union and the “Tribune” buildings in New
York, are very nearly coeval with the great fire in Chicago. One would
have supposed that the rebuilders of Chicago would have seized upon this
hint with avidity, and that its compressed commercial quarter would have
made up in altitude what it lacked in area. In fact, not only are the
great modern office buildings still exceptional in the most costly and
most crowded district, but it is astonishing to hear that the oldest of
them is scarcely more than seven years of age. “Men’s deeds are after as
they have been accustomed”--and the first impulse of the burnt-out
merchants of Chicago was not to seize the opportunity the clean sweep of
the fire had given them to improve their warehouses and office
buildings, but to provide themselves straightway with places in which
they could find shelter and do business. The consequence was that the
new buildings of the burnt district were planned and designed, as well
as built, with the utmost possible speed, and the rebuilding was for the
most part done by the same architects who had built the old Chicago, and
who took even less thought the second time than they had taken the
first, by reason of the greater pressure upon them. The American
commercial Renaissance, commonly expressed in cast-iron, was in its full
efflorescence just before the fire. The material was discredited by that
calamity, but unhappily not the forms it had taken, and in Chicago we
may see, what is scarcely to be seen anywhere else in the world, fronts
in cast-iron, themselves imitated from lithic architecture, again
imitated in masonry, with the modifications reproduced that had been
made necessary by the use of the less trustworthy material. This ignoble
process is facilitated by the material at hand, a limestone of which
slabs can be had in sizes that simulate exactly the castings from which
the treatment of them is derived. After the exposure of a few months to
the bituminous fumes it is really impossible to tell one of these
reproductions from the original, which very likely adjoins it. Masonry
and metal alike appear to have come from a foundry, rather than from a
quarry, and to have been moulded according to the stock patterns of some
architectural iron-works. The lifelessness and thoughtlessness of the
iron-founders’ work predominate in the streets devoted to the retail
trade, and the picturesque tourist in Chicago is thus compelled to
traverse many miles of street fronts quite as dismal and as monotonous
as the commercial architecture of any other modern town.

There is a compensation for this in what at first sight seems to be one
of its aggravations. The buildings which wear these stereotyped street
fronts are much lower and less capacious than the increasing exigencies
of business require, and than the introduction of the elevator makes
possible, and they could not be other than cheap and flimsy in
construction. Naturally the rebuilders of Chicago talked a great deal
about “absolutely fire-proof” construction, but as naturally they did
very little of it. The necessity for immediate accommodation, at a
minimum of cost, was overwhelming, and cheap and hasty construction
cannot be fire-proof construction. Accordingly, the majority of the
commercial buildings now standing in Chicago are as really provisional
and temporary as the tents and shanties, pitched almost on the embers of
the fire, which they succeeded. The time being now ripe for replacing
them by structures more capacious and durable, it is a matter for
congratulation that there is nothing in the existing buildings of such
practical or architectural value as to make anybody regret or obstruct
the substitution.

Even if the old-fashioned architects who rebuilt Chicago had been
anxious to reconstruct it according to the best and newest lights, it
would have been quite out of their power to do so unaided. The erection
of a twelve-story building anywhere involves an amount of mechanical
consideration and a degree of engineering skill that are quite beyond
the practitioners of the American metallic Renaissance. In Chicago the
problem is more complicated than elsewhere, because these towering and
massive structures ultimately rest upon a quagmire that is not less but
more untrustworthy the deeper one digs. The distribution of the weight
by carrying the foundations down to a trustworthy bottom, and increasing
the area of the supporting piers as they descend, is not practicable
here, nor, for the same reason, can it be done by piling. It is managed,
in the heaviest buildings, by floating them upon a raft of concrete and
railroad iron, spread a few feet below the surface, so that there are no
cellars in the business quarter, and the subterranean activities that
are so striking in the elevator buildings of New York are quite unknown.
If the architects of the old Chicago, to whom their former clients
naturally applied to rear the phœnix of the new, had been seized with
the ambition of building Babels, they would doubtless have made as wild
work practically as they certainly would have made artistically in the
confusion of architectural tongues that would have fallen upon them. It
is in every point of view fortunate that the modernization of the town
was reserved for the better-trained designers of a younger generation.

It might be expected that the architecture of Chicago would be severely
utilitarian in purpose if not in design, and this is the case. The city
may be said to consist of places of business and places of residence.
There are no churches, for example, that fairly represent the skill of
the architects. The best of them are scarcely worthy of illustration or
discussion here, while the worst of them might suitably illustrate the
work projected by a ribald wit on “The Comic Aspects of Christianity.”
Among other things, it follows from this deficiency that Chicago lacks
almost altogether, in any general view that can be had of it, the
variety and animation that are imparted to the sky line of a town seen
from the water, or from an eminence, by a “tiara of proud towers,” even
when these are not specially attractive in outline or in detail, nor
especially fortunate in their grouping. There is nothing, for example,
in the aspect of Chicago from the lake, or from any attainable point of
view, that is comparable to the sky-line of the Back Bay of Boston, as
seen from the Cambridge bridge, or of lower New York from either river.
The towering buildings are almost wholly flat-roofed, and their stark,
rectangular outlines cannot take on picturesqueness, even under the
friendly drapery of the smoke that overhangs the commercial quarter
during six days of the week. The architect of the Dearborn Station was
very happily inspired when he relieved the prevailing monotony with the
quaint and striking clock-tower that adjoins that structure.

The secular public buildings of Chicago are much more noteworthy than
the churches, but upon the whole they bear scarcely so large a relation
to the mass of private building as one would expect from the wealth and
the public spirit of the town, and with one or two very noteworthy
exceptions, recent as many of them are, they were built too early. The
most discussed of them is the city and county building, and this has
been discussed for reasons quite alien to its architecture, the halves
of what was originally a single design having been assigned to different
architects. The original design has been followed in the main, and the
result is an edifice that certainly makes a distinctive impression. A
building, completely detached, 340 feet by 280 in area, and considerably
over 100 feet high, can scarcely fail to make an impression by dint of
mere magnitude, but there is rather more than that in the city and
county building. The parts are few and large, but five stories
appearing, the masonry is massive, and the projecting and pedimented
porticoes are on an ample scale. These things give the building a
certain effect of sumptuosity and swagger that ally it rather to the
Parisian than to the Peorian Renaissance. The effect is marred by
certain drawbacks of detail, and by one that is scarcely of


J. W. Egan and J. R. Mullett, Architects.]

detail, the extreme meanness and baldness of the attic, in which, for
the only time in the building, the openings seem to be arranged with
some reference to their uses, and in which accordingly they have a
painfully pinched and huddled appearance. In the decorative detail there
is apparent a divergency of views between the two architects appointed
to carry out the divided halves of the united design. The municipal
designer--or possibly it is the county gentleman--has been content to
stand upon the ancient ways, and to introduce no detail for which he has
not found Ludovican precedent, while his rival is of a more aspiring
mind, and has endeavored to carry out the precepts of the late Thomas
Jefferson, by classicizing things modern. His excursions are not very
daring, and consist mainly in such substitutions as that of an Indian’s
head for the antique mask, in a frieze of conventionalized American
foliage. He has attained what must be in such an attempt the gratifying
success of converting his modern material to a result as dull and
lifeless and uninteresting as his prototype. It does not, however,
impair the grandiosity of the general effect. This is impaired, not
merely by the poverty of design already noted in the attic, but also by
the niggardliness shown in dividing the polished granite column of the
porticoes into several drums, though monoliths are plainly indicated by
their dimensions, and by the general scale of the masonry. The small
economy is the more injurious, because a noble regardlessness of expense
is of the essence of the architecture, and an integral part of its
effectiveness. The most monumental feature of the projected building has
never been supplied--a huge arch in the centre of each of the shorter
fronts, giving access to the central court, and marking the division
between the property of the city and of the county. It is possible that
the failure to finish this arch has proceeded from the political
conflict that has left its scars upon the building elsewhere. There is
an obvious practical difficulty in intrusting the two halves of an arch
to rival architects and rival contractors. However that may be, the arch
is unbuilt, and the entrance to the central court is a mere rift in the
wall. The practical townspeople have seized the opportunity thus
presented by the unoccupied space of free quarters for the all-pervading
buggy. With a contempt for the constituted authorities that it must be
owned the constituted authorities have gone far to justify, they tether
their horses in the shadow of their chief civic monument, like so many
Arabs under the pillars of Palmyra or Persepolis, and heighten the
impression of being the relic of an extinct race that is given to the
pile not only by its unfinished state and by the stains of smoke,
undistinguishable from those of time, but by its entirely exotic
architecture. As the newly-landed Irishman, making his way up Broadway
from Castle Garden, is said to have exclaimed, when he came in sight of
the City Hall, that “that never was built in this country,” so the
stranger in Chicago is tempted to declare of its municipal building that
it could not have been reared by the same race of whose building
activities the other evidences surround him. This single example of
Ludovican architecture recalls, as most examples of it do, Thackeray’s
caricature of its Mecænas. Despoiled of its periwigs and its high heels,
that is to say, of its architecture, which is easily separable from it,
the building would merely lose all its character, without losing
anything that belongs to it as a building.

Nevertheless this municipal building has its character, and in
comparison with the next most famous public building of Chicago, it
vindicates the wisdom of its architect in subjecting himself to the
safeguard of a style of which, moreover, his work shows a real study.
The style may be absolutely irrelevant both to our needs and to our
ideas, as irrelevant as the political system of Louis XIV. which it
recalls. Its formulas may seem quite empty, but they gather dignity, if
not meaning, when contrasted with the work of an avid “swallower of
formulas,” like the architect of the Board

[Illustration: THE ART INSTITUTE.

Burnham & Root, Architects.]

of Trade. His work is of no style, a proposition that is not invalidated
by the probability that he himself would call it “American eclectic
Gothic.” We all know what the untutored and aboriginal architect
stretches that term to cover. There is no doubt about its being
characteristically modern and American; one might say characteristically
Western, if he did not recall equally free and untrammelled exuberances
in the Atlantic States. But it is impossible to ascribe to it any
architectural merit, unless a complete disregard for precedent is to be
imputed for righteousness, whether it proceed from ignorance or from
contempt. And, indeed, there are not many other structures in the
United States, of equal cost and pretension, which equally with this
combine the dignity of a commercial traveller with the bland repose of
St. Vitus. It is difficult to contemplate its bustling and uneasy façade
without feeling a certain sympathy with the mob of anarchists that
“demonstrated” under its windows on the night of its opening. If they
were really anarchists, it was very ungrateful of them, for one would go
far to find a more perfect expression of anarchy in architecture, and it
is conceivable that they were instigated by an outraged architectural
critic in disguise. If that ringleader had been caught and arraigned, he
could have maintained, with much better reason, the plea that Gustave
Courbet made for his share in the destruction of the column of the Place
Vendôme, that his opposition to the monument was not political, but

Fortunately there is no other among the public or quasi-public buildings
of Chicago of which the architecture is so hopeless and so
irresponsible--no other that would so baffle the palæontological Paley
who should seek in it evidences of design, and that does not exhibit, at
least, an architectural purpose, carried out with more or less of
consistency and success. At the very centre of the commercial water
front there was wisely reserved from traffic in the rebuilding of the
town the “Lake Park,” a mile in extent, and some hundreds of feet in
depth, which not only serves the purpose of affording a view of the lake
from the business quarter, but also secures an effective foreground for
the buildings that line its landward edge. One of the oldest of these,
young as all of them are, is the “Art Institute,” designed by Messrs.
Burnham & Root. This is of a moderate altitude, and suffers somewhat
from being dwarfed by the elevator buildings erected


since, being but of three stories and a roof; but no neighbor could make
it other than a vigorous and effective work, as dignified as the Board
of Trade is uneasy, and as quiet as that is noisy. It is extremely
simple in composition, as will be seen, and it bears very little
ornament, this being for the most part concentrated upon the ample and
deeply moulded archway of the entrance. It owes its effectiveness to the
clearness of its division into the three main parts of base and
superstructure and roof, to the harmonious relation between them, and to
the differences in the treatment of them that enhance this harmony. The
Aristotelian precept that a work of art must have a beginning, a middle,
and an end, is nowhere more conspicuously valid than in architecture,
and nowhere does the neglect of it entail more unfortunate consequences.
The severity of the basement, with its plain rectangular openings, is an
effective introduction to the somewhat lighter and more open
fenestration of the second and third stories, which are grouped to form
the second term in the proportion, and this in turn to the range of
openings in the gable of the shorter front, and to the row of peaked
dormers in the longer that animate the sky-line and complete the
composition. The impressiveness of the fronts is very greatly deepened
by the vigorous framing of massive angle piers in which they are
enclosed, the vigor of which is enhanced by the solid pinnacled turrets,
corbelled out above the second story, that help to weight them, and that
visibly abut the outward thrust of the arcades. It may be significant,
with reference to the tendency of Western architecture, that this
admirable building, admirable in the sobriety and moderation that are
facilitated by its moderate size, is precisely what one would not expect
to find in Chicago, so little is there evident in it of an intention to
“collar the eye,” or to challenge the attention it so very well repays.

In part, as we have just intimated, this modesty may be ascribed to the
modest dimensions of the building. At any rate, it was out of the
question in another important quasi-public building, which is the
latest, and, at this writing, the loudest of the lions of Chicago--the
Auditorium. Whatever else a ten-story building, nearly 300 feet by more
than 350 in area and 140 in height, with a tower rising 80 feet farther,
may happen to be, it must be conspicuous, and it is no wise possible
that its designer should make it appear bashful or unobtrusive. Of
however retiring a disposition he may be, in such a situation he must
brazen it out. It is in his


Adler & Sullivan, Architects.]

power to adopt a very simple or a very elaborate treatment, and to
imperil the success of his work by making it dull on the one hand or
unquiet on the other. Messrs. Adler & Sullivan, the architects of the
Auditorium, have chosen the better part in treating their huge fronts
with great severity, insomuch that the building can scarcely be said to
exhibit any “features,” except the triple entrance on the lake front,
with its overhanging balcony, and the square tower that rises over the
southern front to a height of 225 feet. While they did wisely in showing
that monotony had fewer terrors for them than restlessness, the monotony
that undoubtedly amounts to a defect in the aspect of the completed work
is by no means wholly or mainly attributable to them. A place of
popular entertainment, constructed upon a scale and with a massiveness
to which we can scarcely find a parallel since Roman days, would present
one of the worthiest and most interesting problems a modern architect
could have if he were left to solve it unhampered. It is quite difficult
enough to tax the power of any designer without any complications. The
problem of design in the Chicago Auditorium is much complicated with
requirements entirely irrelevant to its main purpose. The lobbies, the
auditorium, and the stage of a great theatre, which are its essential
parts, are all susceptible of an exterior expression more truthful and
more striking than has yet been attained, in spite of many earnest and
interesting essays. In the interior of the Auditorium, where the
architects were left free, they have devoted themselves to solving their
real problem with a high degree of success, and have attained an
impressive simplicity and largeness. We are not dealing with interiors,
however, and they were required to envelop the outside of their theatre
in a shell of many-storied commercial architecture, which forbade them
even to try for a monumental expression of their great hall. In the
main, their exterior appears and must be judged only as a “business
block.” They have their exits and their entrances, and it is really only
in these features that the exterior betrays the primary purpose of the
building. The tower, even, is evidently not so much monumental as
utilitarian. It is prepared for in the substructure only by a slight and
inadequate projection of the piers, while it is itself obviously
destined for profitable occupancy, being a small three-story business
block, superimposed upon a huge ten-story business block. Such a
structure cannot be converted into a monumental feature by making it
more massive at the top than it is at the bottom,


Adler & Sullivan. Architects.]

even though the massiveness be as artistically accentuated as it is in
the tower of the Auditorium by the powerful open colonnade and the
strong machicolated cornice in which it culminates. Waiving, as the
designers have been compelled to do, the main purpose of the structure,
and considering it as a commercial building, the Auditorium does not
leave very much to be desired. The basement, especially, which consists
of three stories of granite darker than the limestone of the
superstructure, and appropriately rough-faced, is a vigorous and
dignified performance, in which the expression of rugged strength is
enhanced by the small and deep openings, and in which the necessarily
large openings of the ground-floor are prevented from enfeebling the
design by the massiveness of the lintels and flat arches that enclose
them, and of the piers and pillars by which these are supported. The
superstructure is scarcely worthy of this basement. The triple vertical
division of the wall is effectively proportioned, but a much stronger
demarcation is needed between the second and third members than is
furnished by the discontinuous sill-course of the eighth story, while a
greater projection, a greater depth, and a more vigorous modelling of
the main cornice, and an enrichment of the attic beneath, would go far
to relieve the baldness and monotony that are the defects of the design,
and that are scarcely to be condoned because there are architectural
faults much worse and much more frequent, which the designers have
avoided. It is only, as has been said, in the entrances that they have
been permitted to exhibit the object of the building. Really, it is only
in the entrance on the Lake front, for the triplet of stilted arches at
the base of the tower is not a very felicitous or a very congruous
feature. The three low arches of the Lake front are of a Roman
largeness--true vomitoria--and their effectiveness is increased by the
simplicity of their treatment, by the ample lateral abutment provided
for them, and by the long and shallow balcony that overhangs them. With
the arches themselves this makes a very impressive feature, albeit the
balcony is a very questionable feature. Even to the layman there must be
a latent contradiction in the intercalation of the pillar to relieve the
bearing of a lintel, when the pillar is referred to an unsupported
shelf, obviously lighter and weaker than the lintel itself. This
contradiction is not explained away by the vigor and massiveness of the
shallow corbels that really account for the alternate columns, and it
suggests that the construction so exhibited is not the true
construction at all, and leaves this latter to be inferred without any
help from the architecture. Even if one waives his objection to
architectural forms that do not agree with the structural facts, it is
surely not pedantic to require that the construction asserted by the
forms shall be plausible to the extent of agreeing with itself. It is a
pity that there should be such a drawback from a feature so effective;
but the drawback does not prevent the feature from being effective, nor
do the shortcomings we have been considering in the design of the
Auditorium, nor even the much more serious obstacle that was inherent in
the problem and imposed upon the architects, prevent it from being a
very impressive structure, and justifying the pride with which it is
regarded by all patriotic Chicagoans.

But, as has been intimated, it is not in monumental edifices that the
characteristic building of Chicago is to be looked for. The “business
block,” entirely utilitarian in purpose, and monumental only in
magnitude and in solidity of construction, is the true and typical
embodiment in building of the Chicago idea. This might be said, of
course, of any American city. Undoubtedly the most remarkable
achievements of our architects and the most creditable have been in
commercial architecture. But in this respect Chicago is more American
than any of the Eastern cities, where there are signs, even in the
commercial quarters, of division of interest and infirmity of purpose.
In none of them does the building bespeak such a singleness of devotion,
or indicate that life means so exclusively a living. Even the exceptions
prove the rule by such tokens as the modest dimensions of the Art
Institute and the concealment of the Auditorium in the heart of a
business block. It does not by any means follow that the business
blocks are uninteresting. There are singularly few exceptions to the
rule of dismalness in the buildings that were hurriedly run up after the
fire. One of these exceptions, the American Express Company, has an
extrinsic interest as being the work of Mr. Richardson, and as being, so
far as it need be classified, an example of Victorian Gothic, although
its openings are all lintelled, instead of the Provençal Romanesque to
which its author afterwards addicted himself with such success. So
successful an example is it that an eminent but possibly bilious English
architect, who visited Chicago at an early stage of the rebuilding,
declared it to be the only thing in the town worth looking at--a
judgment that does not seem so harsh to the tourist of to-day who
compares it with its thus disesteemed contemporaries. It is a sober and
straightforward performance in a safe monochrome of olive sandstone, and
it thus lacks the note of that variety of Victorian Gothic that Mr.
Ruskin’s eloquence stimulated untrained American designers to produce,
in which the restlessness of unstudied forms is still further tormented
by the spotty application of color. From this variety of Victorian
Gothic Chicago is happily free. A gabled building in brick and sandstone
opposite the Palmer House is almost a unique, and not at all an
unfavorable, example. The business streets that are now merely dismal
would have been much more aggressively painful if the incapable
architects who built them had deviated from the comparative safety of
their cast-iron Renaissance into a style that put them upon their
individual want of resources. Moreover, throughout the commercial
quarter any attempt at a structural use of color is sure shortly to be
frustrated by coal-smoke. Upon the whole, it is a matter for
congratulation that the earlier rebuilders of

[Illustration: THE FIELD BUILDING.

H. H. Richardson, Architect.]

Chicago, being what they were, should have been so ignorant or careless
of what was going on elsewhere, which, had they been aware of it, they
would have been quite certain to misapply. Not only did they thus escape
the frantic result that came of Victorian Gothic in untutored hands, but
they escaped the pettiness and puerility that resulted of “Queen Anne,”
even when it was done by designers who ought to have known better. These
pages contain a disparagement of that curious mode of building in a
paper written when it was dressed in its little brief authority and
playing its most fantastic tricks. Now it is so well recognized that
Queen Anne is dead, that it seems strange educated architects ever could
have fancied they detected the promise and potency of architectural
life in her cold remains. This most evanescent of fashions seems never
to have prevailed in Chicago at all.

One of the earliest of the more modern and characteristic of the
commercial structures of Chicago, the Field Building, is by Mr.
Richardson also, a huge warehouse covering a whole square, and seven
stories high. With such an opportunity, Mr. Richardson could be trusted
implicitly at least to make the most of his dimensions, and large as the
building is in fact, it looks interminably big. Its bigness is made
apparent by the simplicity of its treatment and the absence of any
lateral division whatever. Simplicity, indeed, could scarcely go
further. The vast expanses of the fronts are unrelieved by any ornament
except a leaf in the cornice, and a rudimentary capital in the piers and
mullions of the colonnaded attic. The effect of the mass is due wholly
to its magnitude, to the disposition of its openings, and to the
emphatic exhibition of the masonic structure. The openings, except in
the attic, and except for an ample pier reserved at each corner, are
equally spaced throughout. The vertical division is limited to a sharp
separation from the intermediate wall veil of the basement on one hand,
and of the attic on the other. It must be owned that there is even a
distinct infelicity in the arrangement of the five stories of this
intermediate wall, the two superposed arcades, the upper of which, by
reason of its multiplied supports, is the more solid of aspect, and
between which there is no harmonious relation, but contrariwise a
competition. Nevertheless, the main division is so clear, and the
handling throughout so vigorous, as to carry off even a more serious
defect. Nothing of its kind could be more impressive than the rugged
expanse of masonry, of which the bonding is expressed throughout, and
which in the granite basement becomes Cyclopean in scale, and in the
doorway especially Cyclopean in rude strength. The great pile is one of
the most interesting as it is one of the most individual examples of
American commercial building. In it the vulgarity of the “commercial
palace” is gratefully conspicuous by its absence, and it is as
monumental in its massiveness and durability as it is grimly utilitarian
in expression.

It is in this observance of the proprieties of commercial architecture,
and in this self-denying rejection of an ornateness improper to it, that
the best of the commercial architecture of Chicago is a welcome surprise
to the tourist from the East. When the rebuilding of the business
quarter of Boston was in progress, and while that city was for the most
part congratulating itself upon the display of the skill of its
architects for which the fire had opened a field, Mr. Richardson
observed to the author of these remarks that there was more character in
the plain and solid warehouses that had been destroyed than in the
florid edifices by which they had been replaced. The saying was just,
for the burned Boston was as unmistakably commercial as much of the
rebuilt Boston is irrelevantly palatial. In the warehouse just noticed,
Mr. Richardson himself resisted this besetting temptation of the
architect, and his work certainly loses nothing of the simplicity which,
with the uninstructed builders of old Boston, was in large part mere
ignorance and unskilfulness, but emphasizes it by the superior power of
distributing his masses that belonged to him as a trained and sensitive
designer; for the resources of an artist are required to give an
artistic and poignant expression even of rudeness. The rebuilt
commercial quarter of Boston is by no means an extreme example of
misplaced ornateness. Within the past three or four years Wall Street
has been converted from the hum-drum respectability of an old-fashioned
business thoroughfare to a street of commercial palaces, the aspect of
which must contain an element of grievousness to the judicious, who see
that the builders have lavished their repertory of ornament and variety
on buildings to which nobody resorts for pleasure, but everybody for
business alone, and that they have left themselves nothing further to do
in the way of enrichment when they come to do temples and palaces,
properly so called. Mr. Ruskin has fallen into deep, and largely into
deserved discredit as an architectural critic, by promulgating
rhapsodies as dogmas. His intellectual frivolity is even more evident
and irritating by reason of the moral earnestness that attends it,
recalling that perfervid pulpiteer of whom a like-minded eulogist
affirmed that “he wielded his prurient imagination like a battle-axe in
the service of the Lord of Hosts.” All the same, lovers of architecture
owe him gratitude for his eloquent inculcation of some of the truths
that he arrived at by feeling, however inconclusive is the reasoning by
which he endeavors to support them, and one of these is the text, so
much preached from in the “Seven Lamps,” that “where rest is forbidden,
so is ornament.” Wall Street and the business quarter of Boston, and
every commercial palace in every city, violate, in differing degrees,
this plain dictate of good sense and good taste, even in the very rare
instances in which the misplacement of the ornateness is the worst thing
that can be alleged against it. In the best of the commercial buildings
of Chicago there is nothing visible of the conflict of which we hear so
much from architects, mostly in the way of complaint, between the claims
of “art” and the claims of utility, nor any evidence of a desire to get
the better of a practical client by smuggling architecture upon him, and
deceiving him for his own good and the glory of his architect. It is a
very good lesson to see how the strictly architectural


S. S. Beman, Architect.]

sucess of the commercial buildings is apt to be directly in
proportion to the renunciation by the designers of conventional
“architecturesqueness,” and to their loyal acceptance at all points of
the utilitarian conditions under which they are working.

The Studebaker Building is one of the show buildings of Chicago, but it
cannot be said to deserve this particular praise in so high a degree as
several less celebrated structures. It partakes--shall we say?--too much
of the palatial character of Devonshire Street and Wall Street to be
fairly representative of the severity of commercial architecture in
Chicago. It is very advantageously placed, fronting the Lake Park, and
it is in several respects not unworthy of its situation. The arrangement
of the first five stories is striking, and the arcade that embraces the
three upper of these is a striking and well-studied feature, with detail
very good in itself and very well adjusted in place and in scale. It is
the profusion of this detail and the lavish introduction of carved
marble and of polished granite shafts that first impress every beholder
with its palatial rather than commercial character, but this character
is not less given to the front, or to that part of it which has
character, by the very general composition that makes the front so
striking. An arcade superposed upon two colonnades, which are together
of less than its own height, can scarcely fail of impressiveness; but
here it loses some of its impressiveness in losing all its significance
by reason of its subdivision into three equal stories, none of them
differing in purpose from any other or from the colonnade below, and the
larger grouping that simulates a lofty hall above two minor stories is
thus seen to be merely capricious. Of course pretty much the same
criticism may be passed upon most American works of commercial
architecture, and upon the best not less than upon the worst, but that
it cannot be passed upon the best commercial buildings of Chicago is
their peculiar praise. Moreover, the Studebaker building has some marked
defects peculiar to its design. The flanking piers of the building, in
spite of the effort made to increase their apparent massiveness by a
solid treatment of the terminal arches at the base, are painfully thin
and inadequate, and their tenuity is emphasized by the modelling into
nook shafts of their inner angles in the second story. These are serious
blemishes upon the design of the first five stories, and these stories
exhaust the architectural interest of the building. There is something
even ludicrous in the sudden and complete collapse of the architecture
above the large arcade, as if the ideas of the designer had all at once
given out, or rather as if an untrained builder had been called upon to
add three stories to the unfinished work of a scholarly architect. In
truth, this superstructure does not show a single felicity either of
disposition or detail, but is wholly mean and commonplace. It suffices
to vulgarize the building below it, and it is itself quite superfluously
vulgarized by the unmeaning and irrelevant conical roofs with which the
sky-line is tormented. If the substructure be amenable to the criticism
that it is not commercial architecture, the superstructure is amenable
to the more radical criticism that it is not architecture at all.

The Owings Building is another conspicuous commercial structure that
invites the same criticism of not being strictly commercial, but in a
very different way. There is here no prodigality of ornament, and no
irrelevant preciousness of material. A superstructure of grayish brick
surmounts a basement of gray-stone, and the only decoration is reserved
for the main entrance, which it is appropriate to signalize and render


Cobb & Frost, Architects.]

even in works of the barest utility. This is attained here by the lofty
gable, crocketed and covered with carving, that rises above the plain
archway which forms the entrance itself. The lintelled openings of the
basement elsewhere are of a Puritanical severity, and so are the arched
openings of the brick superstructure. Neither is there the least attempt
to suggest the thing that is not in the interior arrangement by way of
giving variety and interest to the exterior. In the treatment of the
wall space, the only one of the “unnecessary features,” in which Mr.
Ruskin declares architecture to consist, is the corniced frieze above
the fourth story of the superstructure, with its suggested support of
tall and slim pilasters; and this is quite justifiable as giving the
building a triple division, and distinguishing the main wall from the
gable. For this purpose, however, obviously enough, the dividing feature
should be placed between the two parts it is meant to differentiate; and
in the present instance this line is two stories higher than the point
actually selected, and is now marked only by a light string course. If
the emphatic horizontal belt had been raised these two stories, the
division it creates would not only have corresponded to the organic
division of the building, but another requisite of architectural
composition would have been fulfilled, inasmuch as one of the three
members would visibly have predominated over the others; whereas now the
three are too nearly equal. It is quite true that the prolongation of
the pilasters through two more stories would have made them spindle
quite intolerably, but in any case they are rather superfluous and
impertinent, and it would have decorated the fronts to omit them. The
accentuation of vertical lines by extraneous features is not precisely
what is needed in a twelve-story building of these dimensions. In these
points, however, there is no departure from the spirit of commercial
architecture. That occurs here, not in detail, but in the general scheme
that gives the building its picturesqueness of outline. The corbelled
turret at the angle makes more eligible the rooms its openings light,
but the steep gabled roofs which this turret unites and dominates
plainly enough fail to utilize to the utmost the spaces they enclose,
and so far violate the conditions of commercial architecture. It seems
ungracious to find fault with them on that account, they are so
successfully studied in mass and in detail, and the group they make with
the turret is so spirited and effective; but nevertheless they evidently
do not belong to an office building, and, to borrow the expression of a
Federal judge upon a famous occasion, their very picturesqueness is

We have been speaking, of course, of the better commercial edifices, and
it is by no means to be inferred that Chicago does not contain “elevator
buildings” as disunited and absurd and restless as those of any other


Burnham & Root, Architects.]

American town. About these select few, also, there is nothing especially
characteristic. They might be in New York, or Boston, or Philadelphia,
for any local color that they exhibit. It is otherwise with the
commercial buildings designed by Messrs. Burnham & Root. With the
striking exception of Mr. Richardson’s Field Building, the names of
these designers connote what there is of characteristically Chicagoan in
the architecture of the business streets, so that, after all, the
individuality is not local, but personal. The untimely and deplorable
death of John Wellborn Root makes it proper to say that the
individuality was mainly his. It consists largely in a clearer
perception than one finds elsewhere of the limitations and conditions of
commercial architecture, or in a more austere and self-denying acting
upon that perception. This is the quality that such towering structures
as the Insurance Exchange, the Phœnix Building, and “The Rookery” have
in common, and that clearly distinguishes them from the mass of
commercial palaces in Chicago or elsewhere. There is no sacrifice to
picturesqueness of the utilitarian purpose in their general form, as in
the composition of the Owings Building, and no denial of it in detail,
as in the irrelevant arcade of the Studebaker Building. Their flat roofs
are not tormented into protuberances in order to animate their
sky-lines, and those of them that are built around an interior court are
frankly hypæthral. Nor is there in any of them any incongruous
preciousness of material. They are of brick, brown or red, upon stone
basements, and the ornament is such, and only such, as is needed to
express and to emphasize the structural divisions and dispositions.
These are negative merits, it is true, but as our commercial
architecture goes, they are not less meritorious on that account, and
one is inclined to wish that the architects of all the commercial
palaces might attend to the preachments upon the fitness of things that
these edifices deliver, for they have very positive merits also. They
are all architectural compositions, and not mere walls promiscuously
pierced with openings, or, what is much commoner, mere ranges of
openings scantily framed in strips of wall. They are sharply and
unmistakably divided into the parts that every building needs to be a
work of architecture, the members that mark the division are carefully
and successfully adjusted with reference to their place and their scale,
and the treatment of the different parts is so varied as to avoid both
monotony and miscellany. The angle piers, upon the visible sufficiency
of which the effectiveness, especially of a lofty building, so largely
depends, never fail in this sufficiency, and the superior solidity that
the basement of any building needs as a building, when it cannot be
attained in fact by reason of commercial exigencies, is suggested in a
more rugged and more massive treatment not less than in the employment
of a visibly stronger material. These dispositions are aided by the
devices at the command of the architect. The angle piers are weighted to
the eye by the solid corbelled pinnacles at the top, as in the Insurance
Exchange and the Rookery, or stiffened by a slight withdrawal that gives
an additional vertical line on each side of the arris, as in the Phœnix,
while the same purpose is partly subserved in the Rookery by the
projection from the angle of the tall metallic lantern standards that
repeat and enforce this line. The lateral division of the principal
fronts is similar in all three structures. A narrow central compartment
is distinguished in treatment, by an actual projection or by the
thickening of the pier, from the longer wings, while the coincidence of
this central division with the


Burnham & Root, Architects.]

main entrance relieves the arrangement from the unpleasant look of an
arrangement obviously forced or arbitrary. In the Insurance Exchange the
centre is signalized by a balconied projection over the entrance,
extending through the architectural basement--the dado, so to speak,
which is here the principal division; by a widening of the pier and a
concentration of the central openings in the second division, and above
by an interruption of the otherwise unbroken arcade that traverses the
attic. In the Rookery it is marked by a slight projection, which above
is still further projected into tall corbelled pinnacles, and the wall
thus bounded is slightly bowed, and its openings diminished and
multiplied. In the Phœnix Building this bowing is carried so much
further as to result in a corbelled oriel, extending through four
stories, and repeated on a smaller scale at each end of the principal
front and in the centre of each shorter front. This feature may perhaps
be excepted from the general praise the buildings deserve of a strict
adherence to their utilitarian purpose. Not that even in Chicago a
business man may not have occasion to look out of the window, nor that,
if he does, he may not be pardoned for desiring to extend his view
beyond the walls and windows of over the way. An oriel-window is not
necessarily an incongruity in a “business block,” but the treatment of
these oriels is a little fantastic and a little ornate for their
destination, and belongs rather to domestic than to commercial
architecture, and it is not in any case fortunate. This is the sole
exception, however, to be made on this score. The entrances, to be sure,
are enriched with a decoration beyond the mere expression of the
structure which has elsewhere been the rule, but they do not appear
incongruous. The entrance to a building that houses the population of a
considerable village must be wide, and if its height were regulated by
that of the human figure it would resemble the burrow by which the
Esquimau gains access to his snow-hut, and become a manifest absurdity
as the portal of a ten-story building. It must be large and conspicuous,
and it should be stately, and it were a “very cynical asperity” to deny
to the designer the privilege of enhancing by ornament the necessary
stateliness of the one feature of his building which must arrest, for a
moment at least, the attention of the most


Burnham & Root, Architects.]

preoccupied visitor. It cannot be said that such a feature as the
entrance of the Phœnix Building is intensely characteristic of a modern
business block, but it can be said that in its place it does not in the
least disturb the impression the structure makes of a modern business
block. If beauty be its own excuse for being, this entrance needs no
other, for assuredly it is one of the most beautiful and artistic works
that American architecture has to show, so admirably proportioned it is,
and so admirably detailed, so clear and emphatic without exaggeration is
the expression of the structure, and so rich and refined the ornament.
Upon the whole these buildings, by far the most successful and
impressive of the business buildings of Chicago, not merely attest the
skill of their architects, but reward their self-denial in making the
design for a commercial building out of its own elements, however
unpromising these may seem; in permitting the building, in a word, to
impose its design upon them and in following its indications, rather
than in imposing upon the building a design derived from anything but a
consideration of its own requirements. Hence it is that, without showing
anywhere any strain after originality, these structures are more
original than structures in which such a strain is evident. “The merit
of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity.” The designer did not
permit himself to be diverted from the problem in hand by a
consideration of the irrelevant beauties of Roman theatres, or
Florentine palaces, or Flemish town-halls, and accordingly the work is
not reminiscent of these nor of any previous architectural types, of
which so many contemporary buildings have the air of being adaptations
under extreme difficulties. It is to the same directness and sincerity
in the attempt to solve a novel problem that these buildings owe what is
not their least attraction, in the sense they convey of a reserved
power. The architect of a commercial palace seems often to be
discharging his architectural vocabulary and wreaking his entire faculty
of expression upon that contradiction in terms. Some of the buildings of
which we have been speaking exhibit this prodigality. There is something
especially grateful and welcome in turning from one of them to a
building like one of those now in question, which suggests by comparison
that, after he had completed the design of it, the architect might still
have had something left--in his portfolios and in his intellect.

In considering the domestic architecture of Chicago it is necessary to
recur to the topographical conditions, for these have had as marked an
influence upon it as they have had upon the commercial quarter, although
this influence operates in almost the opposite direction. The commercial
centre--the quarter of wholesale traffic and of “high finance”--is
huddled into the space between the lake and the river. But when this
limit is once passed there is no natural limit. No longer pent up, the
whole boundless continent is Chicago’s, and the instinct of expansion is
at liberty to assert itself in every direction but the east, where it is
confronted by Lake Michigan. There is thus no east side in Chicago to
supplement the north and the west and the south sides, among which the
dwellings of the people are divided, but there is no natural obstacle
whatsoever to the development of the city in these three directions, and
no natural reason why it should expand in one rather than in another
except what is again furnished by the lake. To the minority of people,
who live where they will and not where they must, this is a considerable
exception, and one would suppose that the fashionable quarter would be
that quarter from which the lake is most accessible. This is distinctly
enough the north side, which a stranger, without the slightest interest,
present or prospective, in Chicago real estate, may be pardoned for
inferring to be the most desirable for residence. For it happens that
the dwellers upon the south side are cut off from any practical or
picturesque use of the lake by the fact that the shore to the south of
the city is occupied by railroad tracks, and the nearest houses of any
pretensions are turned away from the water, of which only the horses
stabled in the rear are in a position to enjoy the view. The inference
that the north is the most eligible of the sides one finds to be
violently combated by the residents of the south and the west, and he
finds also that, instead of one admittedly fashionable quarter, as in
every other city, Chicago has three claimants for that distinction. Each
of these quarters has its centre and its dependencies, and between each
two there is a large area either unoccupied, or occupied with dwellings
very much humbler than those that line the avenues that are severally
the boasts of the competing sides. The three appear to have received
nearly equal shares of municipal attention, for there is a park for
each--nay, there are three parks for the west side, though these are
thus far well beyond the limit of fashion if not of population, and
nominally two for the south side, though even these bear more the
relation to the quarter for which they were provided that the Central
Park bore to New York in 1870 than that which it bears in 1891. They are
still, that is to say, rather outlying pleasure-grounds accessible to
excursionists than parks in actual public use. Lincoln Park, the park of
the north side, is the only one of the parks of Chicago that as yet
deserves this description, and the north side is much to be
congratulated upon possessing such a resort. It has the great advantage
of an unobstructed frontage upon the lake, and it is kept with the same
skill and propriety with which it was planned.

It will be evident from all this that in the three residential quarters
of Chicago there is plenty of room, and it is this spaciousness that
gives a pervading characteristic to its domestic architecture. The most
fashionable avenues are not filled with the serried ranks of houses one
expects to see in a city of a million people. On the contrary, in
Michigan Avenue and Prairie Avenue, on the south side, and in the
corresponding streets in the other quarters, there is commonly a
considerable strip of sward in front of the house, and often at the
sides as well. The houses are often completely or partly detached, and
they are frequently of a generous breadth, and always of a moderate
height. Three stories is the limit, which is rarely exceeded even in the
costliest dwellings. Conditions so different prevail in all the Eastern
cities, even in Philadelphia, the roominess of which is one of its
sources of local pride, that to the inhabitant of any one of them the
domestic building of Chicago indicates a much less populous city than
Chicago is, and its character seems rather suburban than urban. In the
main, this character of suburbanity is heightened by the architectural
treatment of the dwellings. There are exceptions, and some of them are
conspicuous and painful exceptions; but the rule is that the architect
attempts to make the house even of a rich man look like a home rather
than like a palace, and that there is very little of the mere
ostentation of riches. Even upon the speculative builder this feeling
seems to have imposed itself; and however crude and violent his work may
be in other ways, it does not very often offend in this particular
direction. The commercial palace against which we have been inveighing
is by no means so offensive as the domestic sham palace, and from this
latter offence Chicago is much freer than most older American cities.
The grateful result is that the houses in the best quarters are apt to
look eminently “livable;” and though inequalities of fortune are visible
enough, there is not so visible as to be conspicuous any attempt of the
more fortunate to force them on the notice of the less fortunate. In
other words, Chicago is, in its outward aspect at least, the most
democratic of great American cities, and its aspect increases one’s
wonder that anarchism should have sprung up in this rich and level
soil--to which, of course, the answer is that it didn’t, being
distinctly an exotic.

Another characteristic of the domestic architecture of Chicago there
is--less prevalent than this absence of pretentiousness and mere
display, but still prevalent enough to be very noteworthy--and that is
the evidence it affords of an admiration for the work of Mr. Richardson,
which, if not inordinate, is at least undiscriminating and misapplied.
What region of our land, indeed,


N’Importe Qui, Architect.]

is not full of his labors, done vicariously, and with a zeal not
according to knowledge? In Chicago his misunderstood example has
fructified much more in the quarters of residence than in the business
quarters, insomuch that one can scarcely walk around a square, either in
the north or in the south side, without seeing some familiar feature or
detail, which has often been borrowed outright from one of his works,
and is reproduced without reference to its context. Now the great and
merited success of Richardson was as personal and incommunicable as any
artistic success can be. It was due to his faculty of reducing a
complicated problem to its simplest and most forcible expression. More
specifically, it was due to his faculty for seizing some feature of his
building, developing it into predominance, and skilfully subordinating
the rest of his composition to it, until this feature became the
building. It was his power of disposing masses, his insistence upon
largeness and simplicity, his impatience of niggling, his
straightforward and virile handling of his tasks, that made his
successes brilliant, and even his failures interesting. Very much of all
this is a matter of temperament, and Richardson’s best buildings were
the express images of that impetuous and exuberant personality that all
who knew him remember. He used to tell of a tourist from Holland in whom
admiration for his art had induced a desire to make his acquaintance,
and who upon being introduced to him exclaimed: “Oh, Mr. Richardson, how
you are like your work!” “Now wasn’t that a Dutch remark?” Richardson
concluded the story. Indeed, the tact of the salutation must be admitted
to have been somewhat Batavian, but it was not without critical value.
One cannot conceive of Richardson’s work as having been done by an
anæmic architect, or by a self-distrustful architect, or by a professor
of architecture, faithful as his own professional preparation had been.
There is a distinction well recognized in the art to which architecture
has more or less plausibly been likened that is no less valid as applied
to architecture itself--the distinction between “school music” and
“bravura music.” If we adopt this distinction, Richardson must be
classed among the bravura performers in architecture, who are

[Illustration: ORIEL OF DWELLING.

R. M. Hunt, Architect.]

eligible rather for admiration than for study. Assuredly designers will
get nothing but good from his work if they learn from it to try for
largeness and simplicity, to avoid niggling, and to consider first of
all the disposition of their masses. But these are merits that cannot be
transferred from a photograph. They are quite independent of a fondness
for the Provençal Romanesque, and still more of an exaggeration of the
depth of voussoirs and of the dwarfishness of pillars. These things are
readily enough imitable, as nearly every block of dwellings in Chicago
testifies, but they are scarcely worth imitating. In Richardson’s best
work there is apt to be some questionable detail, since the success or
failure of his building is commonly decided before the consideration of
detail arises, and it is this questionable detail that the imitators are
apt to reproduce without asking


H. H. Richardson, Architect.]

it any questions. Moreover, it will probably be agreed by most students
that Richardson’s city houses are, upon the whole, and in spite of some
noteworthy exceptions, the least successful of his works. As it happens,
there are two of them in Chicago itself, one on the north side and one
on the south, and if their author had done nothing else, it is likely
that they would be accepted rather as warnings than as examples. The
principal front of the former has the simple leading motive that one
seldom fails to find in the work of its architect, in the central open
loggia of each of its three stories, flanked on each side by an abutment
of solid wall, and the apportionment of the front between voids and
solids is just and felicitous. Three loggie seem an excessive allowance
for the town-house of a single family; but if we waive this point as an
affair between the architect and his client exclusively, it must be
owned that the arrangement supplies a motive susceptible of very
effective development. In this case it cannot be said to have been
developed effectively; nay, it can hardly be said to have been developed
in an architectural sense at all, and the result proves that though a
skilful disposition of masses is much, it is not everything. We have
just been saying that the success or failure of Richardson’s work was in
a great degree independent of the merit of the detail, but this dwelling
scarcely exhibits any detail. This is the more a drawback because the
loggia is a feature of which lightness and openness is the essential
characteristic, and which seems, therefore, to demand a certain elegance
of treatment, as was recognized alike by the architects of the Gothic
and the Renaissance palaces in Italy, from which we derive the feature
and the name. It is, indeed, in the contrast between the lightened and
enriched fenestration of the centre and the massiveness of the flanking
walls that the potential effectiveness of the arrangement resides. Here,
however, there is no lightening and no enrichment. Rude vigor
characterizes as much the enclosed arcades as the enclosing walls, and
becomes as much the predominant expression of the front of a dwelling of
moderate dimensions as of the huge façades of the Field warehouse. Such
modelling as is introduced tends rather to enforce than to mitigate this
expression, for the piers of the lower arcade are squared, and the
intercalated shafts of the upper are doubled perpendicularly to the
front, as are the shafts of the colonnade above, so as to lay an
additional stress upon the thickness of a wall that is here manifestly a
mere screen. The continuation of the abacus of the arcade through the
wall and its reappearance as the transom of the flanking windows is an
effective device that loses some of its effectiveness from its
introduction into both arcades. It scarcely modifies the impression the
front makes of lacking detail altogether. The double-dentilled
string-course that marks off and corbels out the attic is virtually the
only moulding the front shows. Yet the need of mouldings is not less now
than it was in the remote antiquity when a forgotten Egyptian artist
perceived the necessity of some expedient to subdivide a wall, to mark a
level, to sharpen or to soften a transition. For three thousand years
his successors have agreed with him, and for a modern architect to
abjure the use of these devices is to deny himself the rhetoric of his
art. The incompleteness that comes of this abjuration in the present
instance must be apparent to the least-trained layman, who vaguely feels
that “something is the matter” with the building thus deprived of a
source of expression, for which the texture given to the whole front by
the exhibition of the bonding of the masonry, skilful and successful as
this is in itself, by no means compensates. The sensitive architect must
yearn to set the stone-cutters at work anew to bring out the expression
of those parts that are especially in need of rhetorical exposition, to
accentuate the sills of the arcades, to define and refine their arches,
to emphasize the continuous line of the abacus, and especially to mark
the summit of the sloping basement, which now is merged into the plane
of the main wall, without the suggestion of a plinth. It is conceivable
that an architect might, by the skilful employment of color, so treat a
front, without the least projection or recess from top to bottom or from
end to end, as to make us forget to deplore the absence of mouldings.
Some interesting attempts in that direction have, in fact, been made,
and complete success in such an attempt would be entitled to the praise
of a tour de force. But when in a monochromatic wall the designer omits
the members that should express and emphasize and adorn his structural
dispositions without offering any substitute for them, his building will
appear, as this dwelling appears, a work merely “blocked out” and left
unfinished; and if it be the work of a highly endowed and highly
accomplished designer like Richardson, the deficiency must be set down
merely as an unlucky caprice. We have been speaking exclusively of the
longer front, since it is manifest that the shorter shares its
incompleteness, without the partial compensation of a strong and
striking composition, which would carry off much unsuccessful detail,
though it is not strong enough to carry off the lack of detail, even
with the powerful and simple roof that covers the whole--in itself an
admirable and entirely satisfactory piece of work.


H. H. Richardson, Architect.]

Capriciousness may with as much justice be charged upon the only other
example of Richardson’s domestic architecture in Chicago, which, even
more than the house we have been considering, arrests attention and
prevents apathy, but which also seems even more from the purpose of
domestic architecture. Upon the longer though less conspicuous front it
lacks any central and controlling motive; and on the shorter and more
conspicuous, this motive, about which the architect so seldom leaves the
beholder in any doubt, is obscured by the addition at one end of a
series of openings irrelevant to it, having no counterpart upon the
other, and serving to weaken at a critical point the wall, the emphasis
of whose massiveness and lateral expanse may be said to be the whole
purport of the design, to which everything else is quite ruthlessly
sacrificed. For this the building is kept as low as possible, insomuch
that the ridge of its rather steep roof only reaches the level of the
third story of the adjoining house. For this the openings are diminished
in size upon both sides, insomuch that they become mere orifices for the
admission of light, and in number upon the long side, insomuch that the
designer seems to regard them as annoying interruptions to his essay in
the treatment of blank wall. A granite wall over a hundred and fifty
feet long, as in the side of this dwelling, almost unbroken, and with
its structure clearly exhibited, is sure enough to arrest and strike the
beholder; and so is the shorter front, in which the same treatment
prevails, with a little more of ungracious concession to practical needs
in the more numerous openings; but the beholder can scarcely accept the
result as an eligible residence. The treatment is, even more strictly
than in the house on the north side, an exposition of masonry. There is
here, to be sure, some decorative detail in the filling; of the head of
the doorway and in the sill above it, but this detail is so minute, in
the case of the egg-and-dart that adorns the sill, so microscopic, that
it does not count at all in the general effect. A moulding that does
count in the general effect, and that vindicates itself at the expense
of the structural features not thus developed, is the main cornice, an
emphatic and appropriate profile. In this building there seems to be a
real attempt to supply the place of mouldings by modifications of the
masonry, which in the other forms an unvaried reticulation over the
whole surface. In this not only are the horizontal joints accentuated,
and the vertical joints slurred so as to assist very greatly in the
emphasis of length, but the courses that are structurally of unusual
importance, the sills and lintels of the openings, are doubled in width,
thus strongly belting the building at their several levels. Here again a
device that needs only to be expressed in modelling to answer an
artistic purpose fails to make up for the absence of modelling. The
merits of the building as a building, however, are much effaced when it
is considered as a dwelling, and the structure ceases to be defensible,
except, indeed, in a military sense. The whole aspect of the exterior is
so gloomy and forbidding and unhomelike that but for its neighborhood
one would infer its purpose to be not domestic, but penal. Lovelace has
assured us that “stone walls do not a prison make,” but when a building
consists as exclusively as possible of bare stone walls, it irresistibly
suggests a place of involuntary seclusion, even though minds especially
“innocent and quiet” might take it for a hermitage. Indeed, if one were
to take it for a dwelling expressive of the character of its inmates, he
must suppose it to be the abode of a recluse or of a misanthrope, though
when Timon secures a large plot upon a fashionable avenue, and erects a
costly building to show his aversion to the society of his kind, he
exposes the sincerity of his misanthropical sentiments to suspicion.
Assuming that the owner does not profess such sentiments, but is much
like his fellow-citizens, the character of his abode must be referred to
a whim on the part of his architect--a Titanic, or rather a Gargantuan
freak. For there is at least nothing petty or puerile about the design
of these houses. They bear an unmistakably strong and individual stamp,
and failures as, upon the whole, they must be called, they really
increase the admiration aroused by their author’s successes for the
power of design that can make even wilful error so interesting.

That romantic architecture is not inconsistent with the suggestion of a
home, or with the conditions of a modern town-house, is shown, if it
needed any showing, by a dwelling that adjoins the first of the
Richardson houses, and that nobody who is familiar with Mr. W. K.
Vanderbilt’s house or with the Marquand houses in New York would need to
be told was the work of Mr. Hunt. It recalls particularly the Vanderbilt
house, being in the same monochrome of light gray, and repeating, though
with a wide variation, some of the same features, especially the
corbelled tourelle. This is here placed to much better advantage at a
salient instead of a re-entrant angle; it is more happily proportioned;
the corbelling, not continuous, but broken by the wall of the angle, is
very cleverly managed, and the whole feature is as picturesque and
spirited as it is unmistakably domestic in expression. The house does
not exhibit the same profusion of sculptural ornament as the earlier
work it recalls, nor is there so much of strictly architectural detail.
By this comparison, indeed, one would be inclined to call this treatment
severe; but it is prodigality itself in comparison with its neighbor.
This latter comparison is especially instructive because in the block,
as a matter of mere mass and outline, Mr. Richardson’s composition,
considerably simpler, is also pretty distinctly more forcible than that
of Mr. Hunt, by reason of its central and dominating feature, and
especially by reason of the completeness with which it is united by the
simple and unbroken roof; whereas the criticism already passed upon the
Vanderbilt house, that it grows weak above the cornice line, is
applicable, though in a less degree, to its author’s later work. The
various roofs required by the substructure, and carried to the same
height, have been imperfectly brought into subjection, and their
grouping does not make a single or a total impression. Taking the fronts
by themselves, considering them with reference to the distribution of
voids and solids, we must omit the minor front of Mr. Richardson’s work
as scarcely showing any composition; but the principal front is much
more striking and memorable, doubtless, than either elevation of Mr.
Hunt’s design, carefully and successfully as both of them have been
studied. Yet there is no question at all that the latter is by far the
more admirable and effective example of domestic architecture, because
the possibilities of expression that inhere in the masses are in the one
case brought out, and left latent in the other.

Of course, Mr. Hunt’s work is no more characteristically Chicagoan than
Mr. Richardson’s, and, of course, the dwellings we have been considering
are too large and costly to be fairly representative of the domestic
architecture of any city. The rule, to which there are as few exceptions
in Chicago as elsewhere, is that architecture is regarded as a
superfluity that only the rich can afford; whereas a genuine and general
interest in it would require the man who was able to own a house at all
to insist upon what the tailors call a “custom-made” dwelling, and would
lead him equally to reject a ready-made residence and a misfit. In that
case we should see in single houses of moderate size and moderate cost
the same evidence of affectionate study as in houses of greater
pretensions, even though the design might be evinced only in the careful
and thoughtful proportioning


John Addison, Architect.]

and adjustment of the parts. This is still a sight as rare as it is
welcome in any American city, though it is less rare in cities of the
second and third class than in cities of the first. Chicago has its
share, but no more than its share, of instances in which the single
street front of a modest dwelling has been thought worthy of all the
pains that could be given to it. Of one such instance in Chicago an
illustration is given, and it is somewhat saddening to one who would
like to find in it an evidence of intelligent lay interest in
architecture to be informed that it is the residence of its architect.

Upon the whole, the domestic architecture of the town has few local
characteristics, besides those already mentioned, which are due to local
conditions rather than to local preferences. The range of building
material is wide, and includes a red sandstone from Lake Superior that
has not yet made its way into the Eastern cities, of a more positive
tint than any in general use there. On the other hand, the whole
continent has been laid under tribute for Chicago. The green “Chester
serpentine” which one encounters so often in Philadelphia--and generally
with regret, though in combination it may become very attractive--quite
unknown in New York as it is, is not uncommon in the residential
quarters of Chicago. Another material much commoner here than elsewhere
is the unhewn bowlder that Mr. Richardson employed in the fantastic
lodge at North Easton, which was one of his happiest performances. In a
long and low structure like that the defects of the material are much
less manifest than when it is attempted to employ it in a design of
several stories. One of the most interesting of these attempts is
illustrated herewith. The architect has wisely simplified his design to
the utmost to conform to the intractability of his material, and with
equal wisdom has marked with strong belts the division of his stories.
But in spite of its ruggedness the wall looks weak, since it is plain
that there is no bonding, and that it is not properly a piece of
masonry, but a layer of highly magnified concrete, which owes its
stability only to the cohesion of the cement, and to give the assurance
of being a trustworthy wall needs to be framed in a conspicuous quoining
of unquestionable masonry.

One other trait is common enough among such of the dwellings of Chicago
as have architectural pretensions to

[Illustration: A HOUSE OF BOWLDERS.

Burnham & Root, Architects.]

be remarked, and that is the prevalence of Byzantine carving. This is
not really a Chicagoan characteristic. If it is especially noticeable
here, it is because Chicago is so new, and it is in the newer quarters
of older towns that it is to be seen. It is quite as general on the
“West side” of New York. Its prevalence is again in great part due to
the influence of Richardson, and one is inclined to welcome it as at
least tending to provide a common and understood way of working for
architectural carvers, and the badge of something like a common style
for buildings that have little else in common. The facility with which
its spiky leafage can be used for surface decoration tempts designers to
provide surfaces for its decoration, in such structural features as
capitals and corbels, at the cost of the modelling which is so much more
expressive and so much more troublesome, when a mere cushion will do
better as a basis for Byzantine ornament.

[Illustration: A BYZANTINE CORBEL.

Henry Ives Cobb, Architect.]

For the rest, the clever and ingenious features which one often comes
upon in the residential streets of Chicago, and the thoroughly studied
fronts that one comes upon so much more seldom, would excite neither
more nor less surprise if they were encountered in the streets of any
older American town. But from what has been said it will be seen that in
every department of building, except only the ecclesiastical, Chicago
has already examples to show that should be of great value to its future
growth in stimulating its architects to produce and in teaching its
public to appreciate.



It is just thirty years since Anthony Trollope ascended the Mississippi
to the head of navigation and the Falls of St. Anthony, and recorded his
impressions of the works of nature and of man along the shores of that
river. As might perhaps have been expected, he admired with enthusiasm
the works of nature, and as might certainly have been expected, he found
little to admire in the handiwork of man. “I protest that of all the
river scenery that I know, that of the upper Mississippi is by far the
finest and the most continued. One thinks, of course, of the Rhine; but,
according to my idea of beauty, the Rhine is nothing to the upper
Mississippi.... The idea constantly occurs that some point on every
hill-side would form the most charming site ever yet chosen for a noble
residence.” Thus Trollope of the upper Mississippi, and thus again of
the “twin cities” that are the subject of our present inquisition: “St.
Paul contains about 14,000 inhabitants, and, like all other American
towns, is spread over a surface of ground adapted to the accommodation
of a very extended population. As it is belted on one side by the river,
and on the other by the bluffs which accompany the course of the river,
the site is pretty, and almost romantic.” The other “twin” is so much
the later born that to few Minneapolitans does it ever occur that it had
even seen the light in 1861. “Going on from Minnehaha, we came to
Minneapolis, at which place there is a fine suspension-bridge across the
river, just above the Falls of St. Anthony, and leading to the town of
that name. Till I got there I could hardly believe that in these days
there should be a living village called Minneapolis by living men. I
presume I should describe it as a town, for it has a municipality and a
post-office, and of course a large hotel. The interest of the place,
however, is in the saw-mills.”

I do not mean to celebrate again the growth of St. Paul and Minneapolis
from these small beginnings, which is the marvel of even the marvellous
West. But for our immediate purpose it is necessary to bear in mind not
only the rapidity of the growth of the two cities, but the intensity of
the rivalry between them--a rivalry which the stranger hardly
comprehends, however much he may have heard of it, until he has seen the
workings of it on the spot. Indeed, it is scarcely accurate to describe
the genesis of Minneapolis, in particular, as a growth at all. St. Paul
has been developed from the frontier trading-post of the earlier days by
an evolution, the successive stages of which have left their several
records; but Minneapolis has risen like an exhalation, or, to adopt even
a mustier comparison, has sprung from the heads of its projectors
full-panoplied in brick and mortar. “The twin cities on either bank,”
remarks the historiographer of the Minneapolis Exposition of 1886, “amid
many ups and downs--the ups always predominating--pegged along steadily
towards greatness.” The phrase is rather picturesque than graphic, for
nothing could be less descriptive of the mode of locomotion of
Minneapolis than a steady pegging along. It has been an affair of leaps
and bounds. There are traces of the village that Trollope saw, and there
are the towering structures of a modern city, and there is nothing
between. In this electric air, where there is so little “precipitation”
in the atmosphere and so much in everything else; where “the flux of
mortal things” is not a generalization of the mind, but a palpable fact
of daily experience; where antiquity means the day before yesterday, and
posterity the day after to-morrow, the present is the most contemptible
of tenses, and men inevitably come to think and live and build in the
future-perfect. A ten-story building in a ten-acre lot requires
explanation, and this seems to be the explanation--this and the
adjacency of the hated rival. In St. Paul the elevator came as a needed
factor in commercial architecture, since the strip of shore to which the
town was confined in Trollope’s time still limits and cramps the
business-quarter, and leaves only the vertical dimension available for
expansion. Towering buildings are the normal outcome of such a
situation. Minneapolis, on the other hand, occupies a table-land above
the river, which at present is practically unlimited. Although, of
course, every growing or grown town must have a most frequented part--a
centre where land is costlier than elsewhere, and buildings rise
higher--the altitude of the newest and tallest structures of Minneapolis
could scarcely be explained without reference to the nearness of St.
Paul, and the intensity of the local pride born of that nearness. If the
physical necessities of the case prescribed ten-story buildings in St.
Paul, the moral necessity of not being outdone would prescribe
twelve-story buildings for Minneapolis. In point of fact, it is to a
Minneapolitan architect that we owe the first project of an office
building which bears the same relation to the ordinary elevator building
of our cities that this bears to the five or six story edifice that the
topographical and commercial conditions would indicate as suited to the
actual needs of Minneapolis. The project remains on paper, though it is
some years since it startled the architects of the country, and an
interesting project it is in an architectural sense; but it is none the
less representative of the local genius than if it had been executed.

Evidently there could be no better places than the twin cities to study
the development of Western architecture, or rather to ascertain whether
there is any such thing. There seems to be among the Western lay
populations a faith that there is, which is none the less firm for being
a trifle vague, and this faith is shared by some of the practitioners of
architecture in the West. In the inscrutable workings of our official
architecture, one of these gentlemen came to be appointed a few years
ago the supervising architect of the Treasury. It is a measure of the
extent and intelligence of the national interest in the art that this
functionary, with little more than the official status of a clerk, and
with no guarantee that he has any professional status whatever, has
little less than the ædiliary powers of an Augustus. To have found a
city of brick and to have left a city of marble is a boast that more
than one supervising architect could have paraphrased in declaring that
he found the government architecture Renaissance and he left it Gothic,
or that he found it Gothic and he left it nondescript, while each
successive incumbent could have declared that he found it and left it
without architectural traditions and without architectural restraints.
The ambition of the architect immediately in question was not sectarian
so much as sectional. To him it seemed that a bureau had too many
traditions which to other students seemed to have none at all. Not
personally addicted to swearing to the words of any master, he
considered that the influence of authority in his office was much too
strong. He was himself from the remote West, and in an interview
setting forth his hopes and purposes, shortly after he came into the
office from which he was shortly to go out, he explained that “Eastern”
conventionalities had had altogether too much sway in the previous
conduct of the office, and that he meant to embody “Western ideas” in
the public buildings. In the brief interval before his retirement he
designed many monuments from which one should be able to derive some
notion of Western architectural ideas, and one of these is the
government building in Minneapolis. This edifice is mainly remarkable
for the multitude of ill-assorted and unadjusted features which it
exhibits, especially for the “grand choice” of pediments which its
fronts present--pediments triangular and curved, pediments closed and
broken--and for the variety and multiplicity of the cupolas and lanterns
and crestings by which the sky-line is animated into violent agitation.
The features themselves cannot be “Western,” since they are by no means
novel, the most recent of them dating back to Sir Christopher Wren, and
it must be the combination or the remarkable profusion of “things” that
constitutes the novelty and the Westernness which it was the mission of
the author to introduce into our public architecture. Unfortunately
there is nothing that can fairly be called combination, for the
composition is but an agglomeration, “a fortuitous concourse of atoms.”
We have all seen in the Eastern cities too many buildings of which
crudity and recklessness were the characteristics, and which were
unstudied accumulations of familiar forms, to assume that crudity and
recklessness in architecture are especially “Western ideas.” If they be
so, then assuredly “Western” is an opprobrious epithet, not lightly and
unadvisedly to be applied to any structure.

There is perhaps no other building in either city equally costly and
conspicuous which merits it in the same degree with the government
building at Minneapolis, at least in an architectural sense. An
enterprising owner in the same city has procured the materials for a new
building by permitting each contributor to inscribe his contribution
with the name of the material furnished by him, and a statement of its
good qualities, and these incised advertisements undoubtedly give a
local color to the structure; but this Westernness is scarcely
architectural. The City Hall and Court-house in St. Paul is a large and
conspicuous building, the more conspicuous for being isolated in the
midst of an open square; and it is unfortunate in design, or the absence
of it, the arrangement of its voids and solids being quite unstudied and
casual, and the aggregation quite failing to constitute a whole. There
are by no means so many features in it as in the government building at
Minneapolis, nor are they classic; but the architect has introduced more
“things” than he was able to handle, and they are equally irrelevant to
the pile and to each other, especially the tower that was intended to be
the culminating feature of the composition, but which fails to fulfil
its purpose from any point of view, crowning as it does a recessed angle
of the front. This also is a congeries of unrelated and unadjusted
parts, and, in the light of the illustrations of his meaning furnished
by our official spokesman, this also may be admitted to be
characteristically W----n. The same admission may reluctantly be made
concerning the Chamber of Commerce in St. Paul, which consists
architecturally of two very busy and bustling fronts, compiled of
“features” that do not make up a physiognomy, and which stand upon a
massive sash frame of plate-glass. As a matter of fact, these things
have their counterparts in the East, only there they are not referred to
the geography, but to the illiteracy or insensibility of the designer,
and this classification seems simpler, and, upon the whole, more

Minneapolis has a compensation for its newness in the fact that when its
public buildings came to be projected, the fashion of such edifices as
these had passed away. If the work of Mr. Richardson has been much
misunderstood, as I tried to point out in speaking of the domestic
architecture of Chicago, if its accidents have been mistaken by admiring
disciples for its essence, even if its essential and admirable qualities
do not always suffice to make it available as a model, it is necessary
only to consider such buildings as have just been mentioned to perceive
how beneficial, upon the whole, his influence has been, for it has at
least sufficed to make such buildings impossible--impossible, at least,
to be done by architects who have any pretensions to be “in the
movement”--and it is hard to conceive that they can be succeeded by
anything so bad. The City Hall of Minneapolis, for instance, was
projected but a few years later than its government building, but in the
interval Richardson’s influence had been at work. That influence is
betrayed both in the accepted design now in course of execution and in
the other competitive designs, and it has resulted in a specific
resemblance to the public building at Pittsburgh, which its author
professed his hope to make “a dignified pile of rocks.” The variations
which the authors of the Minneapolis City Hall have introduced in the
scheme they have reproduced in its general massing, and in its most
conspicuous features are not all improvements. By the introduction of
grouped openings into its solid shaft the tower of Pittsburgh is shorn
of much of its power; nor can the substitution be commended in its upper
stage of a modification of the motive employed by Richardson in
Trinity, Boston, and derived by him from Salamanca, for the simpler
treatment used in the prototype of this building as the culminating
feature of a stark and lofty tower. The far greater elaboration of the
corner pavilions of the principal fronts, also, though in part justified
by the greater tractability of the material here employed, tends rather
to confusion than to enrichment. On the other hand, the more subdued
treatment of the curtain wall between the tower and the pavilions gives
greater value and detachment to both, and is thus an advance upon the
prototype; and the central gable of the subordinate front is distinctly
more successful than the corresponding feature of Pittsburgh, the
archway, withdrawn between two protecting towers, of which the
suggestion comes from mediæval military architecture. Observe, however,
that the derivation of the general scheme of the building and of its
chief features from an earlier work is by no means an impeachment of the
architect’s originality, provided the precedent he chooses be really
applicable to his problem, and provided he analyze it instead of
reproducing it without analysis. In what else does progress consist than
in availing one’s self of the labor of one’s predecessors? If the
Grecian builders had felt the pressure of the modern demand for novelty,
and had endeavored to comply with it by making dispositions radically
new, instead of refining upon the details of an accepted type, or if the
mediæval builders had done the same thing, it is manifest that the
typical temple or the typical cathedral would never have come to be
built, that we should have had no Parthenon and no Cologne. The
requirements of the Minneapolis building, a court-house and town-hall,
are nearly enough alike to those of the county building at Pittsburgh to
make it credible that the general scheme of the earlier work may, by
force of merit, have imposed itself upon the architect of the later.
The general difference of treatment is the greater richness and
elaboration of the newer structure, and this is a legitimate consequence
of the substitution of freestone for granite; while the differences of
detail and the introduction at Minneapolis of features that have no
counterpart at Pittsburgh suffice to vindicate the designer from the
reproach of having followed his model thoughtlessly or with servility.
So far as can be judged from the drawings, the municipal building of
Minneapolis, when it comes to be finished, will be a monument of which
the Minneapolitans will have a right to be proud, for better reasons
than mere magnitude and costliness.


Long & Kees, Architects.]

Another work, this time completely executed, by the designers of the
City Hall, the Public Library of Minneapolis, betrays also the influence
of Richardson. The motive of the principal front, an arcade bounded by
round towers and surmounted by a story of blank wall, was pretty
evidently suggested by his unexecuted


design for a similar building at Buffalo. The precedent here is perhaps
not so directly in point, seeing that the effectiveness of an arcade
increases with its length, and in a much greater ratio, and that the
arcade here is not only much shorter than in the projected building, but
is still further shortened to the eye by being heightened and carried
through two stories. The towers, too, would have been more effective had
it been practicable to give greater solidity to their lower stages.
Nevertheless, the building is distinctly successful, and its most
successful feature, the gabled centre that includes the entrance, is
one which illustrates the inventiveness of the designers, as well as
their power of judicious selection and modification.


J. W. Stevens, Architect.]

As was remarked in the paper on Chicago, the architectural activity of
the West is not largely ecclesiastical, and the churches are for the
most part as near to traditional models as their designers have the
knowledge to bring them. In the Eastern States a great many interesting
essays have been made towards solving the modern problem of a church in
which the pulpit and not the altar is the central point of design, while
yet retaining an ecclesiastical expression. There is an edifice in St.
Paul called “the People’s Church,” in which the designer seems purposely
to have avoided an ecclesiastical expression, and to have undertaken to
typify in brick and stone the wild, free theology of the West. He has so
far succeeded that nobody could possibly take the result of his labors
for a church in the usual acceptation of the term, but this negative
attainment does not yet constitute a positive architectural success. It
may be that Western ideas in theology are thus far somewhat too sketchy
to form a basis for the establishment of an architectural type, since
mere negation is insusceptible of architectural expression. The People’s
Church does not lack, however, many of the qualities that should belong
to every building as a building, apart from its destination. In spite of
such unhappy freaks as that by which the stone basement merges into the
brick superstructure with no architectural mark of the transition, and
cuts the openings quite at random, or as that by which the brick wall,
for a considerable but indefinite extent, is quite promiscuously
aspersed with irregular bits of stone, it shows a considerable skill in
the placing and detailing of features, and the disposition of the
openings gives the principal front a grateful sense of stability and
repose. The ample entrances designate it as a place of popular assembly,
and possibly its religious purpose may be taken to be confessed, though
somewhat shamefacedly, in the wheel-window at the centre of one front,
and the tall traceried opening at the centre of the other, which are the
only relics of ecclesiastical architecture that are suffered to appear.
It is evident that it is a “People’s” something, and possibly this is as
near to a specification of its purpose as the neo-theologians have
attained. In this case, as it is notoriously difficult for a man to give
expression to an idea of which he is not possessed, the architectural
ambiguity is assuredly not to be imputed to the architect.

A Unitarian church in Minneapolis is also an unconventional specimen of
church architecture, though it could not be taken for anything but a
church, and it is undeniably a vigorous performance, consisting of
massive, well-divided, and “well-punched” walls in a monochrome of
dark-red sandstone. The novelty and the unconventionally, however, seem,
both in composition and in detail, to have been sought rather than


L. S. Buffington, Architect.]

to have proceeded from the conditions of the problem, and the effect is
so far marred by the loss of the naturalness and straightforwardness
that justify a departure from convention. For example, even in a
galleried church the division into two stories can scarcely be
considered the primary fact of the building, though this division is the
primary fact of this design, and is emphasized by the torus that is the
most conspicuous moulding. Nevertheless, there is much felicity in the
general disposition and in the design of the features, especially in the
open fenestration of the transept gable, and its strong contrast with
the solider flanks of wall pierced only by the smaller openings that
indicate the gallery staircases, the slope of which is also expressed in
the masonry of the wall itself; and the low polygonal tower effectually
unites and dominates the two fronts. The innovation in the treatment of
detail, by which what is commonly the “wrought work” of a building in
facile sandstone is left rough-faced, is a caprice that seems also to
proceed from the pursuit of novelty, and that gains nothing in vigor for
what it loses in refinement. A rough-faced moulding seems to be a
contradiction in terms; yet here not only are the mouldings rough-faced,
but also the columns and colonnettes, and the corbelled pinnacles that
detach the tower and the gables, and it is only in the copings of these
that the asperities of the sandstone are mitigated. Slovenliness is not
vigor, and in the coarsening of this detail the designer, in spite of
having produced a vigorous and interesting work, exposes himself to the
critical amenity bestowed by Dryden upon Elkanah Settle, that “his style
is boisterous and rough-hewn.”

A more conventional and a quite unmistakable example of church building
is a Presbyterian church in St. Paul, which follows the established
ecclesiastical type, albeit with a recognition of the modern demand that
a church shall be a good place in which to preach and to be preached
to--a demand which here, as often elsewhere, is met by shortening the
arms of the cruciform plan until the church is virtually limited to the
crossing. It is no disparagement to the present design to say that in
its general composition it seems to have been suggested by--and at any
rate it suggests--an early and interesting work of Mr. Richardson’s, a
church in Springfield, Massachusetts, upon which it improves at some
points, notably in the emphatic exposition of the masonic structure. At
other points the variation is not so successful. The tower at
Springfield, with its attached turret, the entrance arch at its base,
and the broach spire with pinnacles detached over the squinches, is a
very vigorous piece of design. In the corresponding feature at St. Paul,
the relation between the two superposed open stages is not rhythmic or
felicitous, though each in itself is well modelled, and the transition
from the tower to the shingled spire, marked by shingled pinnacles
without a parapet, is distinctly unfortunate. For all that, the church
is a studied and scholarly performance.


Gilbert & Taylor, Architects.]

In the material and materializing development of the West, it is not
surprising that the chief object of local pride should not be the local
church, but the local hotel. “Of course a large hotel” is now, as in
Trollope’s time,


L. S. Buffington, Architect.]

a necessary ingredient of a local “boom.” In respect of architecture the
large hotel of Minneapolis has a decided advantage over the large hotel
of St. Paul. For the caravansary of the older town is an example of the
kind of secular Victorian Gothic that was stimulated by the erection of
Sir Gilbert Scott’s Midland Hotel in London, than which a less eligible
model could scarcely be put before an untrained designer, since there is
little in it to redeem an uneasy and uninteresting design except
carefully studied and carefully adjusted detail. This careful study and
adjustment being omitted, as they are in the Hotel Ryan, and a
multiplicity of features retained and still further confused by a
random introduction of color, the result is a bewildering and saltatory
edifice which has nothing of interest except the banded piers of the
basement. The West Hotel in Minneapolis is a much more considerable
structure. It has a general composition, both vertically and laterally,
consisting in the former case of three divisions, of which the central
is rather the most important, and in the latter of an emphasis of the
centre and the ends in each front and of a subordination of the
intervening wall. Here, also, there is a multiplicity of features, but
they are not so numerous or distributed so much at random as to prevent
us from seeing the countenance, for undeniably the building has a
physiognomy, and that is in itself an attainment. In artistic quality
the features are very various, and the one trait they seem to have in
common is a disregard for academic correctness or for purity of style.
This is conspicuous in the main entrance, which is perhaps the most
effective and successful of them, being a massive and powerful
porte-cochère, in which, however, an unmistakably Gothic dwarf column
adjoins a panelled pilaster, which as unmistakably owes its origin to
the Renaissance, and a like freedom of eclecticism may be observed
throughout the building. In its degree this freedom may be Western,
though a European architect would be apt to dismiss it indiscriminately
as American; whereas an American architect would be more apt to ask
himself, with respect to any particular manifestation of it, whether it
was really, and not only conventionally, a solecism. In this place the
conjunction does not strike one as incongruous, but there are other
features in which the incongruity is real, such as the repeated
projections of long and ugly corbels to support things that are pretty
evidently there mainly for the purpose of being supported. The
impregnable criticism of the Vicar of Wakefield, that the picture would
have been better if the artist had taken more pains, is especially
applicable to this edifice. It might have been both chastened and
clarified by severer study; but it is a compliment to it, as American
hotel architecture goes, to wish that it had been more carefully matured
by its designer before being irretrievably executed. The interior
presents several interesting points of design as well as of arrangement,
but perhaps it owes its chief attractiveness to the rich and quiet
decoration of those of its rooms that have been intrusted to Mr.
Bradstreet, who for many years has been acting as an evangelist of good
taste to the two cities, and who for at least the earlier of those years
must have felt that he was an evangelist _in partibus_. The interior
design and decoration of the opera-house at Minneapolis is a yet more
important illustration of his skill; but interiors are beyond our
present scope.

For public works other than public buildings, the two cities are not as
yet very notable. The site of St. Paul makes a bridge across the river
at this point a very conspicuous object, and perhaps nowhere in the
world would a noble and monumental bridge be more effective. The
existing bridges, however, are works of the barest utility, apparently
designed by railroad engineers with no thought of anything beyond
efficiency and economy, and they are annoying interruptions to the
panorama unrolled to the spectator from the hill-side in the shining
reach of the great river. Minneapolis has been more fortunate in this
respect, although the river by no means plays so important a part in its
landscape. The suspension-bridge of Trollope’s time has, of course, long
since disappeared, having been replaced by another, built in 1876 from
the designs of Mr. Griffith, which was a highly picturesque object, and
was perhaps the most satisfactory solution yet attained, though by no
means a completely satisfactory solution, of the artistic problem
involved in the design of a suspension-bridge; a problem which to most
designers of such bridges does not appear to be involved in it at
all.[G] It is very unfortunate that although the Minneapolitans
appreciated this structure as one of their chief municipal ornaments,
they should, nevertheless, have sacrificed it quite ruthlessly to the
need of greater accommodation; whereas there could scarcely have been
any insuperable difficulty in moving the site of the new bridge that the
new exigencies demanded so that the old might be preserved. In another
respect, Minneapolis has derived a great advantage from the capacity and
the necessity of taking long views that are imposed upon her people by
the conditions of their lives. This is the reservation, at the
instigation of a few provident and public-spirited citizens, of the
three lakes that lie in the segment of a circle a few miles inland from
the existing city, and of the strip of land connecting them. Even now,
with little improvement beyond road-making, the circuit of the future
parks is a delightful drive; and when Minneapolis shall have expanded
until they constitute a bounding boulevard, the value of them as a
municipal possession will be quite incalculable.

The aspect of the commercial quarters of the two cities has more points
of difference than of resemblance. The differences proceed mainly from
the fact already noted, that the commercial quarter of St. Paul is
cramped as well as limited by the topography, and that it is all coming
to be occupied by a serried mass of lofty buildings, whereas the lofty
buildings of Minneapolis are still detached objects erected in


Long & Kees, Architects.]

of the pressure for room that has not yet begun to be felt. It is an odd
illustration of the local rivalry that although the cities are so near
together, the architects are confined to their respective fields, and it
is very unusual, if not unexampled, that an architect of either is
employed in the other. Such an employment would very likely be resented
as incivism. Eastern architects are admitted on occasion as out of the
competition, but in the main each city is built according to the plans
of the local designers. The individual characteristics of the busiest
and most successful architects are thus impressed upon the general
appearance of the town, and go to widen the difference due to


Harry W. Jones, Architect.]

natural causes. The best examples of commercial architecture in
Minneapolis, such as the Bank of Commerce and the Lumber Exchange,
before its partial destruction by fire, have the same straightforward
and severely business-like character as the buildings designed by Mr.
Root in Chicago, and, indeed, they seem to owe not a little to
suggestions derived from him. The treatment of the Lumber Exchange, in
particular, indicates an admiring study of his work. Here the centre of
the front is signalized by projecting shallow oriels carried through the
five central stories of the building on each side of the ample opening
in each story directly over the entrance, and by flanking this central
bay in the upper division with narrow and solid turrets, corbelled and
pinnacled. The scheme is not so effectively wrought out as it deserves
to be, and as it might be. The central feature is not developed into
predominance, and the main divisions of the building are no more
emphasized in treatment than the divisions between the intermediate
stories. The observer may recur to the Vicar of Wakefield to express his
regret that the promise of so promising a scheme should not have been
fulfilled, although, in spite of its shortcomings, the result is a
respectable “business block.” These remarks apply to the original
building, and not to the building as it has since been reconstructed by
the addition of two stories which throw out the relations of its parts,
and make it difficult to decipher the original scheme. The Bank of
Commerce is as frankly utilitarian as the Lumber Exchange, the designer
having relaxed the restraint imposed upon him by the prosaic and
pedestrian character of his problem only in the design of the scholarly
and rather ornate entrances. For the rest, the architecture is but the
expression of the structure, which is expressed clearly and with vigor.
The longer front shows the odd notion of emphasizing the centre by
withdrawing it, a procedure apparently irrational, which has, however,
the compensation of giving value and detachment to the entrance at its
base. The problem was much more promising than that of the Lumber
Exchange, seeing that here, with an ample area, there are but six
stories against ten, and it is out of all comparison better solved. The
four central stories are grouped by piers continued through them and
connected by round arches above the fifth, while the first and sixth are
sharply separated


in treatment, the former as an unmistakable basement, with a plain
segment-headed opening in each bay, and the latter as an unmistakable
attic, with a triplet of lintelled and shafted openings aligned over
each of the round arches. The fronts are, moreover, distinguished,
without in the least compromising the utilitarian purpose of the
structure, by the use of the architectural devices the lack of which one
deplores in the other building, insomuch that the difference between the
two is the difference between a building merely


E. Townsend Mix, Architect.]

blocked out and a finished building, and suggests again that the Lumber
Exchange must have been designed under pressure. The building of the
“Globe” newspaper, in Minneapolis, is a vigorous composition in
Richardsonian Romanesque, excessively broken and diversified, doubtless,
for its extent, but with interesting pieces of detail, and with a
picturesque angle tower that comes in very happily from several points
of view of the business quarter. The emphatic framing of this tower
between two plain piers is a noteworthy point of design, and so is the
use of the device that emphasizes the angles throughout their whole
extent, while still keeping the vertical lines in subordination to the


S. S. Beman, Architect.]

Among the business blocks of St. Paul, the building of the “Pioneer
Press” newspaper is eminent for the strictness with which the design
conforms itself to the utilitarian conditions of the structure, and the
impressiveness of the result attained, not in spite of those apparently
forbidding conditions, but by means of them. Here also Mr. Root’s
buildings, to which this praise belongs in so high a degree, have
evidently enough inculcated their lesson upon the designer of the
present structure. An uncompromising parallelopiped of brown brick rears
itself to the height of twelve stories, with no break at all in its
outline, and with no architecture that is not evolved directly from the
requirements of the building. One does not seem to be praising a man
very highly to praise him for talking prose when he has a prosaic
subject. A mere incompetency to poetry would apparently suffice to earn
this moderate eulogy. Yet, in fact, nothing is much rarer in our
architecture than the power to deny one’s self irrelevant beauties. The
“Pioneer Press” building is a basement of three stones, the first story


the brick-work counting in with the two-story substructure of masonry,
carrying a superstructure of seven, crowned with an attic of two. This
latter feature proceeds, doubtless, from the special requirement of a
newspaper office superposed upon a business block, and it may be
inferred that to this requirement is due the greater enrichment of the
lower of the two attic stories, contrary to the usual arrangement, and
testifying the architect’s belief, mistaken or not, that the editorial
function is of more dignity and worthier of celebration than the
typographical. At any rate, the unusual disposition is architecturally
fortunate, since it provides, in the absolutely plain openings of what
is presumably the composing-room, a grateful interval between the
comparative richness of the arcades beneath and of the cornice above. In
the main front, the ample entrance at the centre supplies a visible
motive for the vertical as well as for the subordinate lateral division.
It is developed through the three stories of the basement, and it is
recognised in a prolongation upward of its flanking piers through the
central division--which is completed by round arches, the spandrels of
which are decorated--and through the attic, so as to effect a triple
division for the front. The unostentatious devices are highly effective
by which the monotony that would result from an identical treatment of
the seven central stories is relieved, while the impression made by the
magnitude of such a mass is retained. The terminal piers are left
entirely unbroken throughout all their extent, except for a continuous
string course above the eighth story, which might better have been
omitted, since it cuts the intermediate piers very awkwardly, and
detracts from the value of the heavier string course only one story
higher that has an evident reason of being, as the springing course of
the arcade; while the intermediate piers are crossed by string courses
above the fifth and the ninth stories, so as to give to the central and
dominant feature of the main composition a triple division of its own
into a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The building is very successful, and the more successful because the
designer has shirked nothing and blinked nothing, but out of this
nettle, commercial demands, has plucked this flower, commercial
architecture. The same praise of an entire relevancy to its purpose
belongs to the Bank of Minnesota, a well-proportioned and well-divided
piece of masonry, in spite of more effort at variety in outline, and of
somewhat more of fantasy in detail. The former is manifested in the
treatment of the roof, in which the gables of the upper story are
relieved against a low mansard; and the latter in the design of these
gables and of the rich and effective entrance. The problem, as one of
composition, is very much simplified here, since the building is but of
six stories, and the dilemma of monotony or miscellany, which so awfully
confronts the designers of ten and twelve story buildings, does not
present itself. The two lower stories, though quite differently
detailed, are here grouped into an architectural basement, the grouping
being emphasized in the main front by the extension of the entrance
through both. The superstructure is of three stories, quite identical
and very plain in treatment, and above is the lighter and more open
fenestration of the gabled attic.


Wilcox & Johnson, Architects.]

Of far more extent and pretension than this, being


Babb, Cook, & Willard, Architects.]

indeed perhaps the costliest and most “important” of all the business
block of St. Paul, is the building of the New York Life Insurance
Company. In saying that the total impression of this edifice is one of
picturesque quaintness, one seems to deny its typicalness, if not its
appropriateness, as a housing and an expression of the local genius, for
assuredly there is nothing quaint about the Western business man or his
procedures during business hours, however quaint and even picturesque
one may find him when relaxing into anecdote in his hours of ease. The
building owes its quaintness in great part to the division of its
superstructure into two unequal masses flanking a narrow court, at the
base of which is the main entrance. The general arrangement is not
uncommon in the business blocks of New York. The unequal division into
masses, of which one is just twice as wide as the other, looks
capricious in the present detached condition of the building; though
when another lofty building abuts upon it, the inequality will be seen
to be a sensible precaution to secure the effective lighting of the
narrower mass, the light for the wider being secured by a street upon
one side as well as by the court upon the other. Even so, this will not
be so intuitively beheld as the fact of the inequality itself, and as
the differences of treatment to which it gives rise and by which it is
emphasized; for the quaintness resulting from the asymmetry is so far
from being ungrateful to the designer that he has seized upon it with
avidity, and developed it by all the means in his power. Quaintness is
the word that everybody uses spontaneously to express the character of
the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance, and the treatment of these unequal
gables is obviously derived from Flemish examples. The origin of their
crow steps and ailerons is unmistakable, and the treatment of the
grouped and somewhat huddled openings, and their wreathed pediments and
bull’s-eyes, richly and heavily framed in terra-cotta, is equally
characteristic, to the point of being baroque. This character is quite
evidently meant, and the picturesqueness that results from it is
undeniable, and gives the building its prevailing expression; howbeit it
is confined to the gables, the treatment of the substructure being as
“architecturesque” as that of the superstructure is picturesque. A
simple and massive basement of two stories in masonry carries the five
stones of brick-work heavily quoined in stone that constitute the body
of the building, and this is itself subdivided by slight but sufficient
differences, the lower story being altogether of masonry, and the upper
arcaded. An intermediate story, emphatically marked off above and below,
separates this body from the two-story roof, the gables of which we have
been considering. The main entrance, which gives


access to a stately and sumptuous corridor, seems itself extraneous to
the building, having little congruity either with the straightforward
and structural treatment of the main building, or with the bulbous
picturesqueness of the gables. The care with which its detail is studied
is evident, and also the elegance of the detail in its kind and in its
place; but it does not seem to be in its place anywhere out-of-doors,
and still less as applied to the entrance of a business block to which
it is merely applied, and from which it is not developed. Its extreme
delicacy, indeed, almost gives the impression that it is meant to be a
still small voice of scholarly protest on the part of an “Eastern”
architect against a “boisterous and rough-hewn” Westernness. A still
smaller voice of protest seems to be emitted by the design of the
Endicott Arcade, the voice of one crying, very softly, in the
wilderness. So ostentatiously discreet is the detail of this building,
indeed, so minute the scale of it, and so studious the avoidance of
anything like stress and the effort for understatement, that the very
quietness of its remonstrance gives it the effect of vociferation.

    “He who in quest of quiet ‘Silence’ hoots,
     Is apt to make the hubbub he imputes.”

It seems to be an explicit expostulation, for example, with the
architect of the Guaranty Loan Building in Minneapolis, which has many
striking details not without ingenuity, and certainly not without
“enterprise,” but as certainly without the refinement that comes of a
studied and affectionate elaboration, insomuch that this also may be
admitted to be W----n, and to invite the full force of Dryden’s
criticism. The building in the exterior of which this mild remonstrance
is made has an interior feature that is noteworthy for other qualities
than the avoidance of indiscretion and overstatement--the “arcade,” so
called, from which it takes its name--a broad corridor, sumptuous in
material and treatment to the “palatial” point, one’s admiration for
which is not destroyed, though it is abated, by a consideration of its
irrelevancy to a business block. The building of the New York Life in
Minneapolis, by the same architects as the building of the same
corporation in St. Paul, is more readily recognizable by a New-Yorker as
their work. It is a much more commonplace and a much more utilitarian
composition--a basement of four stories, of which two are in masonry,
carrying a central division also of four and an attic of two, the


Babb, Cook, & Willard, Architects.]

being of brick-work. The two principal divisions are too nearly equal;
nor does the change of material effected by building the two upper
stories of the basement in brick-work achieve the rhythmic relation for
the attainment of which it was doubtless introduced. But the structure
is nevertheless a more satisfactory example of commercial architecture
than the St. Paul building. Its entrance, of four fluted and banded
columns of a very free Roman Doric, with the platform on consoles above,
has strength and dignity, and is a feature that can evidently be freely
exposed to the weather, and that is not incongruous as the portal of a
great commercial building. A very noteworthy feature of the interior is
the double spiral staircase in metal that has apparently been inspired
by the famous rood screen of St. Étienne du Mont in Paris, and that is a
very taking and successful design, in which the treatment of the
material is ingenious and characteristic.


We have seen that the huddled condition of the business quarter of St.
Paul, practically a disadvantage in comparison with the spaciousness of
Minneapolis, has become architecturally a positive advantage. The
natural advantages with respect to the quarters of residence seem to be
strongly on the side of St. Paul. The


Harry W. Jones, Architect.]

river-front at Minneapolis is not available for house-building, nor is
there any other topographical indication of a fashionable quarter,
except what is furnished by the slight undulations of the plateau. The
more pretentious houses are for the most part scattered, and, of course,
much more isolated than the towering commercial buildings. On the other
hand, the fashionable quarter of St. Paul is distinctly marked out by
nature. It could not have been established anywhere but at the edge of
the bluff overhanging the town and commanding the Mississippi. Surely
this height must have been one of those eminences that struck the
imagination of Trollope when they were yet unoccupied. And now the
“noble residences” have come to crown the hill-side, and really noble
residences many of them are. There are perhaps as skilfully designed
houses in the younger city, and certainly there are houses as costly;
but there is nothing to be compared with the massing of the handsome
houses of St. Paul upon the ridge

[Illustration: DWELLING IN ST. PAUL.

Mould & McNichol, Architects.]

above the river. Indeed, there are very few streets in the United States
that give in as high a degree as Summit Avenue the sense of an
expenditure liberal without ostentation, directed by skill, and
restrained by taste. What mainly strikes a pilgrim from the East is not
so much the merit of the best of these houses, as the fact that there
are no bad ones; none, at least, so bad as to disturb the general
impression of richness and refinement, and none that make the crude
display of “new money” that is to be seen in the fashionable quarters of
cities even richer and far older. The houses rise, to borrow one of
Ruskin’s eloquent phrases, “in fair fulfilment of domestic service and
modesty of home seclusion.” The air of completeness, of finish, of
“keeping,” so rare in American towns, is here as marked as at Newport.
In the architecture there is a wide variety, which does not, however,
suffice to destroy the homogeneousness of the total effect. Suggestions
from the Romanesque perhaps prevail, and testify anew to the

[Illustration: PORTE-COCHÈRE, ST. PAUL.

Wilcox & Johnson, Architects.]

influence of Richardson, though there are suggestions from the
Renaissance and from pointed architecture that show scholarship as well
as invention. The cleverness and ingenuity of a porte-cochère of two
pointed arches are not diminished by the likelihood that it was
suggested by a canopied tomb in a cathedral. But, indeed, from whatever
source the inspiration of the architects may have come, it is everywhere
plain that they have had no intention of presenting “examples” of
historical architecture, and highly unlikely that they would be
disturbed by the detection in their work of solecisms that were such
merely from the academic point of view. It is scarcely worth while to go
into specific criticism of their domestic work. To illustrate it is to
show that the designers of the best of it are quite abreast of the
architects of the older parts of the country, and that they are able to
command an equal skill of craftsmanship in the execution of their

[Illustration: PORCH IN ST. PAUL.

Mould & McNichol, Architects.]

This does not answer our question whether there is any such thing as
Western architecture, or whether these papers should not rather have
been entitled “Glimpses of Architecture in the West.” The interest in
this art throughout the West is at least as general as the interest in
it throughout the East, and it is attested in the twin cities by the
existence of a flourishing and enterprising periodical, the
“Northwestern Architect,” to which I am glad to confess my obligations.
It is natural that this interest, when joined to an intense local
patriotism, should lead to a magnifying of the Westernness of such
structures as are the subjects of local pride. It is common enough to
hear the same local patriot who declaims to you in praise of Western
architecture explain also


Gilbert & Taylor, Architects.]

that the specimens of it which he commends to your admiration are the
work of architects of “Eastern” birth or training. Now, if not in
Dickens’s time, the “man of Boston raisin’” is recognized in the West to
have his uses. The question whether there is any American architecture
is not yet so triumphantly answered that it is other than provincial to
lay much stress on local differences. The general impression that the
Eastern observer derives from Western architecture is the same that
American architecture in general makes upon the European observer; and
that is, that it is a very much emancipated architecture. Our architects
are assuredly less trammelled by tradition than those of any older
countries, and the architects of the West are even less trammelled than
those of the East. Their characteristic buildings show this
characteristic equally, whether they be good or bad. The towering
commercial structures that are forced upon them by new conditions and

[Illustration: DWELLINGS IN ST. PAUL.

Wilcox & Johnson, Architects.]

facilities are very seldom specimens of any historical style; and the
best and the worst of these, the most and the least studied, are apt to
be equally hard to classify. To be emancipated is not a merit; and to
judge whether or not it is an advantage, one needs to examine the
performances in which the emancipation is exhibited. “That a good man be
‘free,’ as we call it,” says Carlyle, in one of his most emphatic
Jeremiads--“be permitted to unfold himself in works of goodness and
nobleness--is surely a blessing to him, immense and indispensable; to
him and to those about him. But that a bad man be ‘free’--permitted to
unfold himself in _his_ particular way--is, contrariwise, the fatallest
curse you could inflict upon him; curse, and nothing else, to him and
all his neighbors.”

There is here not a question of morals, but of knowledge and competency.
The restraints in architecture of a recognized school, of a prevailing
style, are useful and salutary in proportion to the absence of restraint
that the architect is capable of imposing upon himself. The secular
tradition of French architecture, imposed by public authority and
inculcated by official academics, is felt as a trammel by many
architects, who, nevertheless, have every reason to feel grateful for
the power of design which this same official curriculum has trained and
developed. In England the fear of the archæologists and of the
ecclesiologists operated, during the period of modern Gothic at least,
with equal force, though without any official sanction. To be
“ungrammatical,” not to adopt a particular phase of historical
architecture, and not to confine one’s self to it in a design, was there
the unforgivable offence, even though the incongruities that resulted
from transcending it were imperceptible to an artist and obvious only to
an archæologist. A designer thoroughly trained under either of these
systems, and then transferred to this country as a practitioner, must
feel, as many such a practitioner has in fact felt, that he was suddenly
unshackled, and that his emancipation was an unmixed advantage to him;
but it is none the less true that his power to use his liberty wisely
came from the discipline that was now relaxed. The academic prolusions
of the Beaux Arts, or the exercises of a draughtsman, have served their
purpose in qualifying him for independent design. The advocates of the
curriculum of the English public schools maintain that,

[Illustration: PORCH IN ST. PAUL.

A. H. Stem, Architect.]

obsolete as it seems, even the practice of making Latin verses has its
great benefits in imparting to the pupil the command of literary form
and of beauty of diction. There are many examples to sustain this
contention, as well as the analogous contention that a faithful study
and reproduction of antique or of mediæval architecture are highly
useful, if not altogether indispensable, to cultivate an architect’s
power of design. Only it may be pointed out that the use of these
studies is to enable the student to express himself with more power and
grace in the vernacular, and that one no longer reverts to Latin verse
when he has really something to say. The monuments that are accepted as
models by the modern world are themselves the results of the labors of
successive generations. It was by a secular process that the same
structural elements employed at Thebes and Karnac were developed to the
perfection of the Parthenon. In proportion to the newness of their
problems it is to be expected that the efforts of our architects will be
crude; but there is a vast difference between the crudity of a serious
and matured attempt to do a new thing and the crudity of mere ignorance
and self-sufficiency. Evidently the progress of American architecture
will not be promoted by the labors of designers, whether they be
“Western” or “Eastern,” who have merely “lived in the alms basket” of
architectural forms, and whose notion of architecture consists in
multiplying “features,” as who should think to enhance the
expressiveness of the human countenance by adorning it with two noses.

One cannot neologize with any promise of success unless he knows what is
already in the dictionary; and a professional equipment that puts its
owner really in possession of the best that has been done in the world
is indispensable to successful eclecticism in architecture. On the other
hand, it is equally true that no progress can result from the labors of
architects whose training has made them so fastidious that they are more
revolted by the crudity of the forms that result from the attempt to
express a new meaning than by the failure to make the attempt, and so
conceal what they are really doing behind a mask of historical
architecture, of which the elegance is quite irrelevant. This latter
fault is that of modern architecture in general. The history of that
architecture indicates that it is a fault even more unpromising of
progress than the crudities of an emancipated architecture, in which the
discipline of the designer fails to supply the place of the artificial
check of an historical style. It is more feasible to tame exuberances
than to create a soul under the ribs of death. The emancipation of
American architecture is thus ultimately more hopeful than if it were
put under academic bonds to keep the peace. It may freely be admitted
that many of its manifestations are not for the present joyous, but
grievous, and that to throw upon the individual designer the
responsibility withheld from a designer with whom fidelity to style is
the first duty is a process that fails when his work, as has been
wittily said, “shows no more self-restraint than a bunch of
fire-crackers.” But these papers have also borne witness that there are
among the emancipated practitioners of architecture in the West men who
have shown that they can use their liberty wisely, and whose work can be
hailed as among the hopeful beginnings of a national architecture.

                                THE END

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[A] Of course this needs modification, since the mediæval buildings
of Italy were accessible to the designers of the Renaissance. What
I suppose I had in mind was to point out that they had no knowledge
of the original Grecian monuments, from which the classical Roman
architecture was derived.

[B] “Recent Building in New York,” 1883.

[C] Died 1883.

[D] See illustration, page 39.

[E] The alternative of a domical construction is not here considered,
though it was adopted in that one of the designs for the Cathedral
of New York that was chosen for further development. The competitive
design could not be accepted as a solution of the problem, since the
domed interior was masked, instead of being expressed, by the exterior.

[F] See Mr. Charles Herbert Moore’s excellent “Development and
Character of Gothic Architecture,” published since this paper was
written; a work which no student of Gothic or of cathedral-building can
afford not to read.

[G] See illustration, p. 75.

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