The History of New York State
Book 12, Chapter 20, Part 2

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

Henry K. Brown is known to New Yorkers by his statutes of Washington and Lincoln in Union Square. The first is an impressive piece of work, but the Lincoln figure is not quite so successful. Perhaps his best work is the equestrian statute of General Scott in Washington, District of Columbia, made for the United States Government. He also produced another Lincoln, placed in prospect Park, Brooklyn, and various portrait busts, his work generally being marked by dignity and earnestness. It is noteworthy that Brown's life almost covers the period of American sculpture from its beginnings to its decided success. During 1849-57 a young man was working and studying in Brown's studio, who subsequently developed into one of the most vigorous individual and national of our sculptors. Long resident of New York, John Q. A. Ward is represented in this city by seven examples of his work, illustrating several period of his artistic development. They are "the Indian Hunter" (1864), Shakespeare (1872), Seventh Regiment Memorial (1874), Washington (1883), "The Pilgrim" (1885), William E. Dodge (1885), and Horace Greeley (1890). Emma Stebbins is one of the few women artists represented in this country by public statuary. She designed the large fountain, "The Angel of the Waters," in Central park, which latter owns also her statute of Columbus. J. W. MacDonald is known by his statute of Fitz-Greene Halleck in Central Park, and the works of Ernest Plassmann are all to be found in the city. The statutes of Benjamin Franklin, on Printing House Square, of Franklin and Gutenberg on the "StaatsZeitung" building, of Tammany Hall, and others, are by him. The Beethoven bust in Central Park is by Henry Baerer. A sculptor who chose a very original specialty was John Rogers, whose popularity rests on his statuette groups, executed in an unconventional spirit and illustrating everyday life in both its humorous and pathetic aspects. The statue of Admiral Farragut in Madison Square is by Augustus St. Gaudens, and this, like his ideal figure of Robert R. Randall on Staten Island, and his Lincoln in Chicago, afford evidence of the realistic popular at the time among the new generation of sculptors and expressing itself with the simplicity and a thorough command of technical methods.

Olin N. Warner, noted for this ideal subjects, designed the small fountain in Union Square, New York, while the "Still Hunt," in Central Park, is by Edward Kemeys. The portrait busts of Edwin booth and Lawrence Barrett in the "Players' Club," were designed by Jonathan Scott Hartley. The vigorously modeled and characteristic bust of William Page, in the National Academy, was designed by William Rudolph O'Donovan. Launt Thompson is represented by his statue of Napoleon and his busts of Charles L. Elloitt and William C. Bryant, in the Metropolitan Museum. In the decade preceding the close of the century Daniel C. French, F. Edwin Elwell, James E., Kelly, Alexander Doyle, and some others were representative of the "younger element" in the world of sculpture, paralleling the similar element in the world of painting and the allied arts, working in New York with more or less success and showing in their works a strong sympathy with the modern tendencies that had come from abroad. It was in this decade also that successful bronze foundries were established in New York. Before hat time all American statuary had to be cast in Paris, Munich, or Rome, bit in the closing decades of the last century that necessity became obviated by the notable progress in the art made by firms not only in New York, but in other large cities of the country.

As in painting, so in sculpture, annual exhibitions became the vogue in New York and did a great deal to make known to the public the work of men of talent who would otherwise have remained largely unknown. To take a recent year that was fairly representative of other years, Gertrude V. Whitney's "Paganism Immortal," the nude figure of a man and woman in the style of Rodin, was conspicuous in the Academy exhibition of 1910. Robert I. Aitken's portrait of George Bellows; Augustus Lukeman's "Genius of the Forest"; Victor D. Brenner's portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, and one of Henry Irving by Courtenay Pollock, were among other contributions that attracted attention. In the winter Academy exhibition of the same year D. C. French's memorial to Alice Freeman Palmer, former president of Wellesley college, held the place of honor. It represented a woman of noble mien guiding a young girl who held the lamp of knowledge. A fountain figure by S. E. Fry; Robert I Aitken's portrait of Henry R. Wolcott; Karl Bitter's portraits of Dr. Angell, of the University of Michigan, and of Mrs. Edwin Emerson; J. Scott Hartley's "Fisherman's Luck"; "Bondage," the strong figure of a woman, by C. A. Heber; some small pieces in figurine style, delightful in their grace, by Bessie Potter Vonnoh, and the study of a small girl by Edward Berge, were, perhaps, the best things shown. A special exhibition of sculpture by women showed some clever pieces. Gertrude B. Whitney's "Astor Fountain" for Washington; "A Victory," by Sallie James Farnham; Janet Scudder's "Sun goddess" for the Brooklyn Institute, and Helen F. Mear's portrait heads were among the important contributions. In the same year were unveiled Gutson Borglum's heroic Lincoln, a seated figure made for Newark; "the White Woman of the Genesee," a woman's figure in Indian Dress, for Portage, New York, by Henry K. Bush-Brown; and Paul W. Bartlett's figure of "Philosophy" for the New York Public Library façade, who designed also the three other noted figures that look on the passing throngs of Fifth Avenue.

In 1918 a representative exhibition of American sculpture, in content and artistic arrangement the most satisfactory up to that time placed before the public was held at the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Among sculptors represented were J. Q. A. Ward, Saint-Gaudens, Daniel Chester French, Frederick MacMonnies, Frank Duveneck, Herbert Adams, Hermon McNeill, Gutzon Borglum, Edward McCarten, Edith Burroughs, Malvina Hoffman, Isidore Konti, Paul Manship, Sherry Fry, Charles Rumsey, Cyrus Dallin, Harry B. Thrasher. An exhibition of the sculptures, drawings and paintings of Mahonri Young gave opportunity for the study of the work of this versatile artist.

Edward McCartan's fine piece of sculpture, "The Kiss," a marble of a mother and child, rarely beautiful in spirit and handling, was conspicuous in the 1924 winter exhibition of the National Academy. It was purchased for the permanent collection of the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo. "The Water Witch," by Bonnie MacLeary; "Cupid with Crane," by C. P. Jennwein; and a tinted mask of Anna Pavlova, by Malvina Hoffman, were other noted pieces. In 1924 also Jacob Epstein gave in New York the first display of his work in his native country, including portrait busts and figure pieces of great technical ability and individual interpretation. An exhibition of the French master, Georges Seurat, the first comprehensive one every held in America, was of great interest to those who had studied the methods of this master of pointellism. Other foreign artists viewed in 1924 were: Henri Matisse with a collection of his latest canvasses, selected by the master himself; Albert Paul Besnard, who had two simultaneous exhibitions of etchings and paints; the two brothers de Zubiaurre, Spanish artists with highly individual decorative canvases of immense size and fantastic content such as "Sinbad the Sailor." A remarkable collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, comprising the finest and costliest group ever assembled at one time in America, all loans from great private collections, was also displayed for charitable purposes. Two other notable exhibitions were a collection of the work of Thomas Rowlandson, an eighteenth century English master of great skill and humor; and a group of old English masters, including two fine Reynolds and some Morlands from the Tennant Collection, London.

New York's one contribution to the art world was in the revival of the wood cut. This is, of course, the oldest form existing for the reproduction of copies by printing. Rediscovered in the west of Europe it reached a zenith of perfection in the days of Albrecht Durere, and was practiced by his disciples and imitators in all civilized countries until superseded by lithography and other processes. Messrs. Harper & Brothers may be said to be responsible for the revival of this form of illustration in America. Wood cuts were employed in "Harper's Weekly" almost from it foundation. The necessity for speed was so great that when a picture had been drawn on wood the full size for insertion in the printer's form the actual task of engraving was often distributed among several workmen. From these workers developed the artist engraver whose exquisite work was so attractive a feature of "Harper's Magazine" and the "Century Magazine." The foremost man of many who contributed to the excellence of illustrations published by the House of Harper was Henry Wolff (1852-1916); his most formidable competitor on the "Century Magazine" was timothy Cole, born in London in 1852, and in 1927 still living in Poughkeepsie, New York. Mr. Cole's art touched the highest pinnacle of perfection, and the reproductions of old masters, which for many years were published in the "Century" each month, probably had a greater educational value than anything of the kind ever attempted before. He is the last survivor of a school put out of business for commercial reasons by the invention of photo-engraving, as explained in the chapter on literature.

The early architecture of New Amsterdam was wholly utilitarian. Within the stockade enclosure of the fort the most conspicuous building was a church of substantial masonry, but of the severe simplicity characteristic of the Calvinist faith. The Governor's house, a barracks, a storehouse, and a jail were the other chief buildings. The governor's house was a good size, and built of Dutch brick. There were two windmills to the west of the fort in 1639, one a sawmill and the other a gristmill. The church had been erected in 1642, but gave way to the march of progress in 1693. A description of the buildings erected during the administration of Wouter Van Twiller is contained in the deposition of Gillis Pietersen van der Gouw, a master carpenter. With the exception of the governor's house, there were no important residences on Manhattan Island under Dutch rule. Most of the burghers were content with houses costing not more then $125 to erect and of which the rental averaged $25 per annum. Later, as the colony prospered more pretentious private residences were built, of which the only remaining example was erected during the British rule, the old Lefferts House, at 563 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, which dates from 1750.

The royal archives in The Hague contain water color drawings of New Amsterdam's first buildings, with a manuscript table of contents, but no text. Master carpenters and builders might easily have erected these structures without recourse to the professional aid of the architect. Among the most conspicuously beautiful structures of the early British period was the home built for himself in 1758 by Roger Morris, a British officer, whose property was confiscated during the Revolution. For a time this was Washington's headquarters, and later it became the property of Madam Jumel, who married Aaron Burr when he was in his seventy-eighth year. As the Jumel Mansion it was maintained in 1927 as a public museum.

One of the oldest of New York's churches is St. Paul's Chapel, at Broadway and Vesey Streets, in which George Washington had a pew. It was designed by McBean, a Scotchman, then residing in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and supposed to have been the associate or pupil of Gibbs, in London, because of the similarity of their effects. Richard Upjohn was the architect of the Trinity church of today, at the head of Wall Street. Philip Hooker was the early architect of Union College building and Albany Academy.

Federal hall, one of the most important of early public buildings, stood on the site of the present United States Sub-Treasury. Among the most important of the early residences, none of which have survived, were the homes of governor Clinton, on Pearl Street the Van Ness house at Bleecker and Cherry Streets, the Rutgers home on Cherry Street, and the Walton mansion on Franklin Square. Leopold Eidlitz, who designed St. George's Church, was associated with Richard Hunt in plans for the Capitol at Albany. Neither was involved in the scandals which arose as millions were sunk in this building by contractors, and Mr. Hunt proved to be among the most useful of the early generation of New York architects in training his successors.

New York's City Hall, the most chaste and lovely of surviving buildings of an official character of the earlier period of New York's history, was the design of John McComb, born in New York City in 1763. He was also the architect of St. John's Church, and of other public buildings.

It may be frankly admitted that in matter of architecture, New York and the rest of America as well, lagged far behind the other arts in development. Perhaps this was fortunate, for with the exception of the buildings already named, and Fraunce's Tavern, nothing remains of the city's earlier buildings calculated to inspire regret that practically all have vanished. With the increasingly cosmopolitan character of the city it was to be expected that the character of the buildings erected would reflect foreign influences, and be influenced by events in the Old World.

Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia, as well as author of the Declaration of Independence, and President of the United States, was a many-sided genius. Deeply interested in art and literature, he was a fiddler of some skill, and an architect, albeit amateur, of distinction, with a strong predilection for the classic form. He not only designed his own home, Monticello, now the property of the Nation, but also some of the principal buildings for the University of Virginia, where he introduced their "Roman Temple" style of architecture which was later to become only too popular, for his designs were copied or imitated almost ad nauseam. The War of Greek Independence gave a further and final impetus to the Hellenic movement.

The next strong influence was that exerted by the French émigrés, who were almost entirely from the educated classes. Public interest in the Revolution which exiled them was keen, and their influence on the architecture of New York during this transition period was almost as strong as it was upon fashion, where French taste still ruled in 1829, according to Mrs. Trollope, who notes the fact with seeming regret.

It was not until the period of Stanford White, son of that Richard White whose name appears in the chapters on journalism and literature, that the designs for private residences and public buildings showed the influences of the best in modern European architecture. He and the group contemporaneous with him, mostly Beaux Arts men, brought to New York's buildings a beauty and a dignity worthy of America's greatest city. The long and narrow form of the Island of Manhattan brought about the creation of the only distinctive element in American architecture. Congestion of population and increasing land values made it necessary that building should be expanded upward, since no other expansion was possible. The firm foundation afforded by the solid rock of Manhattan Island made possible the earliest tall buildings with the aid of structural iron and thus began the development of the modern sky scraper. As early as 1848-49 John Bogardus planned a cast iron building which was erected on Centre Street. Cast iron pillars and a cast iron facade were features of the building erected a decade later by Messrs., Harper Brothers, on Franklin Square for their publishing business. In the Harper building the cantilever system was employed for the support of cement floors, the entire structural material being iron rather than wood; but the sky scraper, of which the Pulitzer Building on park row is the first example, was still many years in the future. This building was designed by George B. Post, A beaux Arts man, who had also designed the Brooklyn Historical society, the Cornelius Vanderbilt house on Fifth Avenue, the Huntington house opposite it, and many other notable public and private buildings. The World Building with its golden dome is still a landmark, but it was speedily dwarfed in its noble height of twenty-two stories by the Park Row Building, twenty-nine stories which remained until the erection of the Singer Building, the tallest building in America. The singer Building's forty-one stories with a total height of 612 feet was eclipsed by the Woolworth Building with sixty stories and a total height of 792 feet, the tallest edifice in the world in 1927, for the Eiffel Tower, which rises 1,000 feet, is a structure rather than a building. The architect of the Woolworth Building is Cass Gilbert, one of the founders of the Architectural League of New York, and its president in 1913-14, and president in 1908-09 of the American Institute of Architects, and a member of the American Institute of Arts and Letters, and its president in 1919. Mr. Gilbert is also responsible for the New York Custom House, the U. S. chamber of commerce Building, Washington, the capitols at Little Rock and St. Paul, the libraries in St. Louis and Detroit, and many other notable structures.

From the first this American school as recognized the value of beauty. The Woolworth tower, that of the American Radiator company, on Fortieth Street, and of the Metropolitan Building on Madison Square, and the pavilion atop the Bush Terminal Building, on Forty-second Street, are striking examples of the varied possibilities afforded in making the sky scraper a thing of beauty. With the advent of the sky scraper came modifications in the building code to assure better lighting, and thus the pyramidal effect of the step-backs required after a certain number of stories has been attained, has been forced upon the architects, who gladly availed themselves of a new opportunity for decorative effect such as had not previously been obtained except in the power of the Bankers' Trust Company Building. The newest of the gigantic business buildings in Manhattan Island, and one of the largest of them all was the Graybar Building for which the architects were Sloan & Robertson.

With building permits exceeding a billion dollars yearly, and such masterpieces as Stanford White's Madison Square Garden being town down for replacement by edifices affording greater financial returns, it is obvious that architects in the metropolis have been reaping a harvest for some years, and that their services will be in no less demand for some years to come. To list al of them and their achievements being out of the question, it will be possible only to name a few of the more notable, not already mentioned, and their works.

Among the pioneers in designing high grade apartment houses, the Navarro Flats and the Spanish Flats being examples, were the firm of Hubert Parsons & Company. Of the many public buildings were erected from the designed of Ernest Flagg, St. Luke's Hospital, the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington are most noteworthy. W. A. Potter is represented by the Union Theological Seminary, the Teachers' College, and many buildings of equal artistry if less importance. John Carrere and Thomas Hastings designed the New York Central Public Library, Fifth Avenue, the National Academy of Design, and the Ponce de Leon and Alcazar hotels in St. Augustine, Florida. The first work on the Cathedral of St. John the Divine was done by George L. Heins and C. Grant LaFarge, and their work, begun in 1891, was continued by Mr. LaFarge until the completion of the choir, in 1911, and since then the work has been continued by Cram and Ferguson. Warren and Wetmore, of which Whitney C. Warren is the senior member, is responsible not only for the Grand Central Station, but for the Biltmore and Commodore hotels. McKim, Meade & White, of which Stanford White was a member, designed the Pennsylvania Terminal, and in addition to buildings already named, the University club, the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Club, the Yosemite Apartments, the Judson Memorial, and the Washington Arch. Herts and Tallant specialized in theatres, erecting such well known playhouses as the New Amsterdam, Lyceum, Brooklyn Academy, and others.

Among the most notable public buildings outside the metropolis is the Capitol at Albany, of which the architects, as already noted, were Eidlitz and Hunt. The New York State legislature has met in Albany since 1797, at first in what was known as the "Stadt Huis," or city hall, dating back to the period when Albany was Fort Orange. The first Capitol was built in 1806 at a cost of $110,000, just east of the present building, and was occupied until 1879, although it was apparent as early as 1860 that the building was too small for its purposes, and an agitation then began for the erection of a new building. However much the style of the interior may be deplored by art lovers of today, this was a matter in which the architects had no choice. The Italianate craze was on, and the fashion for public buildings with more pillars than any Italian would have thought of employing, remains quite as much in evidence in Washington as in Albany, and other State capitals of the period. As it stands today the building represents about $25,000,000 of the taxpayers' money. Ground was broken for the building on December 9, 1867, but delays followed, and the cornerstone was not laid until June 24, 1871. Some of the rooms are, however, of noble proportions, and with decorations well worth preserving. In 1927 a new State Office Building, designed by Sullivan Jones, State architect, is expected to relieve the congestion of which Governor Smith had occasion to complain. It will be a modern steel sky-scraper of more than thirty stories.

The State Education Building provided the Department of Education with a home in keeping with the splendid scope of its work and gave to Albany a building that is distinctive architecturally and impressive in its use of massive columns, despite its departure from classic lines at cornice and roof.

Among the ecclesiastical gems of architecture up-State is Christ Church, which was erected in Binghamton in 1854, a structure of pointed Gothic, built of stone taken from nearby quarries, and designed by Richard Upjohn, already named in this chapter as the architect of Trinity Church, New York.

One of the oldest residential structures in New York is in troy, in the Lansingburgh district, and known now as the Powers House. It was originally built for Joannes Wendel two hundred years ago, and was sold to Abraham Jacob Lansing in 1763. The Trojans are justly proud of the Hart Memorial Library, an adaptation of Venetian art by Barney and Chapman, of New York. The traditions of English collegiate architecture are embodied in the buildings of the Emma Willard School, the design of Fred M. Cummings.

Syracuse, which in 1874 had three architects, according to a city directory of that date, boasted more than thirty in 1924, and Horatio N. White, who designed the Hall of Languages in the group of university buildings, may be called the found of a school which now suffices for the business expansion of the community. The most striking of the city's older residences is what is now the Teachers' college of Syracuse University. James Renwick, of New York City, designed it for C. Tyler Longstreet, in 1850, and it was long called Renwick Castle. Mr. Longstreet said it was too large for his comfort, but certain of his acquaintances contended that there too many roofs and gutters to be looked after to make Norman architecture popular in the climate of Syracuse. Visitors to Syracuse are usually impressed by two structures, the Stadium upon the university campus, and the Mizpah Baptist Church, of which Gordon Wright was the architect, which combines in one architectural effect a hotel above a church, such as was planned many years later for the Cavalry Baptist Church in New York City.

Probably the most admired public building in buffalo is the Albright Art Gallery, designed by Messrs. Green and Wicks. An Ionic structure of white marble with a noble porch, it occupies an appropriate site in Delaware Park, and was dedicated to the public on May 31, 1905. The cost of building, estimated at $350,00, was the munificent gift of John J. Albright. The city of Buffalo gave the land. The home of the Buffalo Historical Society alone vies with this in favor among the art lovers of the city and its discriminating visitors. It is an inheritance from the Buffalo Exposition, this building of the Doric order, also of white marble, sands on sloping land at the northwest corner of Delaware park, and houses both the museum of the society, and its library, which now numbers more than 40,000 volumes.

One of the most notable of group buildings in Buffalo, will be those designed by McKim, Mead & White for Buffalo University, work on which was delayed by the World War. The first step taken was naturally the development of an appropriate site. The University owned 106 acres of land which it had purchased on the removal of the county almshouse, and in 1919 the forty-four acres remaining of this tract were secured, and landscape architects were invited to compete for prizes in laying it out. Hallam L. Movius, of Boston, won the first prize. Ground was broken for the first building on June 11, 1920, Foster Hall, named in honor of its donor, Orin E. Foster. A Greater University Movement brought in ample funds, and there seemed every certainty that the original designs in colonial classic would be carried through in record time.

The modern and wholly American type of steel building which is the distinctive feature of architecture in New York City, is no longer a novelty in Buffalo, which while under less pressure in its building expansion, finds this type of building convenient and relatively inexpensive. The Lehigh Valley Terminal is an example of the massive effect obtainable in the new style, in which dignity and simplicity are combined with strength and clear outline. This building is on a par with the new passenger terminal in Washington, and those in New York City. Tall buildings there are in plenty, but it is doubtful if it will be necessary for years to come to exaggerate these into towers.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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